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Police charity duo 'misled regulator over relationship'

By Alan Erwin

Published 13/06/2015

A senior civil servant allegedly conspired with the chief executive of Northern Ireland's Disabled Police Officers Association to mislead the Charity Commission about their relationship, a tribunal heard yesterday
A senior civil servant allegedly conspired with the chief executive of Northern Ireland's Disabled Police Officers Association to mislead the Charity Commission about their relationship, a tribunal heard yesterday

A senior civil servant allegedly conspired with the chief executive of Northern Ireland's Disabled Police Officers Association to mislead the Charity Commission about their relationship, a tribunal heard yesterday.

Robert Crawford allowed a conflict of interests to develop over declarations to an inquiry about when he stopped seeing Elaine Hampton, it was claimed.

Mr Crawford is appealing the commission's decision to suspend him from his role as one of the trustees of the association (DPOANI).

The action was taken against him, chief executive Ms Hampton and three other trustees last year pending the outcome of an investigation into DPOANI governance and financial controls.

All five of the association's officers denied any wrong-doing.

Mr Crawford, also a senior civil servant at the Department for Regional Development, maintains any conflict of interest was always managed appropriately.

As part of his challenge to the suspension from DPOANI - where he sat on the audit committee - a tribunal sitting in Belfast yesterday focused on his relationship with Ms Hampton.

He took issue with her being described as his partner, and maintained their relationship had ended by the autumn of 2013.

Questioned by Frank O'Donoghue QC, for the commission, about why Ms Hampton stated they broke up in 2010, he said he had been told it was based on legal advice.

The tribunal panel heard how the pair were exchanging texts three years later.

Mr O'Donoghue put it to the appellant: "In September 2013 there are an exchange of texts which suggest you're very much in a relationship at that time."

Mr Crawford insisted by that stage they were involved in an inquiry.

"There's every reason why we should be in contact," he said.

Later he was questioned about the DPOANI chief executive staying over at his house in November 2013, with the tribunal told she stayed in a spare bedroom.

But pressing him further, Mr O'Donoghue contended he had been unable to explain why Ms Hampton allegedly lied in her statutory declaration.

He again accused Mr Crawford of being conflicted in not suggesting to other trustees that she should be disciplined for providing inaccurate information.

"It's clear the two of you have got together and written the statutory declaration in such a way as to mislead the commission, you conspired together to do this," the barrister claimed.

"You gave a lying account to the commission."

Mr Crawford responded: "No, I deny that. I was unhappy with the statutory declaration Elaine Hampton filed.

"My statutory declaration was intended to be clear, I was acknowledging that a previous relationship had existed.

"I wanted to be open and clear that there had been a relationship, and the point is it ended before I became a director.

"That was the point I was trying to convey to the commission."

The hearing continues.

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