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February 8, 2022

Statement addressing recent blog posts regarding the dismissal of Ben Cooley

Hope for Justice has been made aware of allegations made in blog posts on January 28th and January 30th 2022.

 

We wish to reiterate that our former CEO Ben Cooley was dismissed, without compensation, for gross misconduct following an independent investigation. The Charity Commission was kept informed throughout and stated they were satisfied with the process. This outcome originated from a whistleblowing process, as detailed below.

 

Sensitive personal details continue to be kept confidential to preserve the integrity of our whistleblowing process and to protect the identities and interests of the complainants and their families, whose interests were safeguarded and upheld throughout the investigation and its conclusion.

 

That exhaustive and independent investigation did not implicate any other member of staff, past or present, in any wrongdoing.

 

Our current CEO, Tim Nelson, has the full support of the Board of Trustees, who are kept aware and informed at all times of his previous and current consultancy and advisory positions and board memberships external to Hope for Justice.

 

Threesixty Consultants Limited was a pilot initiative launched in early 2020 with the authority of the Board of Hope for Justice to consider alternative funding streams that could be generated. It was registered as a company, and Hope for Justice Limited and Tim Nelson were among those registered as company directors.

 

Tim Nelson took up this position with the knowledge and approval of the Board of Hope for Justice and in line with our Conflicts of Interest policy.

 

After the pilot, a report was presented to the Trustees and it was concluded that it was not viable as a long-term proposition to generate a new funding stream for Hope for Justice, and activity ceased. Tim Nelson formally resigned his directorship with Threesixty Consultants Limited in May 2021, but he had not undertaken any activity for the organisation since March 2021.

 

Among Tim Nelson’s other outside positions, all declared to the Board of Trustees, was a voluntary (unpaid) position on the board of Sole Hope. This is an independent organisation with no formal relationship or contract with Hope for Justice. He resigned this role in May 2021.

 

Tim Nelson is not involved in any business relationship with Ben Cooley.

 

The Board of Hope for Justice wants to ensure the best possible governance structures, and has instituted or is instituting a number of initiatives to continuously improve our procedures for reporting wrongdoing and to safeguard staff wellbeing. Trustees also now review performance appraisals of members of the Executive team. The organisation has formed a People and Culture Committee, alongside a Staff Advisory Council, to ensure employees’ views and opinions are heard and represented.

 

The Trustees and Executive team continue to work to ensure an open and transparent culture in the service of the mission of Hope for Justice: to bring an end to modern slavery and to help the world’s most vulnerable men, women and children.

 

Background:

 

In January 2021, several trustees received allegations regarding the behaviour of Ben Cooley from two former employees, via the charity’s confidential whistleblowing procedure. The receiving trustees immediately engaged external legal advice and informed the full trustee board, which instigated an independent investigation by a qualified solicitor who has specialised in employment law for over 30 years.

 

A subsequent disciplinary hearing considered extensive evidence and findings of the investigation report. A Disciplinary Panel hearing in May 2021 found Ben Cooley’s actions to have amounted to gross misconduct in his behaviour towards several employees over a period of time, as well as irreparable breach of trust and confidence with the organisation. Ben Cooley was dismissed.

 

An Appeal Panel upheld the findings in June 2021. The allegations were not of a criminal nature. Personal details are being kept confidential to protect the complainants and the integrity and anonymity of the whistleblowing process in the future. No non-disclosure restrictions were at any time sought or implemented with the complainants. The complainants were appointed a dedicated Trustee member to provide them with regular updates throughout the process.

 

Hope for Justice can confirm that during the investigation into the allegations against its former CEO, and following the outcome, no compromise agreements nor settlement agreements were entered into either with Ben Cooley nor any current or past member of staff. Ben Cooley has not received any severance nor other such payment from the organisation.

 

The Board of trustees give their unreserved apology to anyone who has experienced any harm either directly or indirectly by the actions of the former CEO, Ben Cooley, whilst at Hope for Justice. We believe that through this time we have demonstrated an effective disciplinary process and that no-one, regardless of position, is beyond reproach. We strive to be an open organisation and know that trust is built over time – we are on a journey to constantly improve on this.