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Permanent ban for ex-trustee of Caledonian Road charity in wake of abuse scandal

PUBLISHED: 12:28 01 October 2019 | UPDATED: 12:35 01 October 2019

The headquarters of Rigpa UK in the Caledonian Road. Picture: Google Streetview

The headquarters of Rigpa UK in the Caledonian Road. Picture: Google Streetview

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A second trustee of Buddhist charity Rigpa Fellowship has been disqualified by the Charity Commission after failing to act on knowledge of serious abuse.

Susan Burrows has been permanently banned from trusteeship in the UK and entered onto the list of removed trustees on Sunday, September 20.

It comes as part of an ongoing statutory inquiry into the charity, also known as Rigpa UK, which has its head offices in Caledonian Road.

In August 2018 an independent investigation found students at Rigpa, a global organisation teaching meditation courses, had been subject to serious physical and sexual abuse by the late founder Sogyal Rakar.

The Charity Commission found Ms Burrows had known about instances and allegations of "improper acts and sexual and physical abuse" against students.

It was found she had either "failed to recognise" or "sought to downplay" the seriousness of allegations and was responsible for misconduct and/or mismanagement at Rigpa.

The move follows the disqualification of another long-serving British ex-trustee, Patrick Gaffney, for eight years in April.

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Amy Spiller, the watchdog's head of investigations, said: "Serious failings in the leadership of this charity led to people it was supposed to help being harmed and let down.

"Trustees hold important positions of trust and are rightly expected to take all appropriate steps to keep people safe.

"The appalling abuses and failings that occurred here run counter to everything people associate with charity.

"I hope this will bring some comfort to those so badly affected by what went on at Rigpa Fellowship."

Serious concerns over adult safeguarding at Rigpa first surfaced in 2017 and the following summer, a review by Lewis Silkin LLP concluded some students had been subject to "serious physical, sexual and emotional abuse" by the Tibetan Buddhist founder.

It is not known whether the alleged abuse took place at the UK branch. The inquiry, which opened last November, will examine the charity's response to safeguarding issues as well as recruitment practices and financial controls.

A Rigpa UK spokesperson said Ms Burrows had resigned from her role as a trustee before the disqualification, adding: "Rigpa Fellowship continues to work closely with the Charity Commission as it progresses its statutory inquiry.

"Rigpa Fellowship absolutely acknowledges the gravity of the independent report and has committed to act on its recommendations."

Ms Burrows has been contacted via the charity for comment.

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