Trustees face charges if checks not done

The Charity Commission has warned trustees of charities that deal with vulnerable groups that they could face charges of misconduct if they do not carry out "appropriate checks" on new trustees and staff.

The warning comes in an inquiry report into an unnamed charity that recruited a staff member and a trustee with criminal records, indicating that they posed a “high risk” to its vulnerable beneficiaries.

The regulator was alerted to the situation by the police in early 2006. It suspended the pair after concluding that they also posed a high risk to the reputation of the charity and its partners.

In June 2006, the charity decided to wind itself up, but the commission kept the suspension orders in place until the process was completed in January this year. Its report says “appropriate monitoring procedures” are in place to monitor the risks if the pair became involved in charities in the future.

The report also expresses the commission’s concern that the charity’s other trustees had been negligent in allowing the pair to become involved with the charity in the first place. It says trustees need to be aware that certain individuals are disqualified by law from holding a range of positions, including trusteeship, in organisations that deal with vulnerable people.

The report reads: “The commission takes the view that charity trustees risk being in breach of their duty of care if they fail to carry out appropriate checks in a situation in which they are able and entitled to do so.”

It says that if Criminal Records Bureau checks are the only way of discovering whether applicants have any relevant convictions, trustees are obliged to carry them out.

The inquiry was completed almost a year ago, but the regulator has taken until now to publish its report because it needed more time to “consider fully the sensitive and complex nature of the issues raised and the impact of data protection issues” .

It is the first time that the commission has suppressed the name of a charity in an inquiry report, but a spokeswoman said that it would do the same again if a similar situation arose.

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