Scottish charity regulator deals with 15 sexual misconduct cases

16 February 2018, 19:19

Scotland's charity regulator has dealt with 15 cases of alleged sexual misconduct within the sector in the past two years.

The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) said the cases - known as "notifiable events" - were "mostly historical", and none have resulted in a formal inquiry.

The Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (Sciaf) is the only Scottish charity working internationally to have reported allegations, the watchdog said.

OSCR said six of the notifiable events were notifications that charities are involved in the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry and are being dealt with as part of that process.

The police were contacted at the appropriate stage in all of the remaining nine cases - including the two Sciaf cases.

Four of the cases have been concluded, with the remaining five at various stages.

Sciaf confirmed earlier this week it has dealt with two cases of alleged sexual misconduct involving children.

One case involved the alleged rape in 2012 of a 15-year-old girl by a 45-year-old Burundian man who volunteered for a local partner organisation.

The other case centred on an Ethiopian man who worked in the shared office of Sciaf and its sister UK and Irish aid charities Cafod and Trocaire in 2016 when he was accused of sexual misconduct with a boy aged under 16.

The way in which charities deal with allegations of misconduct and abuse has come under scrutiny in the wake of the Oxfam scandal.

The organisation has been accused of concealing the findings of an inquiry into claims staff used prostitutes while delivering aid in Haiti in 2011.

The notifiable events regime was set up by OSCR in April 2016 to enable charities to report serious incidents.

These can range from fraud and significant financial losses to incidents of abuse or mistreatment of vulnerable beneficiaries.

OSCR spokeswoman Judith Turbyne said: "If we get a notifiable event in we will open an inquiry if an inquiry needs to be opened in the way the charity commission has done with Oxfam at the moment.

"But we have none open at the moment with those cases."

OSCR's chief executive David Robb added: "Allegations of sexual misconduct are very serious and we do not take them lightly.

"In these instances, we will always take the necessary regulatory action and work with every appropriate body to protect beneficiaries, volunteers and staff.

"There is nothing, however, to suggest that these instances are more common in charities than in other organisations.

"We will continue to urge charity trustees to be vigilant and to take robust action when necessary.

"We will also deal firmly with any misconduct when required so that the public can continue to have confidence in charities and to support the important work that they do."

In a statement posted on its website, Scottish charity Mary's Meals said it has had no reported incidents of misconduct involving children.

However the organisation dismissed a member of staff last year over an "inappropriate relationship" with an adult.

The statement said: "In 2017, we investigated one incidence of an inappropriate relationship between two consenting adults; a local male member of staff, from one of the countries in which we work, and a local woman.

"Although no crime was committed, no minors were involved and the inappropriate behaviour did not occur while carrying out the charity's activities, the staff member's actions were in breach of our code of conduct, which sets high standards for all those involved in our mission.

"The staff member was dismissed promptly after the relationship was reported."

The charity said it has "robust safeguarding policies and procedures in operation to protect vulnerable people".