The boss of an anti-modern slavery charity has left the organisation after serious complaints about his behaviour were upheld following an independent investigation.
Hope for Justice said in a statement that the charity’s co-founder Tim Nelson was appointed interim chief executive at the end of last month, following the departure of Ben Cooley.
The charity aims to bring an end to modern slavery by preventing exploitation, rescuing victims, restoring lives and reforming society.
Hope for Justice’s chair, Peter Elson, said that trustees had received allegations from two former employees about Cooley’s behaviour earlier in the year, through the charity’s confidential whistleblowing procedure.
Elson said: “The trustee board took immediate action in commissioning an independent and experienced investigator and legal counsel on 28 January 2021.
“The independent investigator was charged with conducting an evidence-based investigation in order to establish the full facts and circumstances relating to the concerns and allegations presented.
“In order for the allegations to be fully investigated, Ben Cooley was instructed to take a leave of absence.”
Based on the investigation’s findings, disciplinary action was taken against Cooley, who subsequently attended a disciplinary hearing.
Cooley is no longer with the charity, but the decision was subject to the potential of an appeal, the statement said.
Elson added: “While the allegations were not of a criminal nature and no other members of the leadership team were implicated, they were determined to be serious and the Charity Commission was duly informed.”
The commission said: “In January 2021 we assessed a serious incident report submitted by the charity, in connection with concerns about the former CEO.
Based on the information provided, we determined that the charity was handling the matter appropriately, and that no further action was required by the commission.
The charity has kept us informed throughout the independent investigation. We recently received an update to the serious incident report and are currently assessing this information. We cannot comment further at this time.”
In a further change to the Hope for Justice senior leadership team, Elaine Jones has moved from the role of international operations director to chief operating officer.