Church faces questions over campaigning in Croydon council by-election

Conservative campaigners, and SPAC Nation Church members, canvassing for the Fairfield by-election. Pic: @MarioCreatura

The Charity Commission is to contact a controversial church over allegations that it was involved in party political activity in supporting the Conservative candidate in a recent Croydon Council by-election.

Officers from the Metropolitan Police are also reviewing allegations of fraud and other offences and considering whether to launch a full criminal investigation.

Videos posted in a since deleted tweet by a senior member of the church show large numbers of SPAC Nation members campaigning for Jayde Edwards, the unsuccessful Conservative candidate in the Fairfield by-election last week.

In another tweet, Edwards appears to be addressing a group of church members in Croydon, wearing a SPAC nation t-shirt.

A spokesperson for the Charity Commission told Eastlondonlines: “Charities have a proud record of engaging in public debate and speaking up for the causes they serve. However, they also have a responsibility to do so within the rules. Charities must not engage in party political activity. We will be contacting the charity on this issue as a matter of urgency.”

Edwards, 20, a Croydon resident, is a pastor at the church, which has been featured in a number of documentaries for its efforts to guide young people away from crime and gangs.

One pastor, Enrique Uwadiae, is a reformed gang member named in the Evening Standard’s 1000 most influential Londoners for his work to combat knife crime.

The church has been praised for its efforts in keeping ex-convicts from re-offending and its positive approach to tackling knife crime.

It was first established by Tobi Adegboyega, the cousin of Star Wars actor John Boyega, in 2011. It now has over 2000 attendees at its services, which are held in the Grand Sapphire Hotel in Croydon.

Adegboyega was in the headlines earlier this year after calling his neighbours racist for raising concerns about late night parties at his £2.5m mansion in Surrey.

According to accounts filed with the Charity Commission, the church raised almost £1.2m in donations last year. At its services, church members are encouraged to make large donations.

The Huffington Post has published a number of investigations into the church, alleging that members of the church, including a Pastor, took out loans on behalf of vulnerable young people without their knowledge or consent. 

Allegations have also been made that SPAC have failed in their safeguarding obligations in relation to safe houses – which the church calls ‘trap houses’ – for vulnerable young people looking to escape gangs.

These allegations have also been reported to the police by Croydon North Labour PPC Steve Reed.

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police told Eastlondonlines: “We have received allegations that pertain to potential fraud and other possible offences that relate to SPAC Nation. Officers are reviewing the allegations to identify if any criminal offences have potentially been committed. Once this review is complete, a decision will be made as to whether a criminal investigation is launched.”

Conservative campaigners were also reported to the police by Croydon Labour, after allegedly abusing Labour and Liberal Democrat activists during the by-election campaign. It is unknown whether these campaigners belonged to SPAC.

SPAC Nation did not respond to requests for comment.

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