Trustees of Norfolk charity, including Norwich City legend Bryan Gunn, could be forced to pay back cash as probe continues

Bryan Gunn. Photo: Denise Bradley

Bryan Gunn. Photo: Denise Bradley - Credit: ©Archant Photographic 2010

Former Norwich City goalkeeper Bryan Gunn could be asked to pay back a share of money owed to a charity which is being investigated by the industry watchdog, it has emerged.

The Charity Commission shut down the Dove Trust, based at Bawdeswell near Dereham, in July last year after serious concerns were raised over its financial management. The statutory investigation found 1,800 charities had not received cash which was intended for them.

An interim manager was appointed and its trustees, Mr Gunn and Donna Naghshineh, were excluded from its control.

As a result the trust's fundraising page was suspended and its bank accounts restricted, as was the Bryan Gunn Appeal because it is a charitable activity of the Dove Trust, sharing the same charity number.

The inquiry into the Dove Trust is still continuing, but the commission has concluded that there was 'misconduct and mismanagement at the charity'. The commission said the trust's potential liabilities, the majority of which is the money owed to charities as well as running costs, is around £2.2m.

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How much will be available to the charities will depend on the success of the recovery of funds on behalf of the Dove Trust – but the commission said ultimately it is the trustees who are 'responsible and liable for making good any losses'.

All options for getting the cash back to the charities are being explored, and so far around £500,000 of the £2.2m figure has been recouped by the Charity Commission.

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An application has been made to the High Court to find a way to distribute cash to the charities who are owed money by the Dove Trust.

It is hoped a full court hearing will be held early this year.

Michelle Russell, head of investigations and enforcement at the commission, said the priority is to make sure the available funds go to the charities quickly, fairly and securely.

'We know many charities have been waiting patiently for the amounts they are owed and they and their donors will feel frustrated that this is now going to court,' she said.

'We are frustrated too, and are only taking this step reluctantly. Both we and the interim manager are keen to make a distribution as a matter of urgency.'

Although Keith Colman, the founder of the charity, resigned from his position as a trustee, the commission said resignation does not absolve a trustee of liability. The trustees cannot comment while the investigation is under way.

Mr Gunn's appeal, set up in 1993 in memory of his two-year-old daughter Francesca who died from leukaemia, has raised over £1m.

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