St Benedict’s School, Ealing
Catholic school St Benedict’s sorry for sex abuse ‘legacy’
The head of a west London Catholic school has apologised for its “terrible legacy” of sex abuse.
Christopher Cleugh, headmaster of St Benedict’s school in Ealing, said the school would adopt the recommendations of an inquiry, led by Lord Carlile.
The report, which looked at 21 attacks since 1970, said Ealing Abbey monks must lose their control of the school.
The abbot has accepted that he “failed” when he allowed a former head facing abuse claims to return in 2007.
The inquiry began last year after Father David Pearce, the former head of the junior school, was jailed for eight years in 2009, after being convicted of abusing five boys over a period of 36 years. Four of the victims were under 14.
The Right Reverend Dom Martin Shipperlee, who was appointed the abbot in 2000, said a victim had complained to him about Father David in 2001 and he had made the police aware of it.
In 2006, a High Court ruling awarded damages to one of Father David’s victims. The priest was brought back to the abbey as bursar the following year.
He went on to carry out the final sexual assault in 2007, before being arrested in 2008.
Mr Shipperlee said: “I allowed him to return because I have responsibility to and for him and it was my estimation that the best way I could discharge that was to have him in a place where we knew what he was doing.
“I was wrong. I failed. I didn’t get that right at all, so a young person was put in the harm’s way.”
Later, he told BBC London that the idea of Father David being in the abbey was for him to work solely in the abbey buildings and not in the school or in the parish.
He added: “Clearly, I wasn’t monitoring, looking closely enough.”
When asked if he was considering his position over the situation, he replied: “I consider my position constantly.”
‘Conflict of interest’
In the report, Lord Carlile of Berriew said the form of governance at the school was “wholly outdated and demonstrably unacceptable”.
“The abbot himself has accepted that it is ‘opaque to outsiders’.”
Two trusts should be set up to remove “all power from the abbey” while maintaining the Benedictine connection for the parents, Lord Carlile added.
The new governing body must create a clear accountability between school management, governors and trustees.
It should be transparent and understandable to outsiders and deliver effective monitoring, safeguarding policies and procedures.
The new governors must include representatives from the school community and diaspora, as well as people from outside the school, the report said.
It added: “In a school where there has been abuse, mostly – but not exclusively – as a result of the activities of the monastic community, any semblance of a conflict of interest, of lack of independent scrutiny, must be removed.”
Following the publication of the report, Mr Cleugh said: “Past abuses at the school have left a terrible legacy for those affected and have tarnished the reputation of St Benedict’s.
‘Very, very shocking’
“I offer my heartfelt apology for past failures. The school could have, and should have, done more.”
“We are determined that safeguarding procedures at St Benedict’s should in future be exemplary and the appalling abuses of the past should never happen again,” he said.
The recommendations will come into effect from 1 September 2012.
Philip Catterall, whose 11-year-old son currently attends the school, said the findings were “very, very, shocking” but most parents felt “pretty positive” about the recommendations.
He and other parents met with the school’s authorities on Tuesday night.
“There were some tough questions for both the head and the abbot – some very hard questions,” Mr Catterall said.
But Jonathan West, from Hanwell, the father of a former pupil, said: “The proposals for governance are perfectly sensible but they do not really get to the heart of the problem, which is safeguarding and child protection, not governance.”
The Vatican has also ordered a separate inquiry into the historical sex offence allegations.
‘Prolongation of abuse’
Keith Porteous Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society which contributed to the report, has asked for a dedicated phone line to be set up to report abuses.
“The absence of such elementary controls and labyrinthine child protection procedures both contributed [to] the prolongation of abuse,” he said.
Police are also looking for Father Laurence Soper, 80, former abbot of Ealing Abbey, who failed to answer bail in March following arrest on suspicion of abuse. He taught at the school from 1991 to 2000.
Another former employee faces a trial over sex abuse charges.
Police are looking into new abuse allegations against the school from the 1970s and 80s.
The abbey has run the co-education school for about a century.
Pope orders inquiry into child sex abuse by teachers at London school.
