- Here I show what I consider to be intentional plagiarism of facts and images from my blog by those responsible for a BBC TV programme broadcast in November 2016. The three-stage BBC complaints process was inadequate in so many ways – both process and outcome. The trusted public-service broadcaster displayed arrogance throughout as it fobbed me off with evasive and obfuscatory responses. The lessons are many – but two stand out. First, the BBC sees nothing wrong in what I allege to be its unethical conduct. Its position would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious. Second, the BBC can’t be trusted to deal with complaints about its journalism. Self-regulation by the BBC is no regulation.
- What do I mean by plagiarism? This definition from the University of Oxford website for its students is as good as any: “Plagiarism is presenting someone else’s work or ideas as your own, with or without their consent, by incorporating it into your work without full acknowledgement. All published and unpublished material, whether in manuscript, printed or electronic form, is covered under this definition. Plagiarism may be intentional or reckless, or unintentional.”
- “The Great Military Charity Scandal” was on BBC One Scotland on 8 November 2016 at 19:00 and available on the BBC iPlayer afterwards. It was made by BBC Scotland Investigates. I haven’t written about the TV programme until now because I was following the BBC complaints process – and then that of communications watchdog Ofcom.
- On 28 January 2017, I wrote about the announcement by charity regulator the Charity Commission that it had opened a statutory inquiry into charity Support The Heroes (STH; registered charity number: 1155853) and appointed an interim manager. The relevant commission press release, the link for which is in that post, refers to the TV programme in its “notes to editors.”
- Liam McDougall was the producer of “The Great Military Charity Scandal.” He first contacted me about his programme on 8 January 2016, referring in an email to the “great work” I’ve been doing on charity fraud and abuse, particularly military charities. This is on my blog, dralexmay.wordpress.com. My charity investigations have been reported in national newspapers: The Sunday Times, The Mail on Sunday, The Times, The Daily Mirror and BuzzFeed (news website). I‘ve also twice appeared as a live studio guest on BBC Radio 5 live programme, 5 live Investigates, to discuss my findings. In 2016, influential Frank Field MP tabled two written parliamentary questions to the Work and Pensions Secretary after one of my charity exposés.
- My 28 January 2017 post gives the background on the commission’s actions on STH, describing the role of Tony Chadwick of Blackpool, his rip-off fundraising companies and three linked military charities, all high-profile: Afghan Heroes (AH), Our Local Heroes Foundation (OLHF), and STH. Each, separately, continues to be the subject of a live statutory inquiry by the charity regulator. FOR EACH CHARITY IN TURN, I BROKE BOTH THE LINK TO MR CHADWICK AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE, AS WELL AS FAILURES OF REGULATION.
- I first wrote about STH and its link to Mr Chadwick on 21 April 2015. It was my scoop. Thus the programme-makers were guided by my revelations then and thereafter.
- My proof of the link was critical to the programme: both Mr Chadwick and STH had actively tried to hide their working together (see blog, passim ad nauseam).
- As I wrote on 28 January 2017, my first post about STH, on 21 April 2015, exclusively exposed almost all the issues the commission said in January 2017 it wants its statutory inquiry to investigate.
- My 28 January 2017 post acknowledges the Walter Mitty Hunters Club HQ (WMHCHQ), a Facebook group, for its interest in my work on STH, and help publicising it. There I also state when the group first contacted me about the charity, thus proving I exclusively exposed STH.
- WMHCHQ wouldn’t have allowed or continue to allow me to present my dealings with the group as described in the 28 January 2017 post unless accurate. WMHCHQ don’t hold back, online or offline. Nor do its followers.
- In addition, the WMHCHQ timeline itself confirms the timeline of events for STH.
- Prior to the TV programme, there were three related publicly available sources for the connection between Mr Chadwick and STH. The three are in chronological order: my blog; WMHCHQ; and The Sunday Times (2 October 2016). Both WMHCHQ and the newspaper, separately, credited me as source. Yet “The Great Military Charity Scandal” failed to acknowledge me in any way. Thus the programme-makers intentionally plagiarised facts from my blog.
