Charity chuggers could face crackdown, regulator warns

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Charities could face criminal sanctions for bullying the public into giving money, their regulator has warned.

Fines could be brought in as part of the first statutory regime for fund raising, after concerns were raised about the way some charities collected their money, following the suicide of Britain’s longest-serving Poppy seller Olive Cooke.

Mrs Cooke, 92, from Fishponds in Bristol, told how she was receiving up to 267 letters in a month and regular phone calls from charities asking her for donations.

Her family later said that while the calls and letters were intrusive, they were not to blame for her death. An inquest into her death did not hear any evidence concerning charities.

Charity Commission chairman William Shawcross told The TImes that if charities failed to address abuses, his organisation was willing to regulate street “chuggers”, door-to-door collectors, call centres and direct mail appeals.

He also accused the RSPCA of grotesque conduct, saying that it was inadequately run, and claimed that charity money was being diverted to Islamist terrorist-related causes.

In the wake of Mrs Cooke’s death, the Government commissioned a review by Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary organisations.

Mr Shawcross said: “If he concludes that self-regulation by charities cannot work, then government would have to consider whether the Charity Commission should regulate fund raising.”

Under the new regulations, charities and the fund raisers they employ would be banned from high-pressure tactics, repeatedly targeting people and making misleading claims.