Potential trustees should be warned off struggling charities if Kids Company case is upheld, High Court hears

George Bompas QC warns that the Charity Commission would have to advise people they should not become trustees of a charity if there was any uncertainty about its financial position

The Charity Commission would have to advise people against joining struggling charities as trustees if the Official Receiver’s case against former Kids Company board members is upheld, the High Court has heard.

Legal teams began their closing arguments on Monday as the 10-week trial of senior people at the defunct charity Kids Company draws to a close.

The OR is seeking to secure disqualification from senior positions for periods of up to six years against seven trustees, plus former chief executive Camila Batmanghelidjh, after the charity collapsed in August 2015.

George Bompas QC, of 4 Stone Buildings, and acting on behalf of the former trustees Richard Handover, Francesca Robinson and Alan Yentob, summed up what he thought were some of the most important arguments in the case.

Bompas said the message that was coming across was that any trustee would be very unwise to join a charity that was confronted by difficulties.

“If the OR is right about this – I don’t for a second think it is – the Charity Commission should now have, loudly, in red letters on its website: 'If you're thinking of joining a charity as a trustee, look at its financial position; if there is any uncertainty, don’t’,” he said.

It mirrors a similar sentiment made by former trustee Vincent O’Brien last week, who advised his 900,000 peers across the sector to resign if it is assumed they must ensure the solvency of their charities.

Defence lawyers have previously described the OR’s case as thoroughly unfair and Bompas accused the OR “having it in” for Andrew Webster, more than any other of the trustees.

Bompas questioned why Webster had been the subject of so many pages of criticism in court documents, because he had joined the charity quite late on.

Webster worked in human resources at House of Fraser and Marks & Spencer before spending 16 years at AstraZeneca.

In his skeleton argument, Bompas said: “Webster’s conduct is said to have been unfitting immediately upon his becoming a trustee on 10 December 2013, despite his having attended only two meetings of the trustees by June 2014.

“He cannot seriously be said to have made any mistakes by that time, unless only the mistake of agreeing to become a trustee at all.”

As for the remaining trustees, Bompas said he hoped Mrs Justice Falk, having seen and heard the witnesses, would have formed a positive impression of them and consider them truthful witnesses.

Bompas has previously described some of the stories about the charity's expenditure as salacious and designed to create hysteria, and asked the court to consider getting rid of about a third of the documentation put forward by the OR because its only purpose was to generate a media feeding frenzy.

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