The Charity Commission, the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales, has opened a statutory inquiry into Console Suicide Prevention Ltd, a UK charity which has links with a separate charity already under investigation by regulators in the Republic of Ireland over concerns about possible financial mismanagement
The Irish charity, Console Suicide Bereavement Counselling Ltd, has been the subject of extensive media coverage, and concerns have been reported relating to allegations of falsifying of accounts to obtain funding, significant private benefit, conflicts of interest, and financial mismanagement.
Due to the links between the Irish charity, the UK charity and the High Court action that has taken place in Ireland, the commission considers that the impact of the actions taking in place in Ireland affect public trust and confidence in the UK charity.
In a statement, the commission said: ‘The recent events and actions also indicate that the assets of the UK charity may be at serious and significant risk of harm and that this requires further examination and action.’
The commission has taken immediate action to freeze the charity’s bank accounts in order to protect the charity’s funds and other property, but stresses that opening an inquiry is not in itself a finding of wrongdoing.
The inquiry will examine the relationship between the UK and Irish charities and whether the UK charity is furthering its objects for the public benefit. It will look at the financial management of the UK charity, in particular how it applies it funds in furtherance of its objects and whether there has been any unauthorised trustee benefit.
The UK charity was set up for the provision of counselling and support for those who are at risk of suicide or who are bereaved by suicide. According to the commission’s website, Console Suicide Prevention Ltd was registered in June 2013. Its accounts for the financial year ending 30 May 2014 are marked as arriving late, by one day.
The charity’s accounts for the financial year ending 30 May 2015, which the commission received in November 2015, are marked as qualified, although no information is given as to why this is.
The latest accounts also a statement under the heading ‘related party transactions’ which reads: ‘Console Suicide Bereavement Counselling is a sister charity based in Ireland. During the year, Console Suicide Bereavement Counselling charged £14,789 (2014: £16,895) for providing management and administration services, including consultancy work for the development of new Clinical Governance Policies, Procedures & Protocols, Education and Training Programmes including 'Suicide Prevention Programme'. During the year there were no reimbursed expenses to trustees.’