CIPR member ejected after declining to defend conduct complaint

The CIPR has terminated the membership of Colin Higgins following a complaint that he failed to pay staff when one of his businesses went into liquidation.

CIPR: Headquarters in Russell Square
CIPR: Headquarters in Russell Square

Higgins is behind a number of businesses including defunct PR company Colin Higgins & Associates, which was set up in 2010 but went into administration last year with debts of £191,000.

He is also the sole director of companies including Joules PR, Retriever 21 and Colin Higgins Group Holdings, which according to company records are still active.

The CIPR made the ruling against the 65-year-old, who had been a member of the institute for more than 20 years, following a formal hearing.

It said he did not attend the hearing and made no serious attempt to address the complaint against him.

Higgins was accused by Anna Berry, a former employee of a pub business he ran called Feast Events, of failing to pay her money she was owed when it went into liquidation.

The CIPR also decided Higgins had wrongfully claimed to be a CIPR member on two of his websites until May this year despite his membership having lapsed 18 months previously.  

Phil Morgan, deputy chief executive of the CIPR, said: "The CIPR is mandated by our royal charter to enforce a code of conduct that underpins the professionalism of our members and serves the wider public relations industry as an example of best practice.

"We take complaints about the professional conduct of members very seriously and will act where we find evidence that our code has not been upheld in any relevant context. This includes their business dealings, in which we expect the highest standards of integrity and honesty."

When PRWeek put the claims to Higgins he said they were "utterly ridiculous" and the result of a disgruntled former employee.

"The company experienced three very large bad debts during the credit crisis and this impacted on other businesses in the group of companies, and following professional advice we felt some areas of the business had to close. Over 20 years we have always paid staff and suppliers.
"Ms Berry was dismissed and we were happy to pay her severance pay. However her subsequent actions became a legal matter, and we were advised not to make any payments until this was resolved. By the time this was finally resolved we had taken the decision not to continue to support that business."
He added: "The website was dormant and we were unaware it has not been taken down, when we were advised we had it removed immediately."

Berry could not be reached for comment.

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