Friday, 29 May 2009

Searchlight and the Metropolitan Police

By Tony Shell

In the course of my research I’m not normally in the habit of putting original source material, or correspondence, into the public domain. However, given the serious issues being raised in this particular matter, I shall make an exception.

As a result of the publication early this year of reports on the activities of a number of registered charities – including that of the organisation Searchlight Educational Trust – I wrote to the Metropolitan Police asking them if they would carry out an investigation. This request was sent to the police on the 5th February. I eventually received a letter from the Met after seven weeks of waiting (on the 25th March). A copy of the police response is shown below.

Please click to enlarge images

I’ll leave it to the reader to draw their own conclusions as to the adequacy of the response, however there are a couple of points worth highlighting, which are summarised below.

Firstly, the notion that “no credibility” can be given to a complaint if the evidence (material) is accessible to the public is, to put it bluntly, pure nonsense. The assumption that the Charity Commission, or “the media”, can be trusted to expose any possible wrongdoing is (in my opinion) an extraordinary statement for the police to make.

Secondly, the assertion that: “it is the overall upkeep of the Charity for which donations are made” is simply not true. The public donate to a charity, trusting that the money will be used for the purpose being promoted (advertised) by the particular charity. Yes, it is certainly the case that long-established charities may become (by name and by reputation) synonymous with a particular charitable purpose – but that is an entirely different matter.

I feel that the concerns are fundamentally very simple, and that the situation can be as summarised as highlighted below.

The registered charity Philip Green Memorial Trust (PGMT) solicits money from the public to “help sick and disabled children”. Clearly from the PGMT advertising, this refers to very worthy activities such as hospital and hospice care, medication, remedial care, respite care, physiotherapy – and so on. People who donate to the PGMT do so believing and trusting that this is the purpose to which their donations will be put.

Over the last six years it appears that the organisation Searchlight Educational Trust (SET) has drawn on this PGMT funding to the total amount of some £11,700.

Therefore the obvious question to be asked is this: how this money has been used by SET on providing help for sick and disabled children?

It would be entirely reasonable to have a list of recipients of the help provided by SET – for example Searchlight’s help in providing: hospital and hospice care; medication; remedial care; respite care; physiotherapy, et cetera. I am sure SET would, as a registered charity, have this information readily to hand.

Six weeks ago there occurred a disturbing development when the secretary of Searchlight Educational Trust posted a personal attack on me, on one of Searchlight’s political websites.

This occurred almost immediately following my last communications with the Charity Commission and the Metropolitan Police.

I found the content of this attack to be extremely abusive and insulting and, given the content of the Searchlight posting in the context of recent events, somewhat menacing.

This behaviour was quite astonishing coming, as it did, from an official of a registered ‘charitable’ organisation.

Finally I should make it absolutely clear that I have no complaint against individual police officers who have an immensely difficult job to do, under very difficult circumstances. The problem is, as I perceive it to be, that of a police service that has become institutionally politicized. Copies of this article will be forwarded to the Metropolitan Police Service.

Tony Shell