NEWS
09/03/2020 15:59 GMT | Updated 09/03/2020 16:36 GMT

Police Review New Criminal Allegations Linked To SPAC Nation Church Members

The Metropolitan Police is understood to be actively looking at about 20 to 30 cases.

Police are reviewing new criminal allegations relating to individuals associated with the church group SPAC Nation, in a fresh twist in inquiries into members of the organisation.

The Metropolitan Police received the latest cases last month and officers from the central specialist crime squad are looking into them.

The force says the new alleged offences are of a similar nature to allegations of fraud and other offences made against individuals associated with the London-based church last year.

No criminal investigation was launched into the 2019 allegations and SPAC Nation has always denied any wrongdoing.

The church said in response to the latest allegations that it has thousands of members and police should carry out the review and take whatever measures they deemed fit.

A police spokeswoman said: “In February 2020 police received new allegations of a similar nature [to allegations of fraud and other offences made in 2019] relating to the actions of individuals.

“These allegations are being reviewed by officers from central specialist crime.

“The MPS [Metropolitan Police Service] does not provide a running commentary on cases.”

Following the previous decision not to open a criminal investigation, some victims were critical of the police and claimed they had not been contacted about the allegations they reported.

HuffPost UK understands officers are now actively looking at about 20 to 30 cases.

The Met would not comment on whether the 2019 cases formed part of the current inquiries. 

Hannah Eachus for HuffPost UK
Illustration of a SPAC Nation service

Responding to the latest police developments, a SPAC Nation spokesperson said: “There are thousands of individuals in SPAC Nation, it should be obvious now that it’s become a game for a few people and tabloids to keep SPAC Nation in their news. 

“Nevertheless we have a robust reporting system that complaints are to go to. The police should do their review on the individuals they want and take whatever measures they deem fit.”

The church said it could not respond on behalf of individuals.

Previously, SPAC Nation has distanced itself from the actions of its pastors, saying “a community with hundreds of pastors cannot monitor what each pastor or leader does”.

Lewis Whyld - PA Images via Getty Images
Labour MP Steve Reed said every allegation must be fully investigated

Steve Reed, Labour’s shadow minister for child protection, said it was “vitally important” every allegation is now fully investigated.

“Last week I met with London Mayor Sadiq Khan to raise my concerns that the Metropolitan Police had not properly investigated serious allegations I passed to them about SPAC Nation,” he said.

“Several of the individuals who made allegations told me they had either not been contacted by the police at all, or that any contact had been cursory with no follow-up.  

“I understand those allegations are now being reviewed and the police are investigating fresh allegations. 

“It’s vitally important for the safety of hundreds of vulnerable young people that every allegation is fully investigated so those responsible within SPAC Nation can be brought to justice.”

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

Hannah Eachus for HuffPost UK
Some ex-SPAC Nation members claim young people allegedsold their own blood for money to donate to the church

SPAC Nation has a congregation of about 2,000 young people, mainly from disadvantaged areas, and holds its services from upmarket London hotels rather than having a physical base.

The church has won praise from senior politicians for its work to tackle knife crime and youth violence.

But allegations of fraud and safeguarding abuses have circulated on social media for many years, as revealed by a HuffPost UK investigation in November.

Some young people told HuffPost UK they had allegedly sold their own blood for money to donate to SPAC Nation, while others made allegations of fraud in relation to some pastors.

The Charities Commission launched a statutory inquiry in December to probe financial and safeguarding concerns. This inquiry is still underway and police are in contact with the regulatory body.