Gun fight goes on as charity is investigated

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The Independent Online
Supporters of a new anti-gun charity yesterday promised to carry on campaigning after the group's founder resigned amid allegations he had concealed his true identity and a criminal record.

Tobias Bernstein stepped down as general secretary of the Society Against Guns in Europe (Sage), which has urged a ban on all private guns in the wake of Dunblane, after reports that he had been sentenced under a different name earlier this year for dishonesty offences as an undischarged bankrupt.

As police and the Charity Commission launched investigations to see if Mr Bernstein had illegally been a trustee of the charity, supporters of Sage in Dunblane said the fight ag- ainst guns would go on.

Allison Crozier, whose hus- band, John, was made honorary United Kingdom president of the charity, and whose daughter, Emma was killed at Dunblane, said: "If the allegations are true then Sage itself cannot go on, but the work still means the same - and will continue in a different form."

In a high-profile campaign, the charity had placed a series of emotive advertisements in national newspapers - including The Independent - using a photograph of Emma and bearing the message "no more guns".

Mr Bernstein - who styled himself "Dr Bernstein" - said he set up the charity last year in Switzerland but began serious campaigning in the UK after the shootings in Scotland. He said he was prepared to spend up to pounds 60,000 a month publicising its activities, money which he said came from a private family trust.

It was claimed yesterday that Mr Bernstein's real name was William Victor Bernson, the identity of a man sentenced at Ipswich Crown Court on 2 April to two years' imprisonment. Mr Bernson had pleaded guilty to three charges: trying to get credit while an un-discharged bankrupt; attempting to defraud a creditor; and managing a company while still an undischarged bankrupt. Other charges remain on file.

He was released within a few months because he had already served time before sentencing. The court also heard that there were outstanding warrants for his arrest in the US.

A spokeswoman for Essex police said they wanted to in- terview Mr Bernson in con- nection with the charity. If a bankrupt was acting as a charity trustee, he would face charges under Section 72 of the Charities Act 1993, punishable by up to two years in jail.

The Commission said it had frozen Sage's bank account as a "precautionary" measure. A spokesman, Hugh Rogers, said: "It does now appear that this man was acting as a trustee."

Yesterday, Mr Bernstein strongly denied the allegations and said he was resigning to save Sage from "further negative publicity".

t A high-tech classroom security system is being piloted in several British schools in the wake of the Dunblane massacre.

The system, which combines miniature video cameras with a telecommunications network, was put through its public paces at a primary school in Airdrie near Glasgow.

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