A press release issued by the National Bullying Helpline accused its former patrons of abandoning the the charity ‘when it needed them most’: “It is a shame that not one of them ever visited our charity offices to see how we operate or meet with our Volunteers and Trustee’s, despite request.”

The helpline will be temporarily suspended as its founders consider the future of the organisation, it explained: “Competitor anti-bullying charities, individuals with an axe to grind and a few others have forced our hand,” the statement said.

The charity commission said it was launching an investigation into the helpline because of complaints it had received.

It also emerged yesterday that Christine Pratt, founder of the National Bullying Helpline, was previously accused of bullying and intimidating staff, losing a 2003 employment tribunal for sexual discrimination after being accused of bullying.

She was described as “aggressive” and “confrontational” by employees of her former employer, who claimed she made “disparaging” remarks about another worker’s command of English, which he found “extremely hurtful”.

The Mirror reported that in one case, she “thrust her face” close to a colleague and “screamed very loudly into his ear”.