Comic Relief withholds grant funding to domestic abuse charity amid stalking allegations

Nearly £100,000 has been withheld from Safer Places because of concerns about Paladin, a community interest company it part owns

Paladin – the National Stalking Advocacy Service
Paladin – the National Stalking Advocacy Service

Comic Relief has withheld almost £100,000 of grant funding to the domestic abuse charity Safer Places because of concerns about Paladin – the National Stalking Advocacy Service, including allegations of stalking.

The Mail on Sunday newspaper reported yesterday that the issues at Paladin, a community interest company part-owned by Safer Places, included allegations made to police last year by Laura Richards, chief executive of Paladin, that her former co-director and anti-stalking campaigner Harry Fletcher had stalked her after his resignation in late 2013. Fletcher denies stalking, the paper reported.

A Scotland Yard spokeswoman told Third Sector: "An allegation of harassment has been made by a woman. A man has been interviewed under caution and the police investigation continues."

Paladin was set up in 2013 after a stalking law reform campaign had been led by Richards and Fletcher. Its current directors are Richards and Allison Mann, director of financial services at Safer Places, according to the Paladin website.

Comic Relief said in a statement that it had awarded a grant of £147,884 to Safer Places in July to help support victims of stalking, but only £48,550 had been handed over so far.

"As a result of some issues raised by changes within the organisation that have been brought to our attention, we have suspended the grant while we investigate further," Comic Relief said in a statement. "This is standard procedure until we are comfortable that the work can continue as planned."

Five front-line caseworkers at Paladin have also resigned in recent weeks, The Mail on Sunday reported.

Nobody from Safer Places or Paladin was available for comment. Paladin said in a statement: "The safety of our clients and the high quality of our specialist stalking service has always been of paramount importance, and we are continuing to build a strong team of experienced staff and management. Our service is being independently evaluated by a leading academic institution.

"We are taking legal advice regarding allegations made against our chief executive and in respect of our service. There is also an ongoing police investigation and it would not be appropriate to comment further."

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