Commission disqualifies trustees after children exposed to terrorist propaganda

Children as young as 11 were exposed to Islamic State propaganda videos at Essex Islamic Academy; the five trustees have all been banned for 10 years by the Charity Commission

Charity Commission building
Charity Commission building

The Charity Commission has disqualified five trustees at a charity where children as young as 11 were exposed to Islamic State propaganda videos.

The trustees, who have all been banned for 10 years, were deemed to have carried out serious misconduct and mismanagement in their roles at Essex Islamic Academy, according to a report from the regulator today.

The commission opened a statutory inquiry into the charity last year after one of Essex Islamic Academy’s members was convicted of terrorism offences.

Umar Ahmed Haque of east London,was told in March last year that he must serve a minimum sentence of 25 years in jail for terrorism offences, including trying to radicalise children while working as an administrator at an after-school madrassa at the Ripple Road Mosque in Barking, Essex. He was 26 at the time of conviction.

The commission appointed Jonathan Burchfield of the law firm Stone King as interim manager for the charity in July last year.

The commission’s inquiry found that the trustees had failed to ensure the charity’s safeguarding procedures were adequate and adhered to, with no supervision of Haque’s teaching at the madrassa.

The madrassa was attended every day by between 80 and 100 children aged from five to 15. Haque was able to attempt to radicalise children as young as 11 through extremely graphic and violent IS propaganda videos, the commission said.

There was also no evidence that the trustees applied for the enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check that was required for Haque’s teaching role, the inquiry found, and no due diligence was undertaken on Haque before his employment.

A second employee at the charity, Abuthaher Mamun, was convicted of the preparation of terrorist acts and has joined Haque in being automatically disqualified as a trustee for life owing to their convictions.

The charity failed to disclose to the commission that Mamun assisted Haque in his classes until the inquiry issued a formal direction, the regulator found.

The commission said that a number of responses from the trustees were proved to be false or misleading.

The trustees’ failures meant that all five were disqualified by the commission, which deemed the trustees unfit for their positions owing to their lack of "competence, honesty and integrity".

A new board was appointed by the interim manager, who was discharged on 30 April having completed his duties at the charity.

Michelle Russell, director of investigations, monitoring and enforcement at the Charity Commission, said: "I, like the public, am appalled by what happened here to these children, who should have been in the safe custody of this charity. It's quite literally the worst case we have seen, with children as young as 11 being exposed to harm through attempted radicalisation and terrorist material.

"The public rightly expect trustees to honour their positions of responsibility, demonstrating unfailing care for the people they are meant to support. In this case, the children who were in their care and the people who trusted them to do so were let down.

"These individuals proved themselves to be wholly unsuitable. What happened on their watch is deeply alarming and troubling, running counter to everything people expect of charity."

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