- So what about STH was new in the TV programme? Well, BBC Scotland Investigates secretly filmed STH representatives misleading the public as to how much of the £2.50 price of a prize draw ticket actually goes to the charity. The representatives were in fact working for Mr Chadwick‘s company, Targeted Management Limited (registered company number: 09036445) – a Blackpool firm incorporated in May 2014, whose activities this blog has exclusively exposed. Long-time readers of the blog won’t be surprised in the slightest by the programme’s filmed evidence. For years I’ve repeatedly written about my own and others’ experiences with Mr Chadwick‘s rip-off fundraising companies and their work for AH, OLHF and STH. My first 5 live Investigates programme in November 2014, for example, reported different people’s experiences of unsatisfactory and misleading encounters in shopping centres around the UK with OLHF representatives controlled by Mr Chadwick (see 10 November 2014 post). The OLHF representatives were flogging prize draw tickets – as were the AH representatives before them (see blog, passim ad nauseam). Mr McDougall obtained both my 5 live Investigates programmes and listened to them. I know because he told me.
- As well as plagiarising facts from my blog, the TV programme intentionally plagiarised images. Images only available on my blog were shown without credit or attribution. These images include, but aren’t limited to, the identifiable AH prize draw ticket, a key piece of evidence. The identifiable images were central to the programme. And the images had to be accurate and trusted for the BBC to show them on TV. Put simply, the source had to be credible. I’m the “UK’s expert,” as Mr McDougall said to me several times. It’s simply indefensible to use my images without due acknowledgement.
- Another indication of the importance of my images of particularly the AH prize draw ticket in “The Great Military Charity Scandal” is the fact one of them (my images of the AH prize draw ticket) appears prominently in the official 31-second trailer, too: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04f16bk.
- As I say, here my focus is the intentional plagiarism of facts and images. Nevertheless there are many other matters I complained to the BBC about in relation to its TV programme. From January 2016, for example, I spent tens of hours talking on the phone and corresponding with the producer. He told me at the outset he‘d interview me on the programme – and repeatedly reminded me of the fact. Further, I lent him highly sensitive, original documents: I gave them to him in person in Manchester city centre in July 2016. (Mr McDougall was accompanied by the programme’s reporter, Sam Poling, that day.) He promised he‘d return them in person. I didn’t stipulate delivery that way: nevertheless he said he would, and as soon as possible. At 5 December 2016 – the date of my first formal complaint to the BBC – I still hadn’t received my original documents. I finally received them – without apology or explanation for the delay – at the end of January 2017!
- On 8 November 2016, I complained to Mr McDougall in an email: “Do you think I’d have spent so much time talking and corresponding with you if I’d known that you weren’t in fact going to interview me, let alone credit me in any way?” He didn’t reply.
- I formally complained to the BBC on 5 December 2016 in an email to the Director-General, Lord Hall, because he’s Editor-in-Chief. Imagine my surprise when I received the BBC’s response to my first formal complaint: it was written by Mr McDougall! It’s self-evidently unsatisfactory for Mr McDougall to consider my complaint on behalf of the Editor-in-Chief. Further, I regarded his response to be unacceptable for several reasons.
- So I escalated my complaint to the BBC explicitly calling for independent consideration of my complaint for the process to be credible. I also stated disclosure of emails was essential after allegations made by Mr McDougall in his response for the BBC. So who now handled my second formal complaint for the Editor-in-Chief? The programme’s executive producer, Daniel Maxwell!
- Mr Maxwell failed to request any emails from me. There was no evidence in his response he’d scrutinised my blog, either. And, again, I found his response to be unacceptable for several reasons.
- Thus I had no option but to escalate once more my complaint to the BBC – to its nominally independent Executive Complaints Unit (ECU). There my complaint was handled throughout by BBC complaints director, Colin Tregear.
