Tougher action needed on charity thieves


Jo Swinson has campaigned extensively to raise awareness of charity clothing thefts

Jo Swinson has called for tougher measures to stop the scandal of thieves who target charitable clothing donations.

Jo tabled a motion in Parliament today with cross-party support, calling for measures to raise public awareness surrounding donation theft and steps to help police prosecute thieves.

Over the past two years there has been a huge growth in the activity criminal gangs who are stealing bags of clothing donations from doorsteps. The Association of Charity Shops has estimated the losses to the charitable sector to be up to £3 million per year, while Great Ormond Street Children’s hospital alone has lost £200,000 to bogus collectors in the past 12 months.

Commenting on the issue, Jo said:

“The activities of these thieves are scandalous and utterly disgraceful. Theft from charities, particularly those that help sick children, is simply beneath contempt.

“Some bogus companies use misleading leaflets to solicit donations, so more public information is needed to educate people when they give to charity. Members of the public should be careful to check for registered charity numbers on literature and look for recognised charities when they donate. Charities rely on donors being able to give with confidence, and it is vital that the thieves are not allowed to shatter this confidence.

“Police can have difficulty prosecuting thieves because of a legal grey area around who actually owns a bag that has been left out on a doorstep. Steps should be taken to remedy this, so that police are given more of the powers they need to tackle these despicable thefts.”

Full text of Early Day Motion tabled in Parliament by Jo Swinson MP:

BOGUS CLOTHING COLLECTION COMPANIES

That this House condemns the practice of bogus clothing collection companies that use misleading leaflets to solicit clothing donations under the pretence of benevolent purposes but sell the clothes for financial gain; further condemns the outright theft of charitable donations from doorsteps carried out by organised criminal gangs in connection with these bogus companies; notes with concern the losses to the charitable sector of £3million per year as estimated by the Association of Charity Shops caused by these actions; and calls for measures to be taken to raise public awareness of these activities, stronger action to prevent bogus companies operating outside the law and further steps to help the police tackle donation theft, particularly concerning the rules on ownership of charitable donations.

Jo Swinson led a debate in Parliament on bogus clothing collection companies on 28th February 2007. Responding to her in the debate, Cabinet Office Minister Ed Miliband said:

“We plan to bring together all the different agencies that work on the issue-the ASA, trading standards, the Association of Chief Police Officers, which obviously has a role, the Office of Fair Trading and charity sector representatives-to investigate whether there are better ways to tackle the problem raised by the hon. Lady”

This meeting of stakeholders took place in June 2007.


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