High Court judge rejects bid to disqualify Kids Company founder and ex-trustees

Sian Harrison, PA

A bid to ban Kids Company founder Camila Batmanghelidjh and seven ex-trustees of the former children’s charity from being company directors has been rejected by a High Court judge.

The charity, which supported vulnerable children and young people in London and Bristol until it was wound up in 2015, attracted a number of celebrity backers, including former prime minister David Cameron, Coldplay, artist Damien Hirst and comedian Michael McIntyre.

Its closure came shortly after police launched an investigation, which was eventually dropped seven months later, into allegations of abuse and exploitation at the charity, following the broadcast of a BBC Newsnight report.

Proceedings were brought at the High Court in London by the Official Receiver (OR) against the founder and ex-chief executive of Kids Company, Camila Batmanghelidjh, and seven of its former trustees, including the BBC’s ex-creative director Alan Yentob, who was chairman of the charity.

During a 10-week trial which began in October last year, the OR argued Ms Batmanghelidjh and the former trustees, were “unfit” to hold company directorships as a result of their handling of the charity.

But, in a ruling on Friday, Mrs Justice Falk concluded no disqualification order should be made against either Ms Batmanghelidjh or the trustees.

The judge found that Ms Batmanghelidjh was not a “de facto director” of the charity, and would not have made a disqualification order against her in any event.

She added: “I would also point out the enormous dedication she showed to vulnerable young people over many years and what she managed to achieve in building a charity which, until 2014, was widely regarded as a highly successful one, doing what senior members of the Government rightly described as incredible work.

“It would be unfortunate if the events in the focus of this decision were allowed to eclipse those achievements.”

In relation to the trustees, Mrs Justice Falk said: “The public need no protection from these trustees.

“On the contrary, this is a group of highly impressive and dedicated individuals who selflessly gave enormous amounts of their time to what was clearly a highly challenging trusteeship.

“I have a great deal of respect for the care and commitment they showed, and the fact that they did not take the much easier path of not getting involved in the first place or walking away when things got difficult.”

In a statement after the ruling, Camila Batmanghelidjh said: “I would like to express my sincere thanks to Mrs Justice Falk for her incredible patience, understanding and wisdom for giving us the opportunity to set the record straight about the work of Kids Company.

“I hope this judgment will be the first step in refuting the many lies that have been told and banishing the false myths.

“My regret is that many thousands of children whom we supported were left unassisted and vulnerable once our service was withdrawn and that there were many others who never got a chance to receive help.

“To them, my heart goes out. I would also like to thank our many donors, staff and volunteers for their remarkable support.

“I shall not break step in my continuing campaign for the rights of children and to build for them a better future.”

A statement issued on behalf of former trustees Mr Yentob, Richard Handover, Francesca Robinson, Jane Tyler, Andrew Webster, Erica Bolton and Vincent O’Brien said: “Kids Company was forced to close in August 2015 following what the judge records as ‘unfounded allegations’ of child abuse, which made fundraising from private and government sources impossible.

“We are pleased that finally the facts have been gathered and assessed in a court of law, and that Mrs Justice Falk has exonerated both the former trustees and Kids Company chief executive Camila Batmanghelidjh.”

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