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Church charities ponder life without Ogston cash after sex-trafficking allegations

09 October 2023

hamishogston.co.uk

Hamish Ogston

Hamish Ogston

THE Cathedrals’ Workshop Fellowship (CWF) is among the Christian organisations reviewing their links with the Hamish Ogston Foundation, as further allegations against the British entrepreneur and philanthropist emerged over the weekend.

Last week, The Sunday Times reported that its own investigation had led the Metropolitan Police to review “allegations of exploitation and drugs offences” against Mr Ogston, who has donated millions of pounds to church projects through his foundation (News, 6 October). Analysis of about 1000 leaked documents by the paper suggested that Mr Ogston might have trafficked or attempted to traffic vulnerable Thai and Filipina women for sex over the past 15 years.

Mr Ogston, who denies the allegations, has stepped back from his foundation while his “personal circumstances” are being reviewed, a statement on the foundation’s website confirms. It says that, in the mean time, a new trustee has been appointed with immediate effect to work alongside his daughter, who is the other trustee.

A new report from The Sunday Times this week, based on these documents, which include emails from Mr Ogston, further alleged that he had created his charity on the advice of lobbyists to enhance his reputation and ultimately to secure him a knighthood. One consultant reportedly quoted a £25,000 fee to draft a nomination statement. Another email suggested that an old contact had nominated Mr Ogston for his CBE, which he was awarded in 2011.

Mr Ogston, who is 75 with a net worth £130 million, has not commented on the latest allegations.

The Hamish Ogston Foundation has funded several church projects, and gave a grant of £700,000 to CWF last year (News, 11 February 2022), on top of a £535,000 grant made to the CWF in 2021 (News, 25 January 2021).

A spokesperson for CFW said this week: “We are aware of the recent Sunday Times investigation into the private life of Hamish Ogston, and are deeply concerned by the serious allegations relating to human trafficking and the exploitation of young women. As the Cathedrals’ Workshop Fellowship is a recipient of funding from the Hamish Ogston Foundation, the board of trustees is taking advice on how to proceed. We have no further comment at this time.”

In 2017, Liverpool Cathedral received £384,000 from the foundation to save the organ (News, 24 November 2017). A spokesperson for the cathedral said on Monday: “Like so many we have read with grave concern the serious allegations relating to the personal conduct of Hamish Ogston. Liverpool Cathedral strongly supports the church campaigns against human trafficking and modern slavery. As a result we are reviewing our links to the Hamish Ogston Foundation.”

Most recently, the foundation funded the inclusion of six cathedrals in the National Schools Singing Programme, which was set up in partnership with the diocese of Leeds to widen opportunities for children in state schools to engage with music (News, 3 March). All references to the programme and partnership appear to have been removed from the diocesan website.

A spokesperson for the diocese said this week: “The Church deplores and reviles human trafficking and modern slavery and is at the forefront of the campaign against those grave evils. . . Having seen the Sunday Times allegations concerning the private life of Hamish Ogston, we began an immediate and ongoing review of our links with the Charitable Foundation which currently bears his name and have made this known to the Charity Commission.”

St Edward’s School, Oxford, which is affiliated to the Church of England, received significant donations from Mr Ogston, which contributed to the construction of two school buildings. A statement from the school’s warden, Alastair Chirnside, last Friday, acknowledged this and said: “The allegations are very disturbing and potentially upsetting for our pupils and their families, and our staff and alumni. We have reminded the school community of the avenues for pastoral support which we have available. This is clearly a serious situation, which we will monitor closely and about which we will keep our school community updated.”

Other charities are also reviewing their links and, in some cases, returning donations.

A statement from English Heritage published on its website confirmed that it had “decided to sever its ties with the Hamish Ogston Foundation” after “the extremely serious nature of the recent allegations concerning” its chair.

In August, the Hamish Ogston Foundation pledged English Heritage £11.2 million, of which £667,000 had been received to date, it said. “We have placed those funds into a separate bank account where they are clearly identifiable and we are returning them to the foundation,” the statement continued, acknowledging that this was a “step back” for planned work.

“We are not using any of the funds received from the foundation to apply against any spend we’ve incurred to date on our heritage skills programme — those costs are being paid from English Heritage’s own unrestricted funds. Nor will English Heritage draw down on any further funds committed by the Hamish Ogston Foundation.”

English Heritage had also filed a serious-incident report with the Charity Commission.

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