The Charity Commission has disqualified one of the former trustees of an animal charity in North Wales, after an official inquiry found serious misconduct and/or mismanagement.
Capricorn Animal Rescue and Sanctuary (including Aston, Hawarden Animal Aid), which was based in Mold in North Wales, had charitable aims to relieve the suffering of animals and birds, including by providing resource centres and other facilities for the reception and care of these animals. The charity operated an animal sanctuary in Mold, caring for over 100 animals. It has since been wound up.
The regulator opened a compliance case in 2016 in response to local media coverage and complaints from members of the public. There were concerns about the welfare of animals in the charity's care and concerns regarding the charity's governance. This case was escalated to statutory inquiry in February 2017.
The inquiry report, published yesterday, sets out multiple failures by the trustees of the charity at the relevant times, including:
- failure to manage the animal sanctuary effectively and in accordance with animal welfare legislation
- absence of formal financial controls, despite the Commission's regulatory advice
- inappropriate banking and cash handling procedures, which allowed a former trustee to make cheques out to a family member and to cash, and cash to be taken from the charity's shops prior to banking, breaching cash handling policies
- the renewal of the lease of the charity's shop in Mold, at an increased cost to the charity, which exceeded the income generated by the shop and which resulted in significant arrears of rent and service charges
- concerns that a former trustee may have benefitted personally, by living in a house on the sanctuary's premises with inadequate records kept of rent payments
- failure to file the charity's annual accounts, trustees' annual reports and annual returns to the Commission, and discrepancies between the information provided to the Commission and analysis of bank statements
The Commission took regulatory action, including to protect the charity's funds by restricting the operation of its bank accounts, and disqualifying Sheila Stewart, one of the former trustees, for 15 years. It also appointed an interim manager, who concluded that the closure of the charity was necessary and took the appropriate steps to do this.
The sanctuary was closed in November 2018. 140 animals were rehomed with the support of the RSPCA.
Amy Spiller, Head of Investigations at the Charity Commission, yesterday said:
The public was rightly concerned about the effectiveness of the charity and its ability to deliver on its charitable aims. Where a charity is inefficiently administered, it is right that it winds up and is removed from the register.
The very real impacts of poor governance, ineffective financial controls and mismanagement are highlighted by this case. The failures of the trustees, including Sheila Stewart, to properly manage the charity, resulted in its closure and the rehoming of 140 animals in its care.
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Notes to Editors:
- The Charity Commission is the independent, non-ministerial government department that registers and regulates charities in England and Wales. Its purpose is to ensure charity can thrive and inspire trust so that people can improve lives and strengthen society.
- Sheila Stewart was disqualified from being a charity trustee or trustee for a charity in relation to any charity in England and Wales from 14 January 2022. As a result, she is also disqualified from holding an office or employment with senior management functions. Her name has been entered upon the Commission's register of removed trustees.
- The charity's official name was Capricorn Animal Rescue and Sanctuary (inc Aston, Hawarden Animal Aid) and its registered charity number was 1048511.
- The inquiry report can be seen here.