- Mr Tregear instigated disclosure of emails – at last.
- I shall now examine how each of the three BBC responses dealt with the alleged intentional plagiarism of facts and images.
- First, here’s what Mr McDougall said: “All of your posts are published on a public forum, and are freely accessible via an open-source search of the internet.” He added: “… It is entirely untrue for you to suggest that you somehow hold the exclusive rights to information about Tony Chadwick, Afghan Heroes, Support the Heroes or Our Local Heroes Foundation. As I say, there is much publicly available information about these organisations and indeed your posts themselves place the information in the public arena.” Astonishingly, the producer also wrote: “And surely, given that the facts have been published by you means that by definition the information is public and freely available?” And another vague statement: “Concerns had been published extensively by numerous media and social media outlets, and by the Charity Commission itself.”
- True, my blog is accessible to all – but use by a third party of the information published there, including images, requires credit and attribution. Otherwise it’s intentional plagiarism. Prior to the TV programme, the link between between Mr Chadwick and STH was exclusively broken by me – and then picked up in turn by WMHCHQ and The Sunday Times (see above). Both, separately, acknowledged me as source. The BBC did not.
- Now onto the BBC’s second response, from Mr Maxwell. He said: “On the allegation of plagiarism, it is untrue to say that our producer ‘intentionally plagiarised’ your blog. As you know, for many months the BBC was in discussion with you about the nature and content of some of the BBC investigation. The fact that we featured individuals like Tony Chadwick and the charity Support the Heroes would have been no surprise to you. In fact, our producer had discussed some of the detail we would feature in the programme with you and you were entirely happy for us to do this. That said, every piece of information contained in the programme was gathered, checked and verified beyond something simply being repeated from your blog. Everything was corroborated independently of any single source. In addition, information regarding concerns about Mr Chadwick, Afghan Heroes and Support the Heroes used in the programme was already public. Concerns had been published extensively by numerous media and social media outlets, and by the Charity Commission itself.”
- Note Mr Maxwell‘s vague final sentence there. Sound familiar? He copied it from Mr McDougall! (see above) As you can see, the executive producer, too, ignored the provenance of the published evidence for the link between between Mr Chadwick and STH. He also said nothing about use of images from my blog without due acknowledgement. On the alleged plagiarism, then, Mr Maxwell was as evasive and obfuscatory as Mr McDougall before him.
- Finally, what did Mr Tregear of the ECU say? On the intentional plagiarism of facts, he wrote: “… I understand you may have been the first person to uncover information about Tony Chadwick, his businesses, his links with military charities such as Afghan Heroes and Support The Heroes and failures of regulation. However, to the best of my knowledge, you were not the only source for the information which was included in the programme and much of the information was already in the public domain.” The BBC complaints director concluded: “… I appreciate why you say you should have been credited in the programme and I can understand why you are annoyed that didn’t happen. However, I cannot agree there was intentional plagiarism of your work bearing in mind much of what you had written had been repeated elsewhere in the media and in official reports.”
- On the intentional plagiarism of images, meanwhile, Mr Tregear stated: “… The BBC’s Editorial Guidelines include guidance on the use of pictures from social media and third party websites . It recognises that material which has been put in the public domain via publication on a website or social media may be re-used but programme-makers should consider the original intention in publication and the impact of any re-use. The guidance says ‘A picture available without meaningful restrictions on a website may be considered to be in the public domain and the media may consider that it has the right to exploit it – but that does not always make it the right thing to do.‘ In this case, I think the manner in which the images were re-used matched the original use, namely illustrating the activities of military charities, and there were no particular privacy issues arising from their use. I therefore cannot see how the use led to a breach of the BBC’s editorial standards.”
- Thus the BBC complaints director dismissed my allegations of intentional plagiarism. He finished: “…This will be the BBC’s final finding on your complaint unless there are reasons to modify or amend it in light of any comments you may wish to make.” So I duly sent comments as I was not satisfied with his rationale for dismissing my allegations of intentional plagiarism.
