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Charity Inquiry: Rigpa Fellowship – GOV.UK

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The charity

Rigpa Fellowship (‘the charity’) was registered on 14 February 1980. It’s ruled by a Belief Deed dated 11 November 1979 as amended by a Deed dated 25 August 1987 and a Decision dated 31 July 2019.

The charity’s entry can be found on the register of charities.

Occasions main as much as the opening of the inquiry

In August 2017, the Fee was notified of the existence of a letter which had been published on the internet.

The letter, dated 14 July 2017, was signed by eight college students of Sogyal Lakar, who was the Non secular Director of the charity on the time was the letter was written.

The letter contained quite a few accounts describing psychological, bodily and sexual abuse which have been alleged to have taken place over a number of years.

The letter was examined, and a Regulatory Compliance case was opened in August 2017. The aim of the Regulatory Compliance case was to collect proof and knowledge that might be utilized in figuring out whether or not a Statutory Inquiry underneath s46 of the Charities Act 2011 ought to be opened.

The letter dated 14 July 2017 shaped a part of the knowledge thought-about inside the Regulatory Compliance case and supplies the context for the occasions which adopted its publication.

In the course of the Regulatory Compliance stage, the Fee engaged with the trustees of the charity and gathered proof each from the trustees and from people with data of the occasions described within the letter of 14 July 2017.

Shortly after the Fee began participating with the trustees of the charity, the Fee was knowledgeable that the charity had engaged a agency of attorneys, Lewis Silkin LLP, to undertake an investigation into the allegations of psychological, bodily and sexual abuse made within the letter referred to in paragraph 3 above.

Lewis Silkin LLP have been formally appointed on 19 December 2017.

The goals of the Lewis Silkin investigation have been as follows:

  • to determine in additional element the precise allegations in opposition to Sogyal Lakar and to establish the potential witnesses to these allegations
  • to grasp the extent to which senior members of the charity have been conscious of those allegations and whether or not they have been handled appropriately on the time
  • to allow the charity to take a primary step in the direction of therapeutic and reconciliation with those that really feel they’ve been harmed, by listening to the experiences in an open, neutral and delicate method
  • to offer an impartial evaluation of what the charity must study and alter within the gentle of those experiences, when it comes to constructions, processes and the like

On 22 August 2018, Lewis Silkin LLP submitted a copy of their report (“the LS Report”) to the trustees of the charity.

The LS Report, which runs to over 50 pages, supplies a complete account of the investigation undertaken by Lewis Silkin LLP and resulted in an intensive listing of suggestions. The Government Abstract is about out beneath:

Government abstract

“While I’ve seen proof that many individuals really feel that they’ve benefitted drastically from having Sogyal Lakar as their trainer, particular person experiences are very totally different. There are various levels of closeness to Sogyal Lakar, with the closest relationships frequently known as the “inside circle”. The experiences of a few of the members of the inside circle are very totally different from the experiences of lots of those that are much less shut.

Not all the allegations in opposition to Sogyal Lakar are upheld, as defined within the physique of the report beneath, however based mostly on the proof accessible to me, I’m happy that, on the stability of possibilities:

  • some college students of Sogyal Lakar (who have been a part of the ‘inside circle’, as described later on this report) have been subjected to critical bodily, sexual and emotional abuse by him; and
  • there have been senior people inside the charity who have been conscious of no less than a few of these points and failed to handle them, leaving others in danger

Numerous critical issues come up out of my findings which, in my view, should be addressed. Suggestions and proposed motion factors are set out on the conclusion of this report. “

Following the publication of the LS Report, the Fee continued to have interaction with the trustees of the charity and to watch progress in respect of the implementation of the suggestions made by Lewis Silkin LLP.

Of specific concern to the Fee, have been the findings within the LS Report that “there have been senior people inside Rigpa who have been conscious of no less than a few of these points and failed to handle them, leaving others in danger.”

The Regulatory Compliance case concluded when it was decided that inadequate progress had been made to handle the intense issues that the LS Report had recognized. Accordingly, it was determined {that a} statutory inquiry underneath s46 of the Charities Act 2011 ought to be opened to handle these failings.

On 8 November 2018 the Fee opened a statutory inquiry into the charity underneath part 46 of the Charities Act 2011.

The inquiry closed with the publication of this report.

