The Charity Commission (’the Commission’) today published a report of its inquiry into Bristol Community Church Trust (registered charity number 1044496) (‘the charity’). The charity was registered on 24 February 1995 and has objects which include the preaching and teaching of the Christian faith - see endnote 4.
The inquiry was opened in December 2011 after the Commission was informed that sexual abuse allegations had been made against the person then serving as the charity’s youth pastor - see endnote 5 and the initial responses from the charity raised serious concerns about the adequacy of the safeguarding governance within the charity. The scope of the commission’s inquiry was confined to ensuring the trustees had and were complying with their charity law duties in relation to the handling of the allegations and adequacy of the charity’s safeguarding procedures and practices more generally.
The charity engaged the Churches Child Protection Advisory Service (‘CCPAS’) - see endnote 6 to undertake a full and independent review of its safeguarding policies and procedures. A report was produced in July 2012 which identified significant weaknesses in the charity’s safeguarding policies and procedures The charity adopted an action plan to address the 54 recommendations from the CCPAS review.
The Commission’s inquiry was long as it was kept open to monitor progress by the trustees and ensure full implementation of the recommendations and action plan arising from the CCPAS review to ensure that the safeguarding risks in the charity were adequately addressed by the trustees. The Commission also provided regulatory advice and guidance to the trustees on their duties and responsibilities and advice on the reporting of serious incidents. The charity completed implementation of the action plan in 2015 and has more recently undertaken a further self-audit of the charity’s safeguarding policy to ensure compliance with legal standards and best practice.
The inquiry concluded that there was misconduct and mismanagement in the administration of the charity due to the failure of the trustees to take reasonable steps to protect beneficiaries at the time the incidents occurred since there were a number of deficiencies in the charity’s safeguarding policies, procedures and practice which subjected the charity’s vulnerable beneficiaries to undue risk.
The Commission acknowledges that the trustees fully cooperated with the regulator and other agencies following the allegations and acted responsibly in implementing the recommendations made by the CCPAS review. The Commission does, however, consider that the full implementation of the recommendations should have been delivered at greater pace.
Although the Commission has a specific role in a safeguarding context - see endnote 7, this case demonstrates the Commission’s important role in ensuring that trustees are complying with their duties and handling incidents responsibly.
Michelle Russell, Director of Investigations, Monitoring and Enforcement at the Charity Commission, said:
This case is a reminder to charities that work with children and vulnerable people that it is essential that they have adequate safeguarding policies and procedures which reflect both the law and best practice. Even more importantly though, where incidents occur or allegations are made, charities must ensure safeguarding issues are taken seriously and dealt with promptly in accordance with those policies and procedures .
Where a safeguarding incident happens, the Commission expects trustees to report these to the appropriate statutory agencies such as the police, local authority, and to the Commission as a serious incident as soon as possible after the incident occurs.
For further help about safeguarding and trustee duties see the Commission’s guidance: Strategy for dealing with safeguarding vulnerable groups including children issues in charities
Policy paper: Safeguarding children and young people
The full report is available on GOV.UK.
Notes to Editors
The Charity Commission is the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales. To find out more about our work, see our Annual Report.
- Search for charities on our online register.
Details of how the Commission reports on its regulatory work can be found on GOV.UK.
On 1 May 2015, a new charitable incorporated organisation, called Bourne Christian Centre, was registered with the Commission (registered number: 1161520). The charity has transferred all of its assets and liabilities to Bourne Christian Centre, although at the current time the charity is still registered and can be found on the register.
The former youth pastor was subsequently convicted in May 2012 of 2 offences of sexually touching a child and 1 for voyeurism, receiving a 6 month sentence suspended for 2 years. He was also ordered to sign the sex offenders’ register for 7 years and attend a rehabilitation programme.
CCPAS is an independent Christian safeguarding charity established in 1977 which provides professional advice, support, training and resources for churches and faith based charities. The charity also works to help those who are, or have been, affected by child abuse and similar issues. Further information about CCPAS is available at www.ccpas.co.uk.
- The Commission has a specific but limited regulatory role in a safeguarding context which is focused on the conduct of the trustees and the steps they take to discharge their legal duties. Its role is limited to ensuring that charities have appropriate safeguarding policies in place and that they implement and comply with such policies. The Commission is not responsible for dealing with incidents of actual abuse and it does not administer safeguarding legislation. It cannot prosecute or bring criminal proceedings, although it can and does refer any concerns it has to the police, local authorities and the Disclosure and Barring Service (‘DBS’) which each have particular statutory functions.