Fundraising Regulator will take no action against agency investigated by The Sun

The tabloid alleged that Wesser International, working on behalf of St John Ambulance, targeted the elderly and took a large percentage of donations

The Sun's story
The Sun's story

The Fundraising Regulator has decided not to take action against the fundraising agency Wesser International despite being told by the Fundraising Standards Board that the agency breached the Code of Fundraising Practice when working on behalf of St John Ambulance.

An investigation was launched by the FRSB in December 2015 after it was alleged in The Sun newspaper that Wesser targeted the elderly and received a large percentage of the donations meant for its charity client, with which it continues to work.

The case was passed to the Fundraising Regulator in July when it took over responsibility for the regulation of charity fundraising from the FRSB.

The FRSB had uncovered a number of breaches of the code of practice, but despite this the Fundraising Regulator told Third Sector this week that it would not be taking any action and nor would it release the preliminary report on the investigation produced by the FRSB earlier this year.

"The Fundraising Regulator examined the report produced by the FRSB in depth and concluded that no further action was required," a spokesman for the watchdog said.

A spokesman for Wesser told Third Sector the agency had always maintained that the allegations it deliberately targeted the elderly were unfounded and the FRSB had found no evidence to support them.

"It did, however, highlight some areas of process that it concluded were in breach of the code of fundraising practice," he said. "These conclusions were respectfully challenged by St John Ambulance because it believed there was supporting evidence that both it and Wesser were upholding the code in its entirety."

Wesser’s spokesman said the challenge by St John Ambulance to the FRSB’s investigation was passed to the Fundraising Regulator along with the now defunct regulator’s preliminary report.

The FRSB told Third Sector in July that it had been unable to complete its investigation because it struggled to obtain evidence of wrongdoing from The Sun’s reporter and whistleblower, despite repeated attempts.

A spokesman for The Sun said this week that the newspaper strongly rejected any accusation that its reporter Jake Ryan, who wrote the original story, had failed to cooperate with the FRSB.

"We provided full details for the whistleblower who had brought us the evidence of wrongdoing and any failure to hold Wesser to account must fall at the feet of the FRSB," the spokesman said.

Both St John Ambulance and Wesser declined to share a copy of the FRSB report, which is understood to have contained recommendations for how processes at the agency could be improved.

Wesser’s spokesman said: "The FRSB clearly stipulated that its findings would not be made public, so we are unable to supply a copy of the report."

A spokeswoman for St John Ambulance said: "We were in conversation with the FRSB about its findings when the case was handed to the new Fundraising Regulator.

"We strongly contest any suggestion that we were in breach of the Code of Fundraising Practice and would be very happy to work with the new Fundraising Regulator to demonstrate our commitment to high-quality fundraising."

She said the charity was pleased to hear that the case had been closed and no action would be taken.

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