Marks and Spencer investigating Christmas fundraising in Hampstead store by controversial church

Marks and Spencer in Pond Street, Hampstead. Picture: Google

Marks and Spencer in Pond Street, Hampstead. Picture: Google - Credit: Archant

Controversial organisation the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) “shouldn’t have been allowed” to run a charity collection in the Hampstead branch of Marks and Spencer (M&S) in the run-up to Christmas.

A spokesperson for the retail giant said: “The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God is not an organisation Marks and Spencer supports and it should not have been fundraising in our store.

“On this occasion in the run-up to Christmas they were in-store and this is being investigated.”

Susan West, who chairs the Hampstead Town Safer Neighbourhood panel, had flagged the issue up to the company’s senior management.

She told the Ham&High: “Hampstead residents are generous people who readily support good causes but sometimes there are people who take advantage of this generosity. Often people collecting cash from the public use big brand names like high street stores to give the impression that collectors have been approved and vetted by the store. This is often not the case.”

Susan has written to M&S CEO Steve Rowe urging tighter vetting of charity organistations.

This newspaper understands that, when challenged, collectors from UCKG told members of the public they were collecting for the elderly and “troubled young people” in the Hampstead area, but were unable to provide examples of this work.

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UCKG has historically been criticised over its financial practices and its connection to the Victoria Climbie case. Victoria was taken to the church for “spiritual healing” several times in the run-up to her death in 2000.

The organisation has always denied that it carries out exorcisms.

Hampstead Town’s local police have previously advised local shops to be vigilant about who they allow to fundraise on their premises.

PC Safwan Karim told us: “Shops were reminded not to be shy to ask collectors for ID or to double-check to see if the charity is one that had indeed been approved by their head office.” M&S confirmed stores were supposed to stick to a list of national and local charity partners

The Ham&High had no response to attempts to contact UCKG for this story.