Celebrity-Backed Anti-Hunting Charity Investigated for Alleged Hack Attempt on Countryside Alliance

league against cruel sports
JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty
LIAM DEACON

One of Britain’s leading anti-hunting groups is under investigation amid claims they attempted to hack the computer of the leader of the Countryside Alliance, a pro-hunting charity.

The Charity Commission has confirmed it is looking into “serious concerns” about the League Against Cruel Sports, which has many liberal and left-wing supporters, some in Parliament.

Pro-Corbyn Labour MP and longtime trustee of the league Chris Williamson confirmed on Friday that he has been expelled from the group after he reportedly alerted the regulator to concerns about the charity’s leadership.

He said nine trustees have left the group recently and slammed a “lack of transparency over recruitment practices”, alleged bullying and harassment, and financial irregularities, and called for CEO Andy Knott to step down.

“There are also some serious questions to be asked about the organisation’s finances,” he wrote in a Facebook statement.

“However when some trustees have asked senior managers to provide information about the budget and other matters, this has been refused to us.”

“Members and volunteers have complained to me about being harassed and bullied. A number of staff have left in unclear circumstances, and there are several cases against the League now pending at the Employment Tribunal,” he added.

The most serious claim, however, reported by The Times, is that the group asked a computer expert to spy on the email account of Tim Bonner, chief executive of the pro-hunting Countryside Alliance charity, which supports rural communities.

He alerted the Charity Commission to emails asking the IT professional if he had the skills to “hack into Tim Bonner’s email account”, to which the expert replied: “I do not have the skills to even attempt such a thing, but anyway that would be illegal.”

Mr Williamson and two trustees told the regulator the group “sought to entice” an individual “to hack into the email account of the CEO of a rival organisation”.

The Charity Commission said they were aware of the “serious concerns” and “take allegations of inappropriate behaviour, especially by senior leaders in charities, extremely seriously”.

“We are assessing information provided and engaging with the charity to determine our next steps,” it added.

The League has received backing from the former leader of the Green Party, Scottish Nationalist Party MPs, Queen guitarist Brian May, comedian Ricky Gervais, and actor Sir David Jason.

The current president of the group, which backs “sabotaging” legal hunts, is BBC TV presenter Bill Oddie OBE, and the vice presidents include the actor Annette Crosbie OBE, Labour Party Baroness Smith of Basildon, and actor Peter Egan.

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