Fetish group bids to join sector

A sadomasochist group is one of the first organisations applying to become a community interest company.

CICs were introduced in July as part of the Companies Act for organisations operating for the benefit of the community rather than for profit. They include a statutory 'asset lock' to prevent profits being distributed to shareholders.

SM Pride says it delivers a community benefit to all UK adults interested in "alternative sexuality".

The Devon-based fetish organisation claims about 10 per cent of sexually active people are "BDSM orientated" - BDSM is an acronym for "bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism".

A spokeswoman who did not wish to be named conceded that the application could be contentious. "This is a ground-breaking issue," she said. "We are not the local store and there might be implications about that."

The application has been returned to SM Pride, which has been asked to submit more information about its reason for applying before a final decision about CIC status will be made.

But charity lawyer Stephen Lloyd, who proposed the idea of CICs, said he thought the application should fail.

"I have to say that when I devised this idea, I never thought that people would think sadomasochism contributed to community benefit," he said.

"Call me an old-fashioned fart, but that's still my belief.

"Just because a number of people get a kick out of something in private, I don't see how that feeds through to community benefit. It's an entirely private, behind-closed-doors activity and that's where it should stay."

Six organisations have successfully registered since CICs were introduced in July. Applicants have to pass a community interest test and are supervised by a special regulator in Companies House.

The spokeswoman for SM Pride said CIC status would release the membership organisation's management board from personal liability and enable it to make more grant applications.

However, the organisation was worried that CIC status would mean that its entire private membership list would be publicly available at Companies House.

The spokeswoman said: "Given the societal prejudice that still exists, members of our community feel that they cannot allow their personal information to be publicly available. Our solicitors have had to draft the memorandum and articles specifically to cover this need."

KEY POINTS

- Devon-based fetish group SM Pride has applied to become a community interest company

- A community interest company is a new legal form for not-for-profit groups operating for the benefit of the community

- Twenty organisations have applied for CIC status since it was introduced in July

- Leading lawyer has said sadomasochism should "stay behind closed doors" and not qualify for status.

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