- The chronology, I pointed out, is critical: how and when did facts become first uncovered and reported? It’s self-evidently unacceptable to not credit me for breaking the relevant stories, particularly the link between Mr Chadwick and STH. On the intentional plagiarism of images, meanwhile, I said his response would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious. Privacy isn’t relevant here. It’s simply indefensible, I repeated, to use my images without due acknowledgement.
- In his reply, Mr Tregear said he saw no reason to amend his decision. In particular, he stated: “I agree it would have been courteous to acknowledge your role [in breaking the link between Mr Chadwick and STH] but as I said in my letter of 18 July there is nothing in the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines which says sources of information have to be given public credit; the requirement is to ensure material is checked and verified.”
- Because I was so dissatisfied with the BBC’s final decision, I still wrote back. There I also brought to Mr Tregear‘s attention the fact he’d referred in his last letter to “Save The Heroes” (sic), not STH. There was no response, no correction.
- Having exhausted the BBC’s complaints process, I submitted a complaint about the alleged intentional plagiarism to communications regulator Ofcom, which now regulates the BBC, too. Unfortunately, it said in a letter my complaint failed to “engage any rules in the Code [Ofcom Broadcasting Code] and is therefore out of our remit”.
- My experience with the BBC should be a warning to any individual or organisation that undertakes and publishes original investigations. According to its complaints director, the BBC could use facts you’re the first to uncover and report – but without crediting you in any way. It could without due acknowledgement use images you exclusively publish, too.
- Then there’s something else: BBC Scotland Investigates, remember, made the TV programme. Plagiarism is self-evidently unacceptable and unethical. It’s even worse when the journalism styles itself as investigative.
- Never mind “The Great Military Charity Scandal.” This is surely The Great BBC Plagiarism Scandal.
- On 27 January 2017, regulator the Charity Commission announced that it has opened a statutory inquiry into charity Support The Heroes (STH; registered charity number: 1155853) and appointed an interim manager: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/interim-manager-appointed-support-the-heroes.
- I first wrote about STH on 21 April 2015, exclusively exposing in my first post almost all the issues the commission says it wants the inquiry to investigate. That year, too, I revealed more about the unacceptable lack of clarity and transparency around the military charity and its business model (see my 11 August 2015 and 25 November 2015 posts, in particular). In its press release the commission says, rightly, that it has “serious concerns about an agreement that the charity has entered with a commercial fundraising company.” That unnamed company is Targeted Management Limited (TML; registered company number: 09036445) – a Blackpool firm incorporated in May 2014, whose activities this blog has exclusively exposed.
- TML worked with another military charity based in the north west, the notorious Our Local Heroes Foundation (OLHF; registered charity number: 1142029). The Charity Commission announced on 8 November 2016 that it has, finally, opened a statutory inquiry into OLHF, too (see my 23 December 2016 post and references therein).
- But it’s worse than that, as regular readers will know. Prior to working with TML, OLHF used the services of another discredited professional fundraiser, Prize Promotions Limited (PPL; registered company number: 07829587). And before PPL was the official professional fundraiser for OLHF, the company had this role for failed military charity Afghan Heroes (AH; registered charity number: 1132340). I first wrote about PPL and its role with AH in January 2014, just after the Charity Commission announced in December 2013 that it had opened a statutory inquiry into AH. That inquiry continues.
- Oh, PPL and TML are owned by the same person: Tony Chadwick of Blackpool.
- Three linked military charities – AH, OLHF and STH. Each is now the subject of a live statutory inquiry by the Charity Commission. On 2 October 2016, Andrew Gilligan in The Sunday Times reported my work on Mr Chadwick’s companies and the three linked charities (“Veterans miss out on charity millions as fundraiser keeps up to 80% of cash”). There he named me as the source and included quotes (see my 3 October 2016 post, which includes a link to Mr Gilligan’s newspaper article and the context). On 13 November 2016, Remembrance Sunday, the Mail on Sunday on its front page reported that the Charity Commission has ordered the opaque STH to stop all fundraising (“Shame of Poppy Day profiteers”): http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3930982/Shame-poppy-day-profiteers-Charity-banned-crackdown-raised-3million-gave-just-250-000-heroes.html. As you can see, I’m named and quoted in the front-page story.
- ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: I’m grateful to the Walter Mitty Hunters Club HQ, a Facebook group, for its interest in my work on STH, and help publicising it. The group first contacted me about the charity in December 2015 (email). The Walter Mitty Hunters Club HQ: https://www.facebook.com/The-Walter-Mitty-Hunters-Club-HQ-315222931946839/.
- Please read my previous post published 25 November 2015.
- On 27 November 2015, I emailed Support The Heroes inviting a public response to that post about the charity and the Daily Mirror report (19 November 2015). I said I’d publish its response in full on the blog.
- On 5 December 2015, I received an email from Pauline White, public contact and a trustee for Support The Heroes. Before her response, three points about what she wrote.
- First, it is important to note that Ms White fails to refer to Prize Promotions Limited – though my post explicitly identified the discredited professional fundraiser and its relation to Targeted Management Limited, an opaque company working with Support The Heroes. The omission is unacceptable. Both Blackpool companies are owned by the same person, Tony Chadwick. This is a simple fact anyone can check on Companies House records.
- Second, Ms White refers to the charity’s first accounts, for financial year ending 31 March 2015. These are now available on the Charity Commission website. But there is no mention of Targeted Management Limited in the accounts, so there is still a lack of clarity and transparency about the company and its role(s) for Support The Heroes. As I wrote in my 11 August 2015 post on Targeted Management Limited, the money flows in and around the charity – including the company – should be disclosed.
- Third, turning to the actual statement from Support The Heroes that I challenged in my 25 November 2015 post: the charity has now deleted the post from its official Facebook page, it seems. Anyone can still read it though: see the screen shot in my previous post.
- Here is Ms White’s email in full:
“Dr May 5 December 2015
I received your email of 27 November inviting me, on behalf of Support The
Heroes charity, to respond to your latest blog ‘Support The Heroes: a
statement that must be challenged’ with regard to the points which relate
You state that our response to a Facebook query by Mark Bishop concerning
an article appearing in the Daily Mirror, penned by Andrew Penman, on 19
November headed ‘Another company poses as armed forces charity to rifle
aid for injured soldiers’ and relating to the section ‘Armed forces
‘charities’ – the roll-call of shame’ was false. We challenge your
accusation, stand by our statement and suggest you provide us with
evidence of a link between any of the charities/companies mentioned
You then, at clause 5, mention that ‘nothing about Chadwick and any of his
companies appear on the charity website and as at 25 November 2015 there
is still nothing about Targeted Management Limited’ you then accuse us of
hiding the involvement of the company. On this point I refer you to my
email of 5 May 2015, posted on your blog 8 May 2015, in which I give in
detail our relationship with Targeted Management Limited.
We would like to bring to your attention that your blog, due to your
unfounded and untrue accusations, has caused us considerable damage. Our
teams, and even staff at the venues where we operate, have been verbally
abused, threats have been levelled at us and for our own safety we have
had to temporarily discontinue our charitable activities. We have many
ex-service personnel working as fundraisers whose jobs could now be in
Our Charity, numbered 1155853, was registered with the Charities
Commission in February 2014. Our financial statements are posted on the
Charities Commission website albeit the filing date was January 2016.
Our financial statements including details of our donations are also
published on our website http://www.supporttheheroes.org.uk
During the period we donated £15,120 to PTSD Resolution for counselling of
PTSD sufferers, £2,500 to NGVFA The National Gulf Veterans and Families
Association which covered the cost of a respite break for six wheelchair
bound veterans and six carers, £2,400 to The Queen Alexandra Hospital Home
in Worthing to fund two months neuropsychologist services enabling
residents with complex neurological disabilities to live with a lower
level of frustration and anxiety and £1500 to Blind Veterans UK. We still
had £46,000 available for future donations the most recent being £7138.99
going to The Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal 2015 representing 100% of
donations and 100% of profits made from sales activities from the 26th
October to the 8th November 2015.
