A Wiltshire-based charity that supported lesbian, gay and bisexual people has been forced to close after a beneficiary falsely accused its chief executive of rape.
Rainbow Rooms UK has gone into liquidation after Will Clark, its founder and chief executive, was wrongly accused of rape by a young man he had tried to help.
Shane Peake, aged 26, was sentenced to three years in prison at Salisbury Crown Court on 11 October for perverting the course of justice, theft, burglary and making false representations.
Clark told Third Sector that he allowed Peake, who called himself Stephen Shaw, to stay in his home after he was asked to take him in by the local social services department, who knew Clark because of his charity’s work.
Peake had told social services he was a 17-year-old gypsy who had been kicked out of home for being gay, said Clark.
But when Clark became suspicious of Peake’s story and questioned him about his background, the young man went to the police and accused Clark of rape.
Although the police told Clark just days later that there was no evidence to support Peake’s claims, Peake had already made comments online about the alleged rape that irrevocably affected the charity, Clark said.
Rainbow Rooms UK, which Clark had been running for six years, was due to host an equality and diversity festival in Wiltshire that was expected to be funded by a grant from the police commissioner, said Clark.
But following the allegations made by Peake, the police commissioner decided not to award the grant to the charity. This meant the festival could not go ahead, although suppliers still needed to be paid, Clark said.
Because of loss of the grant, said Clark, the charity, which had an income £6,678 in 2012/13, was also unable to pay its telephone and internet bill, leaving it unable to tell the public that allegations made online by Peake were false.
This led to other LGBT support organisations, which had previously been in association with Rainbow Rooms UK, requesting for their links to be removed from the charity’s website, said Clark.
"It was a link-based website to direct people to information," he said. "Because we had no funds for it, we had to cancel the whole thing and I’m now left with the bill to pay."
In addition to the financial implications, Clark said Peake’s accusations also damaged the way people viewed the charity. "People’s image of the charity was rocked, and it’s hard to get them back," he said. "Volunteers stopped volunteering and people that we had a general association with stopped communications."
Clark said that he was so affected personally by the allegations that he felt he could no longer run the charity and he decided to put it into liquidation.
"There’s no way that I could carry out the duties that I did before," said Clark.
The incorporated charity has gone into liquidation, but it will not be removed from the register of charities by the Charity Commission until the liquidation process is complete, said Clark.