Fundraising: Changes to Scottish law 'won't deter fraudsters'

The woman who first reported the jailed charity conman Tony Freeman has warned that a similar scandal could happen again.

Freeman was given an 18-month sentence at the High Court in Edinburgh last week, after pleading guilty to altering accounting records and, in 2003, siphoning £450,000 into an offshore bank account from Solutions RMC, his Glasgow commercial fundraising firm.

Only £1.5m of £13m raised by Solutions RMC was spent on charitable purposes, and the company pocketed £8m in fees.

However, Freeman was prosecuted only under company law because technically he did not commit any offence by charging charities such high fees.

Moira Adams, convener of the Scottish Breast Cancer Campaign, said changes to the law made after an investigation into Solutions RMC were inadequate because they failed to define acceptable fundraising ratios and fees for commercial fundraisers.

"The only reason he was in court was because he broke company law," she said. "And there are no figures in the new Act to say how much money a commercial fund-raising company can get away with charging."

The Charities and Trustees (Scotland) Act 2005 was introduced after a Scottish Charities Office investigation into Freeman's case in 2003. Although it disqualified him from managing a UK charity, its findings did not lead to any charges being laid against him.

But Maureen Harrison, chair of the Institute of Fundraising in Scotland, said Freeman's sentence offered the Scottish sector closure. "If any sort of positive can be taken from this, it is that it served to speed up the evolution of the new statutory regime for the third sector," she said.

Fiona Duncan, who led Giving Scotland, an initiative to persuade Scots to continue giving to charities in the aftermath of the Freeman scandal, said his sentence was too lenient.

"Freeman was indirectly responsible for decimating giving in Scotland," she said. "Eighteen months seems too small a sentence when you think that his fraud affected not just the one or two he stole from, but all charities in Scotland."

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