Trustee who let beneficiary stay at his house barred for life

A Southampton charity allowed a trustee access to its vulnerable beneficiaries despite knowing that he had "an unspent conviction for inappropriate contact with children", a Charity Commission inquiry has revealed.

Stephen Browne was allowed to drive the charity’s minibus, and, on one occasion, a beneficiary stayed at his home, the investigation found. It concluded that three trustees at Southampton and District Sports and Leisure Association for the Disabled were aware of Browne’s criminal conviction but took no action.

Southampton social services raised the alarm in December 2005 and a Charity Commission inquiry was launched. The publication of the report was delayed because of police investigations.

The commission temporarily suspended the three trustees while investigations were carried out. They all later resigned.
The investigation revealed that Browne had also been acting as a trustee for three other charities. The commission removed him from the boards of all four charities and banned him for life from acting as a trustee for any other charity.

Roger Steels, a spokesman for Southampton and District Sports and Leisure Association for the Disabled, said: “We were too trusting. Mr Browne had worked for several charities before he came to us, and that lulled us into a false sense of security. I don’t disagree with the conclusions of the inquiry, but it is a shame that three of our trustees had to resign – they were some of the best people we’ve had working here.”

New procedures have been put into place at the charity since the inquiry began, Steels added. All trustees and volunteers have to undergo Criminal Records Bureau checks, escorts are used on minibuses and beneficiaries who go on residential trips have to bring their own helpers.

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