An Appeal Panel has upheld findings of gross misconduct against Hope for Justice co-founder Ben Cooley after an investigation into his behaviour while in the post of CEO. In light of its detailed review, the Appeal Panel found no valid or credible challenge had been submitted to any part of the outcome of a Disciplinary Panel hearing held at the end of May 2021. Hope for Justice is therefore able to confirm Mr Cooley’s dismissal.
In January 2021, several trustees received allegations regarding the behaviour of Mr Cooley from two former employees, via the charity’s confidential whistleblowing procedure. The receiving trustees immediately engaged external legal advice and informed the full trustee board, which instigated an independent investigation by a qualified solicitor who has specialised in employment law for over thirty years.
A subsequent disciplinary hearing considered extensive evidence and findings of the investigation report. The Disciplinary Panel found Mr Cooley’s actions to have amounted to gross misconduct in his behaviour towards several employees over a period of time, as well as irreparable breach of trust and confidence with the organisation. Sensitive personal details are being kept confidential to protect the identities and interests of the complainants and their families; however, it should be noted that no non-disclosure restrictions were at any time sought or implemented with the complainants.
Hope for Justice would also like to emphasise that Mr Cooley has not received any severance or other such payment from the organisation and no other members of the Hope for Justice team were implicated by the investigation.
Tim Nelson, co-founder, has been performing the role of interim CEO and will now be appointed permanently into this position.
Peter Elson, chair of the trustees at Hope for Justice, comments: “We very much regret the experience suffered by the complainants and hope the action we have taken demonstrates our commitment to dealing with any misconduct within our organisation, irrespective of the level at which it occurs. We are grateful that those affected ultimately felt able to come forward, for the courage they have shown, and that our whistleblowing policy has allowed them to do so discreetly and in confidence. We are committed to learn and grow from this experience and will do all we can to prevent misconduct and to promote a positive, respectful and inclusive environment and culture.
“I would also like to express my personal appreciation of my colleagues on the board who have deployed great expertise, experience and integrity in the roles they stepped up to perform through what has been an extremely rigorous and demanding process.”
Hope for Justice and the investigation team has kept the Charity Commission fully informed throughout this process.