Schizophrenia charity in crisis

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The Independent Online
MANAGEMENT of the national schizophrenia charity, Sane, has plunged into crisis following a breakdown in relations between Marjorie Wallace, the society's celebrated chief executive, and some of her staff.

Police are investigating the theft of documents from Sane's central London headquarters and anonymous telephone threats made to Ms Wallace. She believes the documents, which contain details of her medical treatment for breast cancer, were passed to the London magazine Time Out.

Ms Wallace formed Sane six years ago after an award-winning career as an investigative journalist. Since she gave up writing she has concentrated her energies on campaigning to help schizophrenics and raising pounds 9m to build the Prince of Wales International Centre for Research into Schizophrenia and Depression. Last Friday after a week of legal argument she obtained a court order against Time Out. Advised by Peter Carter-Ruck and Partners, the leading London libel solicitors and Charles Gray QC, and supported by Lord Mottistone, Sane's chairman, she forced the magazine to give an undertaking not to publish certain allegations without giving her 48 hours notice.

Time Out had obtained copies of Sane documents and had been contacted by former and current members of the charity's staff. Following a court apperance last week, the magazine was prevented from publishing several of its claims, which Ms Wallace says are untrue.

Lord Mottistone, the Lord Lieutenant of the Isle of Wight and a former naval officer, obtained a separate injunction to prevent Time Out publishing, revealing or disclosing to any third party other than the police or other authorities any confidential information belonging to him and Sane, including documents sent to Time Out anonymously. He is also suing for the return of documents and seeking damages for breach of confidence.

However, the magazine does intend to publish details of financial help which the charity receives from Sandoz, the Swiss drug company. Ms Wallace said yesterday that she accepted this: in common with most other medical charities Sane was given financial help by pharmaceutical companies. In 1991-92 Sandoz gave pounds 13,000 to Sane; in 1992-93 pounds 57,000 and in 1993- 94 pounds 57,400. These sums were only a small percentage of the charity's total funding - last year's donation was just two per cent of Sane's income.

Much of Sane's money comes from donations from individual members of the public, although it has also secured the patronage of high-profile names.

Among the contributors to the Prince of Wales research centre fund are King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and Greek shipowner Stamatia Xylas, who each gave pounds 1.75m, and the Sultan of Brunei who gave pounds 1m.

The centre at Warneford psychiatric hospital, Oxford, is named after its patron.

The battle with Time Out is the latest in a series of problems for Ms Wallace. Earlier this year Sane became embroiled in a public squabble with another mental health charity, Mind, which Ms Wallace's team criticised for what it termed an "emotive" warning against the use of powerful anti- psychotic drugs to treat schizophrenia.

Her recent illness has made it difficult for her to devote herself full- time to the charity. She has made no secret of the fact that she has been suffering from cancer, but was outraged that her private records were passed to the magazine.

When she first discovered that she was ill, Sane's trustees, led by Lord Mottistone, decided to recruit extra fund-raisers to assist her. But Ms Wallace and the drafted-in helpers did not see eye-to-eye; she felt they were not experienced mental charity workers and were trying to reorganise Sane's affairs. In particular they demanded a more active say in the charity's decision-making.

"Our future recruitment is going to be of people with a background in mental health, who are more mature and do not want to be running a workers' co-operative," said a bitter Ms Wallace yesterday. Time Out said it intended to publish an article about the management of Sane next week. It would not be repeating the allegations covered by the court order.