UK children's hospitals to return donations amid allegations of sexual harassment at fundraiser

An undercover reporter claims female staff were groped, sexually harassed and propositioned

UK children's hospitals to return donations amid allegations of sexual harassment at fundraiser

File photo of the main entrance to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London | Image: John Stillwell/PA Wire/PA Images

Two children's hospitals in Britain say they are returning money raised at a fundraiser event in London after allegations of sexual harassment.

Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) has said it will return all previous donations from the Presidents Club.

The charity intervened after claims female staff at a "male-only" dinner, held last week at the Dorchester Hotel in London, were groped, sexually harassed and propositioned.

A spokesperson for GOSH said: "We are shocked to hear of the behaviour reported at the Presidents Club Charitable Trust fundraising dinner. We would never knowingly accept donations raised in this way.

"We have had no involvement in the organisation of this event, nor attended and we were never due to receive any money from it.

"All monies raised in our name go to support vital work. However, due to the wholly unacceptable nature of the event we are returning previous donations and will no longer accept gifts from the Presidents Club Charitable Trust."

Evelina London Children's Hospital has also said it is returning previous donations from the group, saying "this is not the kind of event we would wish to be associated with".

And advertising firm WPP, which sponsored a table at this year's event, announced it will end its association with the Presidents Club.

A "lady zoo"

Details of the dinner were revealed by the Financial Times, with over 100 female hosts hired to mingle with 360 elite guests from business, finance and politics.

Over stg£2m (€2.29m) was raised for charity through auction items such as lunch with UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and tea with Bank of England governor Mark Carney.

But female hosts were allegedly ordered to wear skimpy black outfits with matching underwear and made to sign non-disclosure agreements.

British Labour MP Jess Phillips branded the event a "lady zoo" and has called for "every penny" raised to be donated to children and adult sexual violence services.

It has also been announced that David Meller - a joint chair of the Presidents Club, who is also a non-executive director on the UK's Department for Education board - would resign from his public post.

The UK Charities Commission said it is investigating the reports of harassment and that "the alleged behaviour has no place being taken in the name of charity".

A spokesperson said: "We are assessing these allegations as a matter of urgency and will be contacting the Presidents Club Charitable Trust."

Organisers of the event said they were "appalled" by allegations of impropriety.

A spokesperson said: "The Presidents Club recently hosted its annual dinner, raising several million pounds for disadvantaged children.

"The organisers are appalled by the allegations of bad behaviour at the event asserted by the Financial Times reporters.

"Such behaviour is totally unacceptable. The allegations will be investigated fully and promptly and appropriate action taken."

The Dorchester Hotel meanwhile insisted it had a zero-tolerance policy to harassment of employees and guests.

It said: "We are unaware of any allegations and should we be contacted we will work with the relevant authorities as necessary."

A statement from the Bank of England said: "The Bank of England did not approve any prize for auction on the occasion described nor would it have for that organisation under its guidelines for charitable giving."