Oxfam charity workers who allegedly used underage prostitutes in Haiti could be prosecuted in the UK, a former UN worker has said.
Andrew MacLeod warned “predatory paedophiles” used charities to travel to the developing world and gain access to children, and added “people need to go to jail” for authorities to tackle the issue.
After it was revealed Oxfam workers had used prostitutes in Haiti after the devastating earthquake there, some of whom may have been underage, MacLeod said they could face criminal charges in Britain, even though the crimes are alleged to have taken place abroad.
“Sex tourism laws make it unlawful for anybody to have sex with children under the age of 16 anywhere in the world or aid, abet or support that,” said MacLeod, the former chief of operations at the UN’s Emergency Coordination Centre.
“If they are children, they should be charged in front of the courts here because he’s broken the sex tourism laws. If they are uncertain, they should pass the dossier to the police for investigation.”
MacLeod said police have been warning since 1999 “that predatory paedophiles, as we cracked down in the developed world, are now going to the developing world to get access to children”.
He added: “Their chosen methodology is through charity. If we are going to wipe out this problem that’s been known about for 30 years, people need to go to jail.”
The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 means Britons can be prosecuted for sexual offences committed abroad.
MacLeod’s comments come as Oxfam is due to meet Government on Monday to deal with the fall-out.
International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt will meet the charity, after warning the “scandal” had put its relationship with the Government at risk.
Mordaunt said on Sunday that the charity had lied and failed in its “moral leadership” by failing to fully disclose details of its investigation into the misconduct to relevant authorities.
“I am affording them the opportunity to tell me in person what they did after these events and I’m going to be looking to see if they are displaying the moral leadership that I think they need to now,” she told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday.
“If the moral leadership at the top of the organisation is not there then we cannot have you as a partner.”
Charities, including Oxfam, have been told they will have funding withdrawn if they fail to comply with authorities over safeguarding issues.
Charity Commission director of investigations Michelle Russell told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme: “We’ve made very clear that had the details of what has come out over the last few days been told to us, we would have dealt with this very differently.
“The charity sector is not immune from these sorts of allegations and incidents happening. We have about 1,000 incidents a year reported to us by charities involving safeguarding issues.
“What is really important – and perhaps this hasn’t happened in the past so much – is that there is a light of transparency and accountability on it.”
Mordaunt said Oxfam had also “categorically” stated to the DfID that beneficiaries were not involved in the misconduct and no harm was done.
Four members of Oxfam staff were dismissed and three, including the country director, resigned before the end of the 2011 investigation.
The charity said allegations that under-age girls may have been involved were not proven.
Ahead of its meeting, Oxfam announced a package of measures to improve safeguarding, including improved recruitment and vetting, a new whistleblowing helpline and a recommitment to report concerns to authorities.
Caroline Thomson, Oxfam’s chairwoman of trustees in the UK, said: “It is not sufficient to be appalled by the behaviour of our former staff – we must and will learn from it and use it as a spur to improvement.”
She added that concerns raised about the recruitment and vetting of staff involved in the scandal were being examined.