Charity reprimanded for employing sex offender

A charity that helps eastern European orphanages has been criticised after allowing a known sex offender to join it as a volunteer.

The Leeds-based Smiles Foundation allowed the man to pay to travel to Romania and help with construction work at one of its projects, even though he freely admitted past offences, a Charity Commission investigation found.

The commission said the appointment was not illegal and the charity had apparently successful measures in place to prevent him encountering children in its orphanages. But it concluded that the charity should not have allowed the man to volunteer because of the threat he posed to the organisation’s good name.

The commission said the charity should also have carried out a Criminal Records Bureau check, despite the volunteer confessing his criminal record. The charity took only personal references from him, which meant it knew about only those offences of which he chose to inform it.

The commission’s conclusions were put together after an investigation in April and May last year, in partnership with Kent Police and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.

Its report said: “The commission has concerns about the significant reputational risks to the charity that arise from having a sex offender volunteer (in whatever capacity) working for a charity involved in helping children.

“Even though the volunteer does not have any direct contact with the charity’s beneficiaries, the commission is concerned that, as a matter of good practice, the trustees should not have allowed this to happen.”

The commission also recommended that the charity’s trustees should meet more frequently.

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