Trustee cautioned by police

Police act on Charity Commission report on transfer of charitable funds to private account

The Charity Commission reported a trustee to the police when an investigation into her organisation uncovered a catalogue of governance failures.

Jacqueline Smith, one of two trustees of Wings for Wildlife, was reported to the police after she was unable to explain the payment of cheques worth £1,235 from charitable funds to her own account or for cash withdrawals of £1,175. Police later cautioned her.

The regulator's report, which was published this week, said trustees had "persistently failed to administer the charity in a proper manner" and had not cooperated with the inquiry.

The charity, which was based in Goole, east Yorkshire and had a string of shops, was set up in 1994 to raise money for conservation and endangered species.

It had been investigated twice before, according to the commission, for "serious deficiencies in its governance, management and internal financial controls", particularly for using charitable funds to refurbish a barge.

Trustees claimed the barge would be used to provide educational services, but the commission's inquiry report said it found "no evidence of any serious attempts by the trustees to implement this charitable activity".

Commission staff calculated that the charity's shops had generated £1,100 a month, but when the organisation's account was frozen its declared monthly income was only £300. "The commission did not receive a satisfactory explanation from the trustees for this reduction," the report says.

Wings for Wildlife was removed from the commission's register of charities in 2006. The regulator is planning to transfer the £4,118 frozen in its accounts to a charity with similar objects.

The inquiry finished in March 2006. The Commission was unable to explain the delay in publication of the report in time for publication of this story.

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