In Brief

Islamic extremism’s ‘deadly threat’ to UK charities

Charity Commission warns of ‘growing’ abuse

Islamic extremism is potentially the "most deadly" threat to charities in England and Wales, warns the chairman of the Charity Commission.

"The problem of Islamist extremism and charities... is not the most widespread problem we face in terms of abuse of charities, but is potentially the most deadly,” William Shawcross tells the Sunday Times. "And it is, alas, growing."

He says the regulator is taking action against charities sending money to certain groups in Syria and has asked David Cameron to ban people with terrorism convictions from setting up charities.

People convicted of terrorism or money laundering are not currently automatically barred from setting up charities or becoming trustees of existing ones. He said: "It is ludicrous that people with convictions for terrorist offences are not automatically disqualified from serving as charity trustees."

As the regulator investigates a number of charities which are raising funds for causes in Syria, Shawcross advises all agencies to be cautious. "I'm sure that in places like Syria and Somalia it is very, very difficult for charities always to know what the end use of their aid is, but they've got to be particularly vigilant," he said.

With investigations growing, he has hired Peter Clarke, former head of anti-terrorism at Scotland Yard, to toughen up the commission’s board. But Shawcross warned further government cuts to its budget would reduce its effectiveness.

“We cannot keep responding to continuous salami-slicing of our budget. There is no point having a charity regulator that is unable to do its job properly because it is under- resourced,” he said.

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