Two men suspected of posing as door-to-door charity bag collectors were stopped in a joint operation between licensing enforcement officers from Lancaster City Council and the police.
Officers stopped a van being driven by the men on Morecambe Road on Friday morning at a routine checkpoint.
Inside the van were around 100 bags of clothing which had been donated by local residents, believing they were going to charity.
Checks revealed that the men were operating without a licence from Lancaster City Council, and as a result the bags were seized and given to local charity St John’s Hospice.
The association of charity shops estimates that charities lose between £2.5 million and £3 million a year through theft and people giving clothing to organisations which they think are charities but may be commercial companies collecting for profit. Other research puts the problem much higher, at £14 million a year.
“Bogus charity collections are very damaging to the many legitimate charities who operate throughout the UK in collecting clothing and other items for good causes," notes Coun Tony Wade, chairman of Lancaster City Council’s licensing regulatory committee. “The message from us is clear - please don’t be taken in and make sure you know who your donation is going to.
“Read the small print and make sure the name of the charity is specified and if so that it's one that you know about.
“Genuine house to house collectors are licensed and you can contact the council on 01524 582033 to check them out."
House-to-house collections are regulated by the House to House Collections Act 1939, and the gorvernment appears to be making time to address the issue of bogus charity collectors after Conservative MP for Chatham Tracy Crouch successfully gained a debate in the House of the Commons on the subject last October. (The transcript of the debate can be found here).
All house to house collections for a charitable purpose in the Lancaster district must be licensed by Lancaster City Council, and the collectors authorised by the promoter.
Although some of the leaflets and bags requesting donations of clothes and goods are from genuine registered charities, some of these leaflets come from anonymous commercial companies. Often these leaflets are worded in such a way that encourages people to assume that the items collected are for charity.
As a result of the debate by MPs last year, the government has begun a review of the Charities Act 2006, the main legislative document relating to charities, which MP Tracy Crouch argues is essential to providing the legal base on which the thieves can be prosecuted.