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Convicted paedophile appointed head of Pride charity less than two years after being released from prison

Nick Duffy May 28, 2020
Swindon and Wiltshire Pride faced a Charity Commission probe

Swindon and Wiltshire Pride faced a Charity Commission probe

A convicted sex offender was appointed as chair of Swindon and Wiltshire Pride just two years after his release from prison for possessing images of child sex abuse.

The UK’s Charity Commission has confirmed to PinkNews that it issued safeguarding advice to the organisation earlier this year, after it was notified that Lee Clarke, who served as the organisation‘s chair in 2018, is a sex offender.

Clarke was jailed for 15 months by an Australian court in 2014, after admitting to possessing almost 15,000 images of child sexual abuse.

He later moved to the UK, and was named acting chair of the Swindon and Wiltshire Pride festival in December 2017, serving in the role for five months. He has had no involvement in the organisation since April 2018.

Swindon and Wiltshire Pride promises ‘rigorous safeguarding policies’.

Jo Sharpe, the current chair of Swindon and Wiltshire Pride, told PinkNews: “Lee Clarke began volunteering with Swindon and Wiltshire Pride in December 2017, and put himself forward for the acting chair role. He left organisation after four months in April, 2018.”

Sharpe added that “upon receiving information about Mr Clarke’s conviction, the trustees informed the Charity Commission in August 2019, entirely in accordance with the Commission’s advice and guidance”.

Pride organisers have stressed that “at no point did [Clarke] have any connection or access to LGBT+ youth groups in Swindon including vulnerable adults”, adding that they have now put in place “rigorous safeguarding policies, to ensure a transparent organisation, including mandatory DBS checks for all committee members”.

Swindon and Wiltshire Pride faced a Charity Commission probe
Swindon and Wiltshire Pride faced a Charity Commission probe

Local LGBT+ campaigner Nathanael Parker has pressed Pride organisers on the issue, calling for a “full, independent public investigation” into Clarke’s role. He said: “Having a child sex offender as the face of an LGBT+ event goes against everything Pride stands for and stains the good work of other Prides across the country”.

Charity Commission questioned Pride organisers over paedophile role.

A Charity Commission spokesperson confirmed to PinkNews: “We opened a regulatory compliance case to look into concerns about an individual who was acting chair of Swindon and Wiltshire Pride from January 2018 to May 2018.

“As part of our engagement, we questioned the trustees and received assurances that the charity has strengthened its policies and procedures around safeguarding. We issued the charity with regulatory advice… to ensure these are fully adhered to going forward.”

Sharpe told PinkNews: “We are grateful to the Charity Commission for considering the matter and providing us with appropriate advice. Our safeguarding policy already requires that all volunteers who work with young people and vulnerable adults are subject to an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

“The current trustees are fully committed to ensuring that safeguarding policies are followed and that their Pride events are a safe space for everyone.

“The robust action we have taken in the years since this incident ensure that someone with an unspent conviction for child sexual offences could not become a volunteer for Swindon and Wiltshire Pride.”

More: charity commission, child sex abuse, Pride, Swindon and Wiltshire Pride

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