A former solicitor who acted as a director for the collapsed government-funded charity Kids Company has been cleared of wrongdoing by a court ruling.
Jane Tyler, who retired from practice in 2009, was one of a number of individuals subject to a bid by the Official Receiver to be disqualified from other organisations, following the charity’s liquidation in 2015.
In The Official Receiver v Atkinson & Ors, Mrs Justice Falk cleared all the defendants of any wrongdoing, concluding she was ‘wholly satisfied’ that a disqualification order was not any warranted against any of the former trustees, and the public needed no protection from them.
On Tyler, the judge said she should be ‘commended for her commitment’ and that she chaired the charity’s governance committee with ‘evident thoroughness’.
‘[Tyler] was quite obviously careful and extremely conscientious,’ added the judge. ‘She properly pointed out the trustees’ legal obligations (by reference to Charity Commission guidance) when that was appropriate, and arranged professional advice when it was needed.’
The court heard that Tyler, admitted in 1992 and a former partner with City firm Macfarlanes, had been introduced to Kids Company through a neighbour and became a trustee in 2007. She sat on the finance committee and governance committee and was involved with drafting and reviewing the charity’s internal procedures.
She had indicated that she wished to resign from the board in early 2015 but stayed on given the charity’s difficult position at the time.
The Official Receiver sought a four-year disqualification against her, alleging that she like all the defendants was unfit and caused and/or allowed Kids Company to operate an unsustainable business model.
Following a 10-week trial, the judge described Tyler as a ‘careful witness’ who had advised as far back as 2012 of the need to have a clear plan for dealing with the shortfall between income and expenditure. It was also Tyler who in May 2015 had arranged for City firm Hogan Lovells to provide pro bono insolvency advice.
Following the judgment, Tyler’s solicitors, from City firm Bates Wells, said this had been an unprecedented attempt to pursue highly qualified, diligent and honest charity trustees who were doing their best in difficult circumstances.
The firm added: ‘Even though they knew right was on their side, it took great courage to defend proceedings on this scale, pitted against the unlimited resources of the state and exposed to immense financial risk in the case of a loss.’