Sunday, 12 December 2010

Why do I keep on at this?

I have accounts from victims of abuse by monks and teachers at St Benedict’s School stretching back to the 1940s. I know that that abuse has continued to occur almost to the present day, with the suspension and subsequent departure of a teacher from the school this year. Given the length of time it can take for victims of child sexual abuse to come forward, it is likely that new reports of abuse that occurred at the school or the Abbey will pop up from time to time for the next 30 years or so, even if no further abuse occurs from now on. And abuse could well be continuing now, as the school's child protection procedures are still considerably short of best practice - a fact tacitly accepted by the Trustees when they appointed Lord Carlile to conduct an inquiry.

Unless something decisive is done by the Trustees, this is just going to go on and on. As things stand, every newly-reported case, even if it is of abuse that happened 30 years ago, will reflect badly on the school and the Abbey, and cause the headmaster and the Abbot sleepless nights.

Some people here have suggested that I’m obsessed about St. Benedict’s, that I’m anti-Catholic, that I bear some kind of deep and abiding hatred of the school. Nothing could in fact be further from the truth. I don’t care much about St. Benedict’s one way or another, and I have many things I would prefer to do with my time rather than chivvy the school into making its child protection procedures fit for purpose. For instance I’d like to spend more time on the music I play and write about.

But I’m going to continue to chase this issue until it is sorted, because it is the right thing to do for the safety of the pupils there, of whom my son was one many years ago. If by my inaction further abuse occurred which I might have prevented by shouting louder, then I would feel that I had some small share in the responsibility. I have nothing to lose – at worst this takes up a modest amount of my spare time, and I can afford that.

That spare time is not spent merely writing this blog. Victims contact me from time to time, and I encourage them to come forward to the police with their accounts. I know that some lines of police investigation have been triggered by statements made by victims who contacted me and who I have pointed in the direction of the police. It would be wrong of me to name names or be specific about anything in public, but there is more going on behind the scenes than I describe in the blog.

I do bits of research here and there. I review the reports that are produced by various bodies – the ISI, the DfE, the Charity Commission, the Diocese of Westminster and so on. I have several strands of ongoing correspondence at present, so there is going to be continued official interest in the school. For instance it was as a result of my reporting the discrepancies in the November 2009 ISI inspections that the DfE ordered the ISI to make unannounced inspection in April 2010 (I specifically suggested that the initial visit be unannounced).  So those who try to discourage me by writing comments saying that I'm achieving nothing might as well rest their fingers. I've seen the results of my actions.

And the DfE assured me within a few days of the publication of the May 2010 version of the school’s child protection policy that they were continuing to work with the school to ensure that the its policy met regulatory requirements and that they did not regard the May 2010 version as being the final compliant version.

I’m in contact with the press of course. When a paper runs a story on St. Benedict’s, they frequently get in touch with me to check aspects of their story. And I have made an occasional phone call to a journalist when there is something worth reporting.

Quite a number of parents have been in contact, very concerned for the safety of their children and asking what could be done about it. I was barred from attending the safeguarding meeting on 14th September, but parents weren’t. Several parents who attended had contacted me prior to the meeting, and I know that in the days immediately prior to the meeting there was a lot of traffic on the blog as parents were doing their research. So I wasn’t there but my questions were, and of course the answers were reported back to me.

I can immediately see through half-hearted efforts to make token or minimal improvements to the child protection policy. Good child protection procedures aren’t all that hard to recognise once you have taken the trouble to understand the language. In a previous career I was responsible for regulatory and highly technical documents in the telecoms industry that ran to thousands, even tens of thousands of pages, where an error might cost the industry millions to put right if not caught in time. Reading through and analysing the 17-page child protection policy of St. Benedict’s School is nothing in comparison, and even the 538 pages of the London Child Protection Procedures isn’t all that hard to follow, especially as it is possible to skip quite large parts of it which are obviously not relevant to schools.

I have of course met Lord Carlile in the course of his inquiry and provided several hundred pages of documentary evidence to him.

So, I can keep going for ever, until I’m satisfied that the Trustees are doing the right thing and the school has become and will remain safe, or until the school closes because of a falling roll or a deregistration by the DfE. