No legal action could be taken against bogus charity, says TD

‘I can’t understand why the Garda or the regulator can’t act,’ says Paul Donnelly

Sinn Féin TD Paul Donnelly highlighted the case of a registered charity which he said has spent the last two years fighting to put a stop to fake clothing collections by criminals using its name and logo. Photograph: Harry McGee

Sinn Féin TD Paul Donnelly highlighted the case of a registered charity which he said has spent the last two years fighting to put a stop to fake clothing collections by criminals using its name and logo. Photograph: Harry McGee

 

No legal action could be taken against bogus charity collectors who fraudulently used a legitimate charity’s name and logo as their own to collect clothing, a Dublin West TD has claimed.

Sinn Féin TD Paul Donnelly highlighted the case of a registered charity which he said has spent the last two years fighting to put a stop to fake clothing collections by criminals using its name and logo.

Mr Donnelly, who did not name the charity, said the organisation found the yard where the clothes were being stored and sold and contacted gardaí in Blanchardstown.

“The criminals had a waste collection permit,” he said adding that “even though the criminals were using a bogus charity [name] and its logo, it seems that neither the Charities Regulator nor the Garda could do anything.”

He said: “That is fraud and I can’t understand why the Garda or the regulator can’t act.”

Raising the issue in a Dáil parliamentary question Mr Donnelly pointed out that 466 complaints were made last year to the Charities Regulator and that 177 of them were about the legitimacy of charities.

He said such incidents are “eroding confidence in charities in the community. When people are giving, they want to know that they are giving to the right people.”

Concern has been growing about the use of fake charity collections including the use of the names of real charities. Bogus collectors can also issue misleading literature that creates the impression the clothing will be used to raise funds for charity. There are cases of the theft of bags left out for registered charities.

Amended legislation

Minister of State for Community Affairs Joe O’Brien said he did not know the details of the individual case but he acknowledged the need for the public to have trust in charities.

The Charities Regulator has more than 11,000 charities on its register and since its establishment in 2014 has been growing ever since.

“This will be the first year it will have a full staff complement so it is moving in the right direction,” he said of the regulator which operates with a budget this year of €4.6 million.

Amending legislation on the framework of the regulator is being drafted to ensure it has the “necessary powers to increase trust and confidence in the management and administration of charities.

“This work is at an advanced stage and proposals will be brought to the Government in the near future.”

He pointed out that a recent survey by the regulator showed 91 per cent of people had reasonable trust in charities and 36 per cent trusted them highly.

But Mr Donnelly said “the regulator still has a long way to go” and its job is “to ensure we have confidence that when we are donating to a charity it is a legal charity”.

He added that “we must have laws in place to ensure that when people are using the name, logo and number of a charity there is some sort of action that can be taken by the regulator to call in the Garda”.

The Minister told him that changes to the legislation will “significantly improve levels of transparency and trust in charities more broadly”.

He added that his department will shortly begin a “critical review” of the regulator.

An Garda Síochána have been contacted for comment.

A spokeswoman for the Charities Regulator said the main difficulty the regulator encounters in relation to unlawful collections “is that it is not always possible to make contact with the entity carrying out the collection as the contact number or email address provided are usually not valid”.

She added that “allegations of fraud are a matter for An Garda Síochána, and the Charities Regulator provides any information requested to An Garda Síochána where appropriate”.

Most concerns raised by the public are in relation to stickers and bags coming in the front door seeking donations of clothing and other unwanted items.

The regulator has issued guidance on the issue which is available at charitiesregulator.ie.