Protest as charity chief is honoured

Cabinet Office urged to rethink OBE

By Marcus Dysch, June 18, 2009

A leading pro-Israel charity has complained to the Cabinet Office over the award of an OBE to the former chief executive of its one-time parent charity.

The award to Simon Winters for services to the voluntary sector was announced in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List on Saturday. He was among around a dozen members of the Jewish community to be recognised.
Mr Winters, who parted company with JNF UK last summer after the arrival of the new chairman Samuel Hayek, was criticised by a High Court judge after a failed legal action against lawyers Mishcon de Reya.

Leading figures in JNF KKL Scotland, a body that was formerly affiliated to JNF UK, confirmed they had written to the Cabinet Office to express anger over the honour.

A spokesman said they had also sent a copy of the High Court judgment against Mr Winters and asked the Cabinet Office to draw “the appropriate conclusion”.

His case against Mishcon de Reya was heard at London’s High Court in October. In his judgment following the three-day hearing, Mr Justice Henderson said he had found Mr Winters’ written and oral evidence “highly unsatisfactory in a number of respects”.

The judge said his assertions had been “often imprecise, partial or exaggerated, and sometimes demonstrably false”.

The nomination process for an award can take up to 18 months. The Cabinet Office investigates formal complaints against the awarding of an honour, but the rescinding of an award can be approved only by the Queen.

Court judgments can be used as evidence by the Forfeiture Committee. Since 1997 there have been 24 forfeitures.

A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said: “We cannot comment on individual cases, or on the detail of a nomination, but we would investigate if we received a formal complaint about any nomination.”

Mr Winters said: “I have just received an OBE, a long time since the unnecessary dispute started by those that took over the JNF.
“It saddens me that people are motivated by jealousy and spite and have damaged one of British Jewry’s oldest charitable institutions.

“These people should realise that this accolade is for work over many years to raise money for such needy causes which I will continue to work tirelessly for in the future.

“It’s a shame that people are prepared to waste and devote their time to complaining about me rather than focusing on helping needy causes.”
He left his role at JNF last summer and sought an injunction to stop Mishcon acting for the charity in a dispute over the termination of his employment.

He claimed there was a conflict of interest because the lawyers had previously acted personally for him.

It is believed a tribunal between Mr Winters and the JNF is ongoing.

Last updated: 7:13pm, June 18 2009