Our Trustees have not received any financial remuneration, benefit or
expenses from the Charity or connected business, hardly the actions of a
‘dubious charity’ or an organisation trying to ‘hide’ anything.
We would be more than happy to meet face to face and try to understand
your concerns and to ease any doubts you may have regarding our charity
and its probity.
As you stated ‘I’ll publish your response in full on the blog’ I look
forward with interest to reading same.
- At 25 November 2015 the charity Support The Heroes (registered charity number: 1155853) has a statement on its official Facebook page that must be challenged (screen shot in Figure 1).
- In response to a query from Mark Bishop dated 21 November 2015, the military charity publishes the link for Andrew Penman’s report on Blackpool “charity” Our Brave Heroes in The Daily Mirror last week (see my previous post). Support The Heroes says: “We can confirm that this is NOT US and we have no links to any of them.” But that is false.
- As you can see, Penman doesn’t refer to Our Brave Heroes only. He lists five other dubious military charities/good causes linked to Blackpool, under the headline “Armed forces ‘charities’ – the roll-call of shame”. Failed charity Afghan Heroes (registered charity number: 1132340) is one. As Penman says, Prize Promotions Limited of Blackpool was its official professional fundraiser. The discredited professional fundraiser is now in administration (company number: 07829587), as I revealed in January.
- As this blog exclusively reported, the owner of Prize Promotions Limited, Tony Chadwick, has a new company now working with further military charities. It’s called Targeted Management Limited (company number: 09036445). And, as regular readers know, Support The Heroes is one of the charities (see my 11 August 2015 post on Targeted Management Limited).
- I exposed the link between Chadwick and Support The Heroes in my 21 April 2015 post. I noted then that there was nothing about Chadwick and any of his companies on the charity website. And at 25 November 2015 there is still nothing about Targeted Management Limited there. Support The Heroes continues to hide the involvement of the company. Why?
- There is a lack of clarity and transparency about new company Targeted Management Limited (TML) and its role(s) for two military charities in the North-West, Our Local Heroes Foundation (OLHF) and Support The Heroes (STH). There is also a lack of clarity and transparency about each charity itself: its business model and costs of working with TML. Here I show why I consider this to be deliberate opacity.
- TML of Blackpool (company number: 09036445) is owned by the same person as Prize Promotions Limited (PPL), the discredited professional fundraiser now in administration (company number: 07829587). This blog has exclusively revealed how PPL has consistently misled the public across the UK in its rip-off fundraising activities, often working illegally. STH (registered charity number: 1155853) is the third “heroes” military charity linked to Tony Chadwick and his companies. So PPL was official professional fundraiser for first Afghan Heroes (AH; registered charity number: 1132340) and then OLHF (registered charity number: 1142029). I first wrote about PPL and its role with AH January 2014, just after the Charity Commission announced December 2013 that it had opened a statutory inquiry into AH. That inquiry continues. On 9 November 2014, I appeared as a live studio guest on 5 live Investigates, the BBC Radio 5 live programme. There we exposed PPL and its work for the two military charities. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/our-local-heroes-foundation-to-stop-working-with-prize-promotions-limited-on-bbc-radio-5-live/) OLHF had told BBC Radio 5 live then that it would stop working with PPL – only to still be working together December last year. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2014/12/26/man-conned-into-buying-a-prize-draw-ticket-in-the-name-of-our-local-heroes-foundation-video/). It’s worse than that, though. OLHF was still working with PPL April 2015, it seems, according to the official listing of the OLHF stand at the Gadget Show Live 2015 exhibition, the NEC Birmingham: http://www.gadgetshowlive.net/Exhibitor/Prize-Promotions-Ltd-1. PPL is named in the link, as you can see. In February 2015, I wrote that TML, Mr Chadwick’s new company, was now involved with OLHF. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2015/02/26/from-prize-promotions-limited-to-targeted-management-limited/) There I alleged that TML was a professional fundraiser for OLHF.
