The Charity Commission has published its inquiry report into the Essex Islamic Academy, also known as Ripple Road Mosque, of which national law firm Stone King’s partner Jonathan Burchfield has been the Interim Manager.
The Charity Commission found that the charity’s trustees had failed to properly manage and administer the charity and its resources or act in accordance with the charity’s safeguarding policies, resulting in it being abused to facilitate terrorism offences.
As a result of the investigation, all the former trustees were removed and have been disqualified from acting as charity trustees for 10 years.
The statutory inquiry began on 2 October 2017 and was announced in March 2018, following the conviction of Umar Ahmed Haque for preparing terrorist acts whilst employed at the charity. Mr Haque had previously pleaded guilty to disseminating terrorist material to children who attended the charity’s madrassah and has been sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 25 years.
As part of its inquiry, the Commission considered how Mr Haque was able to attempt to radicalise children, and what the trustees and others at the charity knew about this. The inquiry also examined the level of supervision, due diligence and oversight the charity had over Mr Haque, and its adherence to safeguarding policies and procedures.
The Commission made an order, on 8 June 2018, under section 76(3)(g) of the Charities Act 2011, to appoint Jonathan Burchfield, Partner at Stone King, as Interim Manager of the charity.
Jonathan has been appointed three times as an Interim Manager. He says: “My role was to implement safeguarding procedures, review the charity’s governing document, and its financial controls and policies, and then to find and appoint new trustees. I am delighted that the charity is now back in the hands of a new, very committed and well-qualified board of trustees. We appreciate the confidence that the Charity Commission showed in Stone King by appointing me and our team.”
The Mosque has remained open as a place of worship and an important community resource throughout the investigation. The new trustees, who have received comprehensive training in safeguarding and related policies, hope to re-open the madrassah later in the year.
Jonathan’s appointment was discharged on 30 April 2019. Alongside Jonathan, the core team dealing with the case at Stone King included Tim Rutherford, Reema Mathur, Sarah Clune, Nicole Reed, Charlotte Barrington, and Bow Hylton.
The Charity Commission’s report into the Essex Islamic Academy can be read here.