SPAC Nation: Police Will Not Open Criminal Inquiry Into Allegations Against Church

Scotland Yard has said it will not launch a criminal investigation into SPAC Nation - but one alleged victim says she has not even been contacted by detectives.
HANNAH EACHUS/HUFFPOST UK

Scotland Yard has announced it will not launch a criminal investigation into evangelical church SPAC Nation – despite calls in the House of Commons for a full police inquiry.

The Metropolitan Police was told last year about allegations of fraud and other offences relating to the activities of people associated with the London-based church, which has won publicity for its work to tackle youth violence.

The church has always denied any wrongdoing.

Last month MPs in parliament called for a full police investigation into the allegations being reviewed by the Met.

Police have now completed this review and told HuffPost UK: “Officers from central specialist crime carried out a review to identify if any criminal offences had been committed.

“The review is now complete and no criminal investigation has been launched into these specific allegations.

“However during this review detectives identified two separate, similar allegations of fraud reported in different parts of London.

“The allegations relate to the actions of individuals, not the actions of an organisation, and are being investigated by detectives locally.”

The Met said if any further information comes to light this will be reviewed.

SPAC Nation welcomed the decision and, in a statement to HuffPost UK, the board of trustees said: “We believe the police have come to a fair conclusion following their enquiry.”

SPAC Nation senior pastor Tobi Adegboyega at a church service
SPAC Nation senior pastor Tobi Adegboyega at a church service
HUFFPOST UK

Senior pastor Tobi Adegboyega, the church’s leader, told HuffPost UK: “The police have spoken and I have confidence in the judiciary system and the law enforcement system of this country that they will do their jobs right and as a church we stand for what is right. If we find anyone doing anything wrong we would report them to the necessary authorities."

A Charity Commission statutory inquiry into SPAC Nation is still underway to probe financial and safeguarding concerns, and police say officers from the central specialist crime unit are in contact with the regulatory body.

But some ex-members of SPAC Nation have criticised the outcome of the police review, saying the decision appeared to have been taken without talking to some witnesses.

One alleged victim says she has not even been contacted by detectives since she reported an alleged offence via Action Fraud.

Toye-Mary Sofidiya, who lives in east London and attended SPAC Nation when she was 28, said: “Nothing has happened since I reported.

“I would have expected some sort of email, some sort of follow-up, some sort of questioning or getting in contact with those who have been accused, something at least.

“But it doesn’t really seem like anything has been done at all.”

Ex-SPAC Nation member Toye-Mary Sofidiya has criticised the police decision
Ex-SPAC Nation member Toye-Mary Sofidiya has criticised the police decision
Polly Hancock for HuffPost UK

“It’s poor on the police’s part,” she said. “I feel like they just can’t be bothered because it’s not like there isn’t evidence to show these allegations. So on what basis are they not willing to continue with the investigation is my question really?”

Another former member of SPAC Nation, who did not want to be named, said of the police decision: “It’s awful. I thought they would [open an investigation]. I think it’s just Black people from poor backgrounds [who are the alleged victims].

“I think it shows that the police don’t really care about the community. It also makes people feel like they shouldn’t trust the system.”

Steve Reed MP, Labour’s shadow minister for child protection, said he will be raising the issues with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan at a meeting to discuss SPAC Nation next week.

“Sadiq as the Mayor of London is also the police and crime commissioner for London, which means he’s in charge of the Metropolitan Police,” said the MP.

“So I will be seeking a full explanation of what is or is not going on in terms of investigating SPAC Nation given the scale and nature of allegations that we’re hearing from right across the capital.”

HANNAH EACHUS/HUFFPOST UK

The Croydon North MP went with ex-members of SPAC Nation to report 12 separate alleged offences at Croydon police station in November.

He was critical of the police’s approach to handling the SPAC Nation allegations when he raised the issues in a House of Commons debate last month.

“Allegations about this organisation have been circulating widely in the Black community and on social media for up to four years, so why has police intelligence failed to pick anything up?” he said during the debate.

“Why has police intelligence failed to recognise what is happening to potentially thousands of vulnerable young kids across this city?”

Jim Shannon, MP for Strangford, said the police investigation would “probably need a specialised unit” due to the “magnitude” of the allegations outlined.

MPs also called for the church to be stripped of its charitable status while the commission inquiry is underway to prevent more young people being exploited.

A SPAC Nation service
A SPAC Nation service
HuffPost UK

SPAC Nation has won praise from senior politicians for its work to tackle knife crime and it was held up as one of the few organisations that seemed to offer a solution to the epidemic of youth violence in the capital.

But while the church has won plaudits, allegations of fraud and safeguarding abuses had been circulating on social media for many years, as revealed by a HuffPost UK investigation in November.

Some young people told us they had allegedly sold their own blood for money to donate to SPAC Nation.

BBC Panorama also broadcast a programme that month covering allegations against SPAC Nation.

Reed said during the House of Commons debate last month: “SPAC Nation is not an organisation that is getting young people out of crime, as it claims; it is an organisation that is criminalising young people for its own ends.

“It operates right across London and has already expanded into other cities, including Birmingham and Leicester.”

SPAC Nation’s board of trustees said the church was committed to standards of best practice and would “not condone any act of lawlessness or illegality”.

“Our response remains the same from the beginning,” the trustees said in their statement to HuffPost UK.

“Our devotion and selflessness to every young person in society remains unchanged despite the various attacks [against us].”

What Are The Two Allegations Police Are Investigating?

Although police are not opening a criminal investigation into SPAC Nation church, Scotland Yard said it is investigating two separate fraud allegations.

“During this review detectives identified two separate, similar allegations of fraud reported in different parts of London,” the force said.

“The allegations relate to the actions of individuals, not the actions of an organisation, and are being investigated by detectives locally.”

The Met says on January 23, 2019, it received an allegation of fraud by false representation through Action Fraud, relating to the actions of an individual and said to have taken place in 2018.

Officers from the Met’s north west basic command unit are investigating.

On January 13 this year a 22-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of fraud by false representation. He was taken to a north London police station and later released under investigation.

On the same day a search was carried out at an address in Ballards Road in north west London where a number of items were seized by police.

A second allegation was made to police on August 25, 2019, of fraud by false representation, said to have taken place between March 2017 and July 2019.

Officers from the Met’s south area basic command unit are investigating.

No arrests have been made and enquiries continue.

What Is SPAC Nation?

SPAC Nation is an evangelical church that has risen to prominence in the last two years for its work with young people affected by gang violence.

The church had received publicity as one of the few organisations offering a positive solution to the country’s knife crime epidemic.

It has won praise from senior politicians and its leader Tobi Adegboyega has met cabinet ministers at 10 Downing Street, police chiefs at Scotland Yard, and Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

SPAC Nation boasted a congregation of more than 2,000 people, including many young Black people from impoverished areas.

The church has no building and holds its services from luxury hotels across London.

It has attracted attention for its unconventional methods. Its pastors conspicuously wear designer clothes, Louboutin shoes, Rolex watches and drive luxury cars.

SPAC Nation claims this display of wealth is necessary to reach out to young people who see gangs flaunting money.

Police have advised anyone who believes they have been a victim of fraud to report this through Action Fraud online at www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.

Other crime can be reported at a local police station, online, or by calling police on 101. Alternatively tweet @MetCC. In an emergency always call 999.

To give information anonymously, contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. They do not ask your name and cannot trace your call.