Points underneath Investigation

The inquiry was established to contemplate the next regulatory points:

  • the seriousness of the findings and allegations of abuse reported to the Charity Fee and contained inside the LS Report dated 22 August 2018 and issues over the extent to which the charity at present supplies a protected surroundings for its beneficiaries, employees and volunteers
  • the failure to report critical incidents particularly these regarding bodily or sexual abuse
  • critical issues in regards to the governance and the willingness and functionality of the trustees to impact significant change to the charity’s safeguarding tradition and processes
    -public belief and confidence issues attributable to excessive profile media curiosity and protection
    -regulatory issues in regards to the extent to which the charity has sufficient monetary controls

Findings

The seriousness of the findings and allegations of abuse reported to the Charity Fee and contained inside the LS Report dated 22 August 2018

The inquiry discovered that some college students had been subjected to psychological, bodily and sexual abuse by Sogyal Lakar. The inquiry additionally discovered that there have been senior people inside the charity at the moment who have been conscious of no less than a few of these points and failed to handle them, which uncovered the charity’s beneficiaries to threat of hurt.

Patrick Gaffney

The inquiry met with Mr Patrick Gaffney. Mr Gaffney was one of many authentic trustees of the charity and was one of many late Sogyal Lakar’s closest college students. He seems to have performed a main function in Sogyal Lakar’s involvement with the charity throughout this time. The Fee was suggested that he resigned from his place as trustee on 31 August 2018.

In late 1994, a lady known as ‘Janice Doe’ lodged a lawsuit in opposition to Sogyal Lakar and Rigpa in the US. The plaintiff had alleged bodily, sexual and psychological abuse by Sogyal Lakar. Based mostly on the LS Report and different paperwork within the Fee’s possession, it’s obvious that Mr Gaffney was closely concerned within the charity’s response to the Janice Doe allegations on the time. That is clear proof that Mr Gaffney was conscious of earlier allegations regarding Sogyal Lakar’s conduct. This implies he ought to have been significantly vigilant and cautious, making certain that applicable techniques have been put in place to cope with such allegations and any allegations have been handled scrupulously and investigated appropriately with the mandatory motion taken consequently.

On 15 January 2018, the Fee met with the trustees together with Mr Gaffney. In the course of the assembly, Mr Gaffney mentioned bodily acts by Sogyal Lakar in the direction of others, saying that he wouldn’t characterise these as violent. He stated that these have been solely occasional; he had solely seen round half a dozen incidences which have been meant as a educating technique with no intention to hurt. Mr Gaffney acknowledged that he had by no means acquired any complaints from those that had been on the receiving finish of such acts. Within the assembly, Mr Gaffney appeared unable or unwilling to recognise the intense nature of the allegations that had been made and the shortage of applicable motion taken.

Based mostly on the knowledge within the LS Report and additional proof offered to the inquiry, it’s obvious that Mr Gaffney didn’t act appropriately when supplied with allegations about Sogyal Lakar harming beneficiaries of the charity. Mr Gaffney had both did not recognise or sought to downplay the seriousness of the allegations.

The inquiry discovered that Mr Gaffney was unfit to be a trustee of the charity or for charities usually and was subsequently disqualified from appearing as a trustee a interval of eight years underneath the provisions of s181A of the Charities Act 2011.

Susan Burrows

The inquiry additionally met with one other trustee, Susan Burrows. Ms Burrows was considered one of two UK based mostly trustees of the charity who, along with two American based mostly counterparts, commissioned the LS Report.

The inquiry discovered that Ms Burrows had data of cases and allegations of improper acts and sexual and bodily abuse by Sogyal Lakar in opposition to college students on the charity. Ms Burrows did not take applicable motion in response to this data.

At a gathering with the inquiry on 23 January 2019 Ms Burrows was particularly requested whether or not anybody in any respect had beforehand advised her of cases of abuse regarding Sogyal Lakar and she or he acknowledged “completely not” and indicated that she had no data of the allegations in opposition to Sogyal Lakar till the letter dated 14 July 2017 was printed.

On 18 November 1994, the charity printed a doc which commented on the Janice Doe (see earlier paragraph) case within the following phrases:

“this grievance could also be exploited by the media, maybe in excessive and scandalous methods” and additional “we aren’t able to touch upon this matter or reply to the allegations.”

This charity round was signed by a number of key Rigpa figures together with Ms Burrows. It’s due to this fact obvious that Ms Burrows will need to have been conscious of the Janice Doe allegations.

Equally, the inquiry discovered that Ms Burrows had met with a former trustee in Might 2007 to debate an allegation of abuse made by a person described as “Pupil 27” within the LS Report.

