Prison charity boss fired over finance allegations

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A RELIGIOUS CHARITY which is allowed by the Prison Service to run jail wings has sacked its national director amid allegations of financial irregularities and administrative failings.

The Kairos-APAC Trust, which has units in five prisons, dismissed Kenner Jones because of "growing concerns" over his methods of running the fast- expanding organisation. The sacking is an embarrassment to Prison Service chiefs who have given the project enthusiastic support because it has helped reduce jail unrest.

The scheme puts inmates in contact with Christian volunteers and encourages them to undertake a spiritual experience, known as "The Journey".

But The Independent revealed in January that Mr Jones had a 25-year history of fraud, which includes at least 70 previous convictions. He has been jailed in Britain, Canada and the United States.

Mr Jones, 48, yesterday denied that he had done anything wrong and said he was preparing to take the charity to an industrial tribunal for unfair dismissal. He claims he is owed nearly pounds 6,000 in unpaid wages and expenses.

The charity's trustees have complained that Mr Jones is denying them access to papers and property in their former office, inside his home in Weymouth, Dorset. Mr Jones said he was not prepared to relinquish the files until the dispute is resolved. Next week, the trustees are to meet with Charity Commissioners to discuss the charity's overdue accounts.

Yesterday John Adams, the chairman of the trustees, said he did not wish to discuss Mr Jones's dismissal because the matter was in the hands of the charity's solicitors.

Mr Jones, who was last jailed in 1996 after committing a series of frauds while a volunteer for the Liberal Democrats, became involved with Kairos whilst an inmate at Verne prison in Dorset. After his release, he swiftly became its national director.

The trustees justified the dismissal of Mr Jones with a list of eight accusations. They include failing to report funding deficits, appointing staff without authority, failing to forward correspondence from the Charity Commission and "glossing over" financial details. Although he was not supposed to have direct access to the charity's cash, Mr Jones is also accused of "payment of monies from Trust funds to another association without authority".

Mr Jones said yesterday that this was a reference to a decision to give "a couple of hundred pounds" to help prisoners at Verne buy equipment for a school for the blind in Exeter. He said the payment was agreed by colleagues who had signed the cheque. He said he was anxious to resolve the dispute without damaging the work of the charity. "My priority is to make sure the project does not fail."

Mr Jones's solicitor, Heather Cowan, said her client was an "extremely dedicated man" who had issued the trustees with a detailed written rebuttal of the accusations that have been levelled against him.

The Prison Service said yesterday: "We recognise that the involvement of Kairos in prisons does appear to bring some benefit to the day-to-day runnings of the prisons where it is [in place]. But we continue to monitor it closely."