Exclusive by John Pring, July 2006
L'Arche, which has Catholic roots but now describes itself as an "ecumenical" organisation providing residential "communities" for people with learning difficulties, told DN it "continues to have full confidence" in its UK chairman, Brian McGinnis, despite the two separate arrests by different police forces.
Mr McGinnis, a former special advisor for the charity Mencap, who is also believed to have been a senior civil servant in the Department of Health, has worked with people with learning difficulties for 40 years.
He was arrested last August over allegations that he raped a child with learning difficulties at the Betts Way respite home in Bromley, Kent, in the mid-1990s.
A Metropolitan police spokeswoman confirmed that an allegation of rape of a child with learning difficulties was made to police in November 2004.
She added: "A 68-year-old man from the Croydon area was arrested on 5 August 2005. He was bailed to return pending further investigation. Following Crown Prosecution Service advice, the man was released without charge on 25 October 2005."
She said police "liaised" with the church and social services about the ongoing contact Mr McGinnis might have with children and vulnerable adults.
Betts Way was at the centre of a series of inquiries after 11 parents were told in 1999 that their children had made allegations of sexual abuse by staff. None of those allegations concerned Mr McGinnis, who had been a volunteer visitor at the home, which closed in 2000.
An investigation by police, the London Borough of Bromley and health authorities took place between 1999 and 2001, but no-one was charged.
DN has discovered that Mr McGinnis was also arrested and questioned in 2001 on allegations unrelated to Betts Way, when he was still employed as Mencap's special advisor.
A Kent police spokeswoman said: "A 63-year-old man from the Croydon area was arrested on suspicion of rape in March 2001. He was later released without charge."
Mr McGinnis is an influential figure in the disability world, with links to a string of charities, learning difficulty organisations and his local church in Shirley, Croydon, south London.
As well as chairing L'Arche, he is on the ruling national council of the Association for Real Change (ARC), which represents providers of care homes for people with learning difficulties.
John Peet, general secretary of L'Arche, said the charity was aware of both arrests and trustees "continue to have full confidence in Brian McGinnis as chairman".
He said the results of a Criminal Records Bureau check requested by Mr McGinnis after his arrest last August showed "no records or listings which would disqualify Mr McGinnis from continuing in his role as chairman".
Mr Peet said: "Mr McGinnis informed L'Arche immediately after the police spoke to him, and took the initiative to withdraw from any activities involving contact with members of L'Arche with learning disabilities.
"We have not informed ARC that Mr McGinnis was arrested and questioned by police last August. There is no obligation for L'Arche or any other member organisation to inform ARC of an allegation regarding its trustees or, indeed, care staff.
"However, if any charges had been brought we should have felt duty bound to draw the matter to the attention of the chief executive of ARC."
He said Mr McGinnis did not work directly with children or vulnerable adults in his role as chairman. James Churchill, chief executive of ARC, declined to comment until he had made further enquiries.
Mr McGinnis also represents L'Arche on the Royal College of Psychiatrists' patients and carers committee. A college spokeswoman said: "We were not aware of the allegations so obviously we will be looking at the membership of our committee."
A spokesman for Bromley council said it had advised its staff to "disassociate" Mr McGinnis "with anything related to children with learning difficulties and council services" and informed him of this decision by letter four years ago.
He added: "To the best of our knowledge he hasn't a connection with Bromley any longer." A spokeswoman for Croydon Council said it told church authorities that Mr McGinnis "should be suspended from duties that involved him working with children", after being told by Bromley council about last August's arrest.
Mr McGinnis had been working with a children's church group. A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Southwark, which covers St George's - the church Mr McGinnis attends in Shirley - said it agreed that he "should have no direct contact with children or vulnerable adults and this policy has been followed". Mencap says Mr McGinnis retired in 2003, "for reasons unrelated to the allegations".
DN contacted Mr McGinnis for a comment on the allegations he faced. In a message left on our answerphone he said: "I am not going to get in discussions over details. I haven't done any of the things which have been alleged but I do want to say this: I have spent a lifetime arguing for the protection of vulnerable adults and children, even at the expense of innocent folk working with them being damaged, and I am not one to grumble if that befalls me. I am, and all my life have been, and always will be, a celibate. And sex of any kind with anyone, of any age, simply does not enter into my curriculum. But, as I say, the protection of vulnerable adults and children requires sometimes innocent people suffer and that is a price worth paying for the protection of vulnerable children and adults."
Chair of L'Arche UK set to leave his post
06 July 2006
A charity chair who faced sex abuse allegations is stepping down from his post this week.
However, learning difficulties charity L'Arche UK said Brian McGinnis was leaving the role anyway because he had come to the end of his four-year term, and that it was nothing to do with the allegations, which emerged last week.
McGinnis was arrested twice, in 2001 and 2005, over separate rape allegations, but no charges were brought in either case.
L'Arche UK said it had been made fully aware by McGinnis of the allegations and he had withdrawn from any contact with people with learning difficulties.
A spokesperson added: "These were allegations and nothing was ever brought against him as a charge."
Community Care was unable to contact McGinnis.
Editorial comment:Mr McGinnis is very active at his local curch's Sunday School, which lists his address as 31 Woodmere Ave and his number as 020 8654 6190. Interestingly, McGinnis was a "volunteer visitor" at a disability centre where 11 parents made seperate allegations that their children were abused in the late 90s. I wonder why someone who is so prominent in so many charities felt the need to maintain a "hands on" approach to volunteering? I'm sure that we have nothing to worry about - as he says above, he is "a celibate" and "sex of any kind with anyone, of any age, simply does not enter into my curriculum”. This bizarre statement will surely calm the fears of the parents whose children attend his Sunday School sessions.