25 October 2011Investigation: Pope Benedict XVI has ordered the first inquiry of its kind in Britain
The Vatican has ordered an inquiry into claims of decades of sexual abuse at a London abbey and school.
A number of monks and teachers at Ealing Abbey and neighbouring St Benedict’s independent school in west London have been linked to alleged abuse from as far back as the 1960s right up until 2009.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – which oversees the Church’s doctrine – has ordered a top-level investigation into the mistreatment of children there.
The apostolic visitation, as it is called, is the first inquiry of its kind in Britain and could be the first step towards disclosure of other sexual abuse by clerics that have been covered up.
It is being led by Bishop John Arnold, an auxiliary Bishop of Westminster, and Father Richard Yeo, president of the English Benedictine Congregation.
The move, which is acknowledgement by the Vatican that this is a serious issue, comes after an investigation by The Times last year revealed four decades of abuse by Father David Pearce, a priest at Ealing Abbey and a former headmaster of St Benedict’s junior school.Under scrutiny: The investigation is looking into claims of abuse at St Benedict’s from as far back as the 1960s
It sends a message to Ealing Abbey that a previous inquiry it commissioned by Lord Carlile of Berriew QC into the school will not be the final word on the scandal.
The report by Lord Carlile – a senior government adviser – will be published at the end of the month and given to the Department for Education, Charity Commission and Independent School’s Commission.
He was asked by the abbey last year to look into ‘past mistakes’ at St Benedcict’s.
Such an unprecedented move may also be interpreted as a high-level rebuke for the Catholic hierarchy in england, who regularly insist that it has very strong child protection policies.
Bishop Arnold said that recommendations following the visitation will be sent to the the Doctrine of the Faith who will decide whether they should be implemented. But the Vatican has come under fire after it emerged the results will not automatically be made public.The Vatican has seen fit to step in to the scandal surrounding Ealing Abbey (pictured)
After the revelations about Fr Pearce came to light, allegations of abuse were made against other former priests and teachers at St Benedict’s and other schools over the decades as further victims came forward, prompting police to begin a fresh inquiry.
Victims have said offenders were allowed to leave the school without a warning issued to future employers, leaving them free to go on and abuse pupils at other independent schools, The Times reported.
A centuries- old way of rooting out problems
The rules for apostolic and other canonical visitations were established in the 16th century by the Council of Trent.
The recommendations or conclusions of the investigations, which usually take place behind closed doors, are rarely published.
They are ordered from the highest level of the Roman Catholic Church – in this case the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on behalf of the Pope.
The role of apostolic visitors is to investigate the problem and report back to the Vatican, which then decides what, if any, action to take.
Father Laurence Soper, former Abbot of Ealing Abbey, is being sought by police after he jumped bail before he could be charged with child abuse offences.
He disappeared without trace from the the headquarters of the Benedictine order in Rome, where he had been treasurer of the Benedictine Confederation.
A spokesman for the Archbishop of Westminster said that Bishop Arnold and Father Yeo had met senior members of Ealing Abbey last month.
‘The effective safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults is a priority for the Catholic church and Ealing abbey’s safeguarding policies and procedures formed part of the remit of the apostolic visitation.
Father Martin Shipperlee, Abbot of Ealing Abbey told The Times: ‘The visitors and the holy See will want to know that child protection is a priority here and that we’ve done all we can to ensure that what has happened in the past does not recur.’
The Pope called for a similar apostolic visitation to Ireland last year after reports were published into abuse in Catholic institutions in Dublin.
‘Devil in a dog collar’ priest faces jail for sex abuse12 August 2009A priest is facing jail for sexually abusing schoolboys over a 36-year period.Father David Pearce admitted assaulting five pupils when he was headmaster at a Roman Catholic schoolThe first attack at St Benedict’s School, in Ealing, took place in 1972. The abuse finally ended last January.The 67-year-old was told that a “substantial custodial sentence” was an “overwhelming possibility”.One victim said: “I believe the Church are responsible – they knew what he was up to. Devil in a dog collar sums him up.”At Isleworth crown court, Pearce admitted 10 indecent assaults against four boys under 16 and sexually assaulting a fifth. The attacks involved caning and intimate touching. Pearce will be sentenced in October.