Service by trustees must never again be 'repaid by such gross injustice', Kids Company lawyers warn

Bates Wells says it hopes that the outcome will mean good people are not be deterred from serving as charity trustees

Lawyers have criticised the “flimsy” case brought against the former leaders of Kids Company and said dedicated service by charity trustees “must never again be repaid by such gross injustice”.

The High Court rejected the disqualification case brought by the Official Receiver against Camila Batmanghelidjh, founder and former chief executive of Kids Company, and seven other trustees at the time it closed abruptly in 2015.

The law firm Bates Wells advised five of the trustees involved in the trial, including Alan Yentob, the former BBC creative director who chaired Kids Company for 18 years, and Richard Handover, the former chair and chief executive of the retailer WHSmith.

In a statement after the verdict was delivered, the law firm said the court had rightly found that its clients had acted responsibly and would be a credit to the board of any charity. 

“By contrast, the Official Receiver’s conduct and ill-conceived claim have been harshly exposed,” it said. 

“It is shocking that a case with profound implications for the charity sector should have been brought on such flimsy grounds, wasting millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money and causing years of unnecessary anguish to the defendants. 

“Dedicated service by charity trustees must never again be repaid by such gross injustice.

“We hope that this victory will ease anxiety in the charity sector and that good people will not be deterred from serving as charity trustees.”

Jennifer Emms, partner elect at the law firm Maurice Turnor Gardner, represented the former trustee Vince O’Brien.

xz“There was never any allegation of dishonesty; or inappropriate spending or behaviour towards any beneficiaries. Running a charity is not easy,” said Emms.

“The trustees of this charity, like many others, had to make difficult decisions.”

She also questioned whether it was appropriate for such an onerous case to be brought in the first place against volunteer trustees who acted for the charity in their spare time and were entirely unpaid.

Rosalind Oakley, chief executive of the Association of Chairs, warned that despite the trustees being cleared, the publicity surrounding the case could still deter people from joining trustee boards or for boards themselves to become excessively risk averse.

"Kids Company was in many ways an atypical charity with an unusual funding model,” she said. 

“Nonetheless, in our view, the case offers important lessons for good governance and board practice. We will be studying the judgment and discussing the implications with our members."

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