- In April 2015, I repeated the allegation that TML is or has been a professional fundraiser for OLHF – in my first post on new charity STH. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2015/04/21/revealed-the-hidden-blackpool-company-presenting-itself-as-charity-support-the-heroes-to-recruit-paid-fundraisers/) I didn’t allege that TML has or had any role with STH. That post drew a response (email) from STH trustee Pauline White, which I promptly and happily published in full without being asked. (https://dralexmay.wordpress.com/2015/05/08/email-from-support-the-heroes-dated-5-may-2015/) There Ms White said TML is a “management” company, not a professional fundraiser.
- I first made the allegation that TML was a professional fundraiser for OLHF in good faith, carefully with evidence. The evidence? An announcement from founder Steve Pearson on the OLHF website dated 19 February 2015, which I linked to. There Mr Pearson published the results of “the first prize draw” organised by TML on behalf of his charity. Professional fundraiser PPL had previously organised prize draws for OLHF. Given both companies apparently perform the same role here – an ostensibly independent company organising prize draws on behalf of OLHF – I inferred that TML, too, was a professional fundraiser. In other words, this is an operational definition of “professional fundraiser”.
- OLHF has again recently redesigned its website. The charity has now removed Mr Pearson’s announcement dated 19 February 2015 on TML and “the first prize draw”.
- I’d also archived the OLHF web page, again providing a link in my 3 March 2015 blog post. Yet the charity has now made an intervention which means that the archived web page is no longer publicly available, either. So clicking the link in my 3 March 2015 blog post produces the message on the Internet Archive (archive.org): “Page cannot be crawled or displayed due to robots.txt.” OLHF has now set up a robots.txt file for its website: http://www.ourlocalheroes.org.uk/robots.txt. This is a two-line text file, as you can see. The first line is “User-agent: *”; the second line: “Disallow: /”. This robots.txt file instructs all robots to stay out of the website. The Internet Archive follows the instructions in robots.txt, including retroactively, as the site’s FAQs page makes clear. Hence now the unavailability of the archived web page.
- Not only is there censorship via robots.txt and disappearing web pages. But also secrecy on the OLHF website: there is currently nothing about TML and its role(s) anywhere. Searching the OLHF website for “Targeted Management” using the site’s search function produces no hits, either. Similarly, the STH website: there is currently nothing about TML and its role(s) anywhere.
- Remember: we only know that STH works with TML from Ms White’s response (email) to my first post on her charity. My post prompted STH to disclose – to me, at least – TML’s involvement.
- There is important, new and independent evidence on the role(s) of TML for OLHF: the report in The Blackpool Gazette newspaper 6 July 2015, “Collector stole cash donated to war heroes.” (It’s available on the newspaper’s website: http://www.blackpoolgazette.co.uk/news/crime/collector-stole-cash-donated-to-war-heroes-1-7343277) I highlight three facts there. First, thief Simon Lacey “worked for the company Targeted Management which collected funds for the Our Local Heroes Foundation.” Second, he “disappeared with money collected from merchandise sales and donations for the Bamber Bridge-based Our Local Heroes Foundation.” Third, Mr Lacey “went all over the country raising money for the charity.” So TML raises funds for OLHF by selling merchandise and collecting donations around the country, according to the report. Sounds familiar: professional fundraiser PPL, too, had previously raised funds for the charity by selling merchandise and collecting donations around the country.
- TML therefore appears to perform or have performed on behalf of OLHF some or all of the same activities as predecessor PPL. Yet unlike PPL, it isn’t a professional fundraiser. TML is a “management” company.
- There is deliberate secrecy when TML recruits staff, too. The company consistently withholds its name when advertising posts on the government’s Universal Jobmatch website, for example. TML is the company shown as “confidential” in the Universal Jobmatch job ad for a charity fundraiser in my 29 April 2015 blog post, screen shot in Figure 2 there, a Freedom of Information request to DWP confirmed. Further, the charity isn’t identified in the job ad, either.
- One difference between TML and PPL: the “management” company actually has a website; PPL has never had one. Yet targetedmanagement.com is laughably vague and unconvincing: none of the “wide range of organisations” for which TML allegedly provides “a range of management services” is identified by name or business sector, for instance.
- What is the motivation for the censorship and secrecy? It is reasonable to consider this to be deliberate opacity. There is a need for clarity and transparency about TML and its role(s) for OLHF and STH. For each charity, there is also a need for clarity and transparency about its business model and costs of working with TML. The money flows in and around OLHF and STH should be disclosed.
- The company that new charity Support The Heroes (registered charity number: 1155853) publicly thanked so effusively for its support isn’t registered at Companies House. This fact further undermines the credibility of the military charity.
- My last post described how Support The Heroes thanked on Twitter 9 April 2015 Soul Consulting, “a unique business development company”, for its support. The tweet from Support The Heroes embedded a misleading tweet from the company – misleading because it appeared to confuse Support The Heroes and Help for Heroes (registered charity number: 1120920), the high-profile military charity. In particular, the Soul Consulting tweet used the hashtag #helpforheroes. Publicly thanking the company for such a questionable tweet raises serious questions about the charity.
- But it’s worse than that. Soul Consulting isn’t registered at Companies House. There is a dissolved company of that name (company number: 07525882) – dissolved 18 September 2012, without filing any accounts.
- On 12 May 2015, I rang the landline phone number on the company’s website, soulconsulting.co.uk, to check. “Emma” answered – though I don’t know whether it was Emma Tickner, who is listed as “founder & director” of Soul Consulting. Perhaps it was one of the “managers” the company says will shortly be in touch if you complete the online contact form. Anyway, she asked whether I meant VAT number when I said I couldn’t see a company number on the Soul Consulting website. “No”, I said, “Where is the company number from Companies House?” “There isn’t one”, “Emma” replied, adding quickly: “We’re new, very new”. Oh.
- The charity is responsible for both its tweets and their contents. That Soul Consulting isn’t registered at Companies House further undermines the credibility of Support The Heroes.
- One concern about new charity Support The Heroes (registered charity number: 1155853) is the similarity of its name to Help for Heroes, the high-profile military charity. My reasonable suspicion is that the similarity is intentional, as I wrote in my 21 April 2015 post, not coincidental. Here I report a tweet from Support The Heroes that reinforces this suspicion.
- The charity’s official Twitter is @supportthheroes. On 9 April 2015, Support The Heroes tweeted: “Thank you very much for your support”, embedding a tweet from company Soul Consulting, @ticknersoul (screen shot in Figure 1).
- Soul Consulting is “a unique business development company”, according to its website, soulconsulting.co.uk.
- Soul Consulting’s tweet, dated 8 April 2015, records an apparent donation to Support The Heroes (screen shot in Figure 2). The charity is explicitly referred to via @supportthheroes. What the tweet says next raises serious questions about the new military charity: “…helping these heroes get the right support and help they need #helpforheroes”.
- Use of “helping” and “help” with “heroes” is highly likely to mislead the public. It resembles and therefore evokes Help for Heroes (registered charity number: 1120920). Yet the hashtag is even worse: it actually says Help for Heroes – #helpforheroes.
- Help for Heroes’ official Twitter is @helpforheroes.
- The misleading tweet is from Soul Consulting, “a unique business development company”. Not only did Support The Heroes publish it on its official Twitter page. But the charity explicitly endorsed the tweet it embedded: “Thank you very much for your support”. Support The Heroes is responsible for both its tweets and their contents.