Press release

Trustees failed to manage speaker at charity event

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The Charity Commission publishes report of its inquiry into Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (UK).

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The Charity Commission (’the commission’) today published a report of its inquiry into Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (UK) (registered charity number 267309) (‘the charity’). The charity was registered on 29 April 1974 and has objects to ‘To advance Hindu religion and to educate the public in the Hindu ideals and way of life’.

The commission opened the inquiry into the charity on 17 February 2015 prior to the airing of the programme ‘Charities Behaving Badly’ (see endnote 1) in which the charity featured and which raised serious regulatory concerns regarding the management, by the charity’s trustees, of a guest speaker at the charity’s event.

The inquiry obtained and reviewed all of the footage recorded by the makers of the programme - the analysis of which raised a number of regulatory concerns. Hindu history lessons for children at an event run by the charity were led by a speaker who made a number of offensive and inappropriate statements. However, from its review, the inquiry found that the views expressed by the speaker were not endemic or systematic in the charity.

The commission concluded that there was mismanagement in the charity evidenced by failures to follow the charity’s own policy and guidelines, lack of adequate procedures on speakers participating at events, not ensuring that the appropriate number of adults were present in the classroom with the speaker during his presentations and lack of appropriate oversight and monitoring. The trustees cooperated with the inquiry and responded appropriately by taking action in response to the concerns raised in the programme. They acted promptly to review policies and procedures and set in motion their own review of events.

The commission issued regulatory advice and guidance under section 15(2) of the Charities Act 2011 to the trustees to help them improve the charity’s management and carry out their review of the policies.

Michelle Russell, Director of Investigations, Monitoring and Enforcement at the Charity Commission, said:

Charities that regularly host speakers must have proper safeguards in place to manage the associated risks of hosting events and/or guest speakers - even more so where those in attendance are particularly impressionable or vulnerable.

Charity trustees need to ensure that events further a charity’s purposes for the public benefit and do not breach criminal law or go beyond the boundaries of what is permissible under charity law. In addition to possible criminality, promoting views which are harmful to social cohesion, such as denigrating those of a particular faith are clearly not consistent with the public benefit requirement and pose unacceptable risks to the public’s trust and confidence in charity.

This case is also a reminder about not only of how important it is that charities not only have adequate policies and procedures to safeguard young people but they are followed in practice. Charity trustees are responsible for ensuring that those benefitting from, or working with, their charity are not harmed in any way through contact with it. They have a legal duty to act prudently and must take all reasonable steps within their power to ensure that this does not happen.

Further information for trustees can be found in our guidance Protecting charities from abuse for extremist purposes and managing the risks at events and in activities.

The full report is available on GOV.UK.

PR 53/16


Notes to editors

  1. The Charity Commission is the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales. To find out more about our work, see our annual report.
  2. Search for charities on our online register.
  3. Details of how the commission reports on its regulatory work can be found on GOV.UK.

Endnotes

  1. The programme ‘Charities Behaving Badly’ was broadcast on Wednesday 18 February 2015 on ITV.

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Published 2 September 2016