Outdoor charity is slated by commission inquiries

The trustees of a small charity failed to take any meaningful part in its affairs and its head made payments to himself out of charitable funds, according to Charity Commission investigations published last week.

The Outdoor Trust in Northumberland, which provided recreational facilities such as kayaking, sailing and surfing for disadvantaged people, went into liquidation in 2005, some time after a reformed set of trustees dismissed its head, Peter Clark, and his wife, who worked as an administrator for the charity.

Clark said this week that the money he paid himself was to compensate for his purchase of an outdoor centre he bought for the charity with his own money.

"I spent many years building up this service because I believed in it," he told Third Sector. "Then I had to watch it fall apart. They kicked me in the teeth."

A 2002 commission inquiry, sparked by information from an employee, criticised Clark for obtaining unauthorised personal benefits and trustees for "failing to take any meaningful part in the management of the charity".

Seven months later it launched a second inquiry, which resulted in the trust's bank accounts being frozen.

George Thompson, who ran the trust's Dukehouse Wood centre, criticised the commission's handling of the inquiries. "The whole thing came out of a lot of pettiness and ended up consuming the whole charity," he said.

A commission spokesman said hundreds of allegations a week were received, but it was rare for an inquiry to ensue.

"We are very evidence-based," he said. "Our conclusions are backed up by detailed information."

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