England

Breast cancer charity founder 'stupid' to accept £31k

Wendy Watson
Image caption Wendy Watson founded the helpline for people seeking advice on breast cancer and its treatment

A breast cancer charity founder criticised for receiving £31,000 from the fund has said she was "stupid" not to check if she could be paid legally.

Defending herself on BBC 5 live, Wendy Watson said she did not know trustees needed Charity Commission permission for payment from a charity.

Mrs Watson has now resigned as a trustee with the National Hereditary Breast Cancer Helpline.

Her payments were discovered by The Charity Commission.

The commission began its investigation after noticing financial irregularities and it warned about "significant breaches of trust".

Mrs Watson. who was paid £31,000 over five years as a trustee of the charity she founded in 1996, denied allegations she had paid the money to herself.

She stated: "The accountants paid me. I didn't pay myself, I can assure you."

Mrs Watson said she did not know the payments had breached laws relating to charity trustees.

And she added: "If I had known, I would never have been trustee and could have been just an employee and then none of this would have been an issue."

Mrs Watson continued: "In 2012 I got professional advice to set up the charity. They put me as a trustee and didn't say I couldn't ever work for the charity again or be paid and so I happily went on as a trustee."

Asked if she had made a mistake, she responded: "I trusted the professionals that I employed. I was so busy answering the phone 24 hours a day and getting on with setting up these charity shops to provide long-term income for the charity."

Mrs Watson added: "I accept I made a mistake in trusting the professionals to give me advice instead of checking for myself."

Image copyright Google
Image caption The organisation runs a network of charity shops around the UK

"If you work it out what I was paid over five years, I was paid £31,000 for 24-hours-a-day work - that equates to less than 60p an hour, I don't think anybody would think that was excessive."

Mrs Watson also said: "I certainly apologise if people think that I did not do the right thing."

She added: "I was stupid. I didn't realise. I just went along with what I was told."

Mrs Watson, of Derbyshire, founded the charity four years after she became the first woman in the UK to have a pre-emptive mastectomy. Five years ago she was appointed MBE for services to people with breast cancer.

The charity was set up to raise awareness and fund a phoneline where people could speak to Mrs Watson for support and advice.

By 2012, it was raising almost £1m a year from charity shops in Derbyshire, Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, Humberside and London.

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