At a gathering with the inquiry on 23 January 2019, Ms Burrows was requested whether or not allegations of sexual abuse had been raised on the conferences she attended in Might 2007 with a former trustee. In response Ms Burrows acknowledged to the Fee that no allegations of sexual abuse had been raised at these conferences. Ms Burrows characterised the connection between Sogyal Lakar and Pupil 27 as being one between consenting adults and appeared unable or unwilling to recognise the intense nature of the allegations that had been made and the shortage of applicable motion taken.

Based mostly on the knowledge within the LS Report and additional proof obtained, the inquiry discovered that Ms Burrows had not acted appropriately when supplied with allegations about Sogyal Lakar harming beneficiaries of the charity. Ms Burrows both did not recognise or sought to downplay the seriousness of the allegations.

The inquiry discovered that Ms Burrows was unfit to be a trustee of the charity or for charities usually and was eliminated as a trustee of the charity and all charities underneath the provisions of s79(4) of the Charities Act 2011.

Considerations over the extent to which the charity offered a protected surroundings for its beneficiaries, employees and volunteers

The inquiry discovered that the charity’s safeguarding insurance policies and procedures at the moment have been insufficient and insufficiently strong to guard beneficiaries within the UK from the dangers of significant hurt. Specifically, the previous Trustees of the charity positioned an excessive amount of reliance on insurance policies and procedures produced by the worldwide Rigpa physique and offered hyperlinks to those insurance policies on the charity’s web site. The insurance policies and procedures produced by the worldwide Rigpa physique weren’t discovered to adequately deal with potential safeguarding dangers to beneficiaries within the UK (for instance by blurring the excellence between consent and submission and putting an excessive amount of accountability for safeguarding on the beneficiary somewhat than the trainer). The previous Trustees didn’t think about or devise safeguarding insurance policies on their very own and deferred to the worldwide Rigpa physique. The previous Trustees have been insufficiently rigorous of their consideration and evaluation of the insurance policies and procedures produced by the worldwide Rigpa physique. The previous Trustees ought to have ensured that any worldwide insurance policies referred to have been ample for UK laws and regulation.

Nevertheless, the inquiry discovered that the present Trustees had taken impartial skilled recommendation and applied new safeguarding insurance policies and procedures tailor-made particularly to the operations of the UK charity. The Fee expects that the Trustees will comply totally with these new safeguarding insurance policies and procedures and monitor their effectiveness in defending beneficiaries from the dangers of significant hurt.

As well as, the Fee discovered that the present Trustees had put in place measures to successfully sever the governance hyperlink between the UK charity and its worldwide counterparts to allow the UK charity to function independently of abroad course.

The failure to report critical incidents particularly these regarding bodily or sexual abuse

The inquiry discovered that the Fee’s data present that no studies of significant incidents, particularly these regarding bodily or sexual abuse, have been made by the trustees of the charity earlier than August 2017. The previous trustees did submit, in August 2017, a critical incident report in relation to the letter by college students dated 14 July 2017 however they did so after the Fee had already established contact with them concerning the matter.

The inquiry discovered examples of allegations of psychological, bodily and sexual abuse previous to August 2017 that had not been reported to the Fee. This failure to report critical incidents quantities to mismanagement and/or misconduct by the previous trustees appointed on the time.

Critical issues in regards to the governance and the willingness and functionality of the trustees to impact significant change to the charity’s safeguarding tradition and processes

The inquiry discovered that some former trustees and senior administration figures on the charity have been accountable for acts of mismanagement and misconduct in relation to the governance of the charity. Specifically, some key former members of the charity’s governing physique had did not show the willingness and functionality to impact significant change to the charity’s safeguarding tradition and processes. Nevertheless, the inquiry additionally discovered that the present trustees have adopted new safeguarding insurance policies and procedures to raised safeguard the charity’s beneficiaries

Public belief and confidence issues attributable to excessive profile media curiosity and protection

The inquiry discovered that misconduct and mismanagement by former senior figures on the charity had led to the chance that public belief and confidence within the charity and charities usually could be adversely affected.

Regulatory issues in regards to the extent to which the charity had sufficient monetary controls

The inquiry additionally discovered proof that in 2017, £12,000 in money had been withdrawn from the charity’s checking account and into the custody of a trustee on a single day. On the inquiry assembly held on 15 January 2018 the trustees defined that these funds have been handed to the trustee as a result of the charity checking account mandate was not updated. The one trustee capable of signal cheques on the time was unavailable to take action attributable to sickness. The trustees had then determined to switch £12,000 to the trustee to allow that particular person to reimburse bills claims made by volunteers on the annual Easter Retreat. At an additional assembly with the Fee on 23 October 2019 the trustee involved indicated that this money had been handed to an worker of the charity and positioned within the charity’s protected. The trustees indicated to the Fee that any expenditure of charitable funds utilised on this method was receipted and subsequently offered supporting documentation to the Fee. Dealing with massive quantities of money just isn’t good apply due to the chance that the individual entrusted with the money might misappropriate it.

Charity trustees have an obligation to make sure that charity belongings are shielded from the chance of misapplication or misappropriation. The trustees ought to have ensured that there have been sufficient monetary controls in place and correct mechanisms for the reimbursement of reputable bills. Nevertheless, the inquiry additionally discovered that the present trustees have adopted new monetary controls insurance policies and procedures to raised safeguard the charity’s belongings.

Conclusions

The Fee concluded that there was mismanagement and misconduct within the administration of the charity, significantly in regard to how former trustees responded to and managed safeguarding issues and their incapability to create a protected tradition inside the charity which uncovered some beneficiaries to hurt. The seriousness of those findings resulted within the Fee exercising its powers to disqualify and take away two of the previous trustees.

Each the previous and present trustees cooperated with the inquiry and recognised the Fee’s critical regulatory issues. Because of the Fee’s actions throughout the inquiry, the charity now has a brand new board of trustees in place and has adopted new safeguarding insurance policies and procedures to raised safeguard its beneficiaries.

Regulatory Motion Taken

In the course of the inquiry the Fee used powers underneath s52 and s47 of the Charities Act 2011 to acquire data.

In respect of Patrick Gaffney, he was disqualified as a charity trustee of the charity and of all charities for a interval of eight years underneath the provisions of s181A of the Charities Act 2011. Mr Gaffney’s identify was added to the listing of disqualified trustees on 12 April 2019.

In respect of Susan Burrows, she was eliminated as a trustee of the charity and all charities underneath the provisions of s79(4) of the Charities Act 2011. Ms Burrows was faraway from her place by the inquiry and entered onto the listing of eliminated trustees on 20 September 2019. She can also be completely disqualified from serving as a trustee or senior supervisor of any charity in England and Wales, underneath part 178 of the Charities Act.

Points for the broader sector

Governance

Trustees are representatives of the charity they govern or the charitable funds they’re accountable for, within the charity sector. Trustees should pay attention to and act in accordance with their authorized duties. The conduct of trustees is usually a key driver of public belief and confidence within the charity sector. When the conduct of trustees falls beneath the requirements anticipated there may be harm to the repute of particular person trustees, the charity and presumably the broader charity sector.

Reporting duties to the Fee (together with Critical Incident Reporting)

A critical incident is an opposed occasion, whether or not precise or alleged, which ends up in or dangers vital:

  • hurt to your charity’s beneficiaries, employees, volunteers or others who come into contact together with your charity by its work (who’re collectively referred to all through this steering as individuals who come into contact together with your charity by its work)
  • lack of your charity’s cash or belongings
  • harm to your charity’s property
  • hurt to your charity’s work or repute

A critical incident ought to be reported to us instantly, not simply on completion of the annual return. Extra information on reporting serious incidents can be found on GOV.UK.

Safeguarding and defending individuals

It’s essential make a report back to the Fee if a critical safeguarding threat materialises. It will often be if any of the next happen:

  • incidents of abuse or mistreatment (alleged or precise) of beneficiaries of the charity (adults or youngsters) which have resulted in or threat vital hurt to them
  • this occurred whereas they have been underneath the care of the charity
  • somebody related with the charity, for instance a trustee, employees member or volunteer, was accountable for the abuse or mistreatment (alleged or precise)
  • different incidents of abuse or mistreatment (alleged or precise) of people that come into contact with the charity by its work, which have resulted in or threat vital hurt to them and are related to the charity’s actions
  • breaches of procedures or insurance policies on the charity which have put individuals who come into contact with it by its work at vital threat of hurt, together with failure to hold out related vetting checks which might have recognized that an individual is disqualified in regulation from holding their place inside the charity. This is perhaps, for instance, as a result of they’re disqualified underneath safeguarding laws from working with youngsters and/or adults in danger

The above might embody incidents within the office which have resulted in or threat vital hurt to trustees, employees or volunteers.

In addition to reporting to us, you also needs to notify the police, native authority and/or related regulator or statutory company accountable for coping with these incidents.

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