12/05/2003

Church exonerated over Climbie death

The Charity Commission, the charity watchdog, has today published the results of its investigation into the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, a North London church.

The report outlines how the Commission has investigated the charity to resolve a number of concerns about its management and finances.

The investigation established that the charity did not have a close relationship with Victoria (Anna) Climbie, the eight-year old Nigerian girl who died whilst in the care of relatives. Although it did appear that she attended the church three times in the period immediately prior to her death. The seriousness of her condition was not fully realised or reported to the relevant authorities. Representatives of the charity who saw her initially offered her spiritual help in prayer. The report recognises that, on the last occasion when Victoria attended, her aunt was advised to take her to a doctor.

The Commission was concerned to find that the charity did not have a formal child protection policy. It has advised the charity and a national level policy is now in place, which will be reviewed by the charity on a regular basis.

Concerns had also been raised that the charity was claiming to cure cancer and perform miracles and exorcisms. Investigators did not find any evidence that the church was claiming to be able actually to perform miracles or exorcisms or cure ailments. The church instead encourages individuals to attend meetings where they believe the general power of prayer might ease their suffering.

The investigation also examined areas of potential financial concern. The Commission's scrutiny of the charity's finances revealed that £900,000 and £1.36 million had been donated to sister churches in Brazil and Portugal respectively. The trustees were able to show that these funds had been spent on charitable activities. Formal procedures now exist to ensure the trustees have control over where and how the church's funds are spent, especially funds donated to sister churches overseas. They have also made a commitment to better manage their relationship with these churches.

Commission investigators also found that trustees were being paid in their roles of pastors and deacons without proper authorisation. These trustees, acting on the advice of the Commission, resigned at the last annual general meeting in 2002.

Charity Commission Director of Operations Simon Gillespie said: "The trustees of UCKG have co-operated fully with the Commission during this investigation. I am happy the charity can continue to carry out its work, following the advice we have given.

"All charities must be aware of their responsibilities to have effective

protection measures in place where a charity provides services to children."

(GMcG)

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