Child abuse charity suspends former chief executive as spokesman

The National Association for People Abused in Childhood has suspended Peter Saunders while it investigates newspaper allegations of a 'drunken sexual encounter' with a childhood sexual abuse survivor in 2008

Peter Saunders (Photograph: TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)
Peter Saunders (Photograph: TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)

A charity for victims of child abuse has suspended its former chief executive as a spokesman after newspaper claims that he had a "drunken sexual encounter" with a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

The National Association for People Abused in Childhood said it had suspended Peter Saunders, who founded the charity, during its investigation of "the issues raised" by a Mail on Sunday story surrounding events in 2008.

Since the story was published, Saunders has also resigned from his role on the victims and survivors panel of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, the public investigation of systemic sexual abuse in the UK.

The article, which appeared last week, alleged that the incident occurred in 2008 at a restaurant when Saunders met the woman, who had given TV interviews about the molestation she experienced as a child, and her female friend, to discuss how she would work with Napac.

The newspaper alleged that Saunders bought three bottles of wine for the table using the charity’s credit card.

Saunders was later arrested on suspicion of rape, but was never charged because the Crown Prosecution Service decided there was a lack of evidence, according to the newspaper.

Saunders denied the allegations, saying the encounter was consensual and instigated by the woman, the newspaper said.

The article said the charity was made aware of the incident in 2008 and considered the matter to have been dealt with at the time.

But in a statement published on the charity’s website after The Mail on Sunday’s story, Nacap said that the board had suspended Saunders "with immediate effect".

The statement said: "This period of suspension will allow a process of investigation into the issues raised by a story published on 25 August 2019 regarding an incident in 2008.

"We will share updates on the outcomes of this process. Napac is committed to continuously improving our governance and practices, and the valuable work we do in supporting victims and survivors of childhood abuse remains unchanged."

A spokesman for the IICSA said Saunders had failed to disclose the incident when he joined the investigation in 2015.

"The Victims and Survivors Consultative Panel members were chosen by IICSA in 2015 after a fair and open competition, at the end of which all successful candidates were expected to complete a declaration about conflicts of interest.

"The inquiry holds our consultative panel members to the same high standards we expect of our staff. Peter Saunders offered his resignation and we have accepted it with immediate effect."

Third Sector was unable to contact Saunders for comment.

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