Artist who painted birthday portraits for King and Queen slammed for wrongly taking out £50k loans

Artist who painted King and Queen for their birthdays is banned from forming firms after wrongfully taking out £50,000 Covid loan in name of his dead sister’s charity

  • Renowned artist Darren Baker is banned from setting up a firm for seven years 
  • Mr Baker is best known for painting birthday portraits for the King and Queen  
  • He wrongly claimed two loans totaling £50k for a charity in memory of his sister
  • He claimed the charity had a turnover of £200k when in fact it was £26,029 

A renowned artist who painted both the King and Queen for their birthdays has been banned from forming companies for seven years after he wrongfully took out £50,000 in loans for a charity set up in his sister’s memory.

Darren Baker, who has also painted boxing legend Frank Bruno, received £45,000 from the Government’s coronavirus Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) on behalf of The Leanne Baker Trust in October 2020.

Mr Baker, originally from Meltham, West Yorkshire, then took out a further £5,000 in March 2021, according to The Insolvency Service.

He had claimed the charity’s annual turnover was £200,000, but its accounts for 2019 showed figures of just £26,029. The trust also had no overheads or employees, so under the rules of the scheme it wasn’t actually eligible for the funding.

Artist Darren Baker wrongly took out £50,000 for a charity set up in memory of his sister and has now been banned from forming any company for seven years

Artist Darren Baker wrongly took out £50,000 for a charity set up in memory of his sister and has now been banned from forming any company for seven years

The artist, best known for painting a picture of Queen Elizabeth II for her 85th birthday and the now-King Charles for his 70th birthday, used £25,000 of the funding to pay off personal legal fees. He then used £13,000 for personal use.

The Leanne Baker Trust, which was registered as both a charity and a company, was set up in 2014 after Mr Baker’s sister, Leanne Baker, took her own life.

Ms Baker, 35, was found dead by her fiance David Jackson at their home in Almondbury on 2 June 2013, shortly before their planned wedding date. A coroner concluded she died by suicide.

The charity was set up to help others who, like Ms Baker, were struggling with depression. It initially hoped to set up a drop-in centre in Huddersfield for people who needed mental health support.

The Leanne Baker Trust appointed a voluntary liquidator in September 2021. The liquidator reported the loan misuse and the amount loaned has since been recovered.

Mr Baker, now based in Coventry, accepted he had caused the charity to obtain a loan it wasn’t entitled to.

Mr Baker is best known for painting this picture of Queen Elizabeth II for her 85th birthday. He also painted a portrait of the now-King Charles for his 70th birthday

Mr Baker is best known for painting this picture of Queen Elizabeth II for her 85th birthday. He also painted a portrait of the now-King Charles for his 70th birthday

Mr Baker also painted this portrait of Prince Charles to mark the royal's 70th birthday

Mr Baker also painted this portrait of Prince Charles to mark the royal’s 70th birthday 

The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy subsequently accepted a disqualification undertaking from him – effective from December 15 last year. 

Companies House records show Mr Baker, 46, resigned as a director of the company on the same date. Charity Commission records list the charity as insolvent.

The seven-year ban means Mr Baker can’t be involved in managing, forming or promoting companies without permission of the court either directly or indirectly.

Rob Clarke, chief investigator at The Insolvency Service, said: ‘Bounce Back Loans were offered to businesses that had been negatively impacted by the pandemic, with the money purely to be utilised for the economic benefit of those companies; safeguarding jobs and sustaining entrepreneurial activity.

‘That clearly was not the case in this instance where the funds have been claimed by a charitable enterprise, with negligible turnover, and no employees.

‘Despite the humanitarian purpose of the trust as established, Darren Baker took advantage of the support available during this difficult time for his own personal gain.

‘His disqualification should serve as a warning to others that the Insolvency Service will take action whenever a director’s dishonesty threatens loss to the public purse, the consequence being a lengthy exclusion from trading with the benefit of limited liability.’ 

Darren, pictured, had previously opened up about his own mental health struggles following the death of his sister.

Darren, pictured, had previously opened up about his own mental health struggles following the death of his sister. 

Mr Baker’s sister, Leanne, 35, took her own life a week before her destination wedding almost a decade ago. 

The artists has previously spoken out about how his sibling was found dead at home in Huddersfield just days before the family was due to fly to Greece for her wedding to fiancé David Jackson, in June 2013.

‘One minute we were all looking forward to her Greek island wedding, the next we were planning her funeral,’ he told FEMAIL in 2019. ‘It felt unbelievably cruel.’ 

Mr Baker Darren told how his sister had previously suffered from depression and that in the lead up to her wedding she had felt anxious about being the centre of attention on the big day. 

The artist, whose work sells for tens of thousands of pounds, also opened up about his own mental health struggles, admitting the world can seem ‘black’ even though he knows he has a ‘wonderful life’ with his wife Abigail and daughter Lily.  

A month before the nuptials, Leanne had taken an overdose in a suicide attempt and was admitted to hospital and later seen by mental health services.

Darren Baker previously told how his sister Leanne, 35, pictured together, was found dead at home in Huddersfield just days before her destination wedding to fiancé David Jackson, in June 2013

Darren Baker previously told how his sister Leanne, 35, pictured together, was found dead at home in Huddersfield just days before her destination wedding to fiancé David Jackson, in June 2013

She was referred for home-based intensive treatment by a Community Psychiatric team who were in contact touch with her daily.

He said: ‘The day before Leanne died, I’d spoken to her on the phone and she was in very bad way. Her depression seemed to have really taken hold. 

‘I was very worried about her but my parents were with her, so I knew she was being well looked after by them and David.’

On the day of her death, Leanne was left alone at home while David went out to see his mother. When he returned, he found his fiancée had hung herself. 

Darren continued: ‘There are no words to describe the crushing loss we all felt afterwards. The sheer physical pain was unbearable. 

‘My parents had lost their daughter, David had lost the woman he thought he would spend the rest of his life with and I’d not only been robbed of my little sister, but my best friend too.’

Darren is one of Britain’s most collectible 21st century artists, with his work displayed in the halls of Downing Street and the House of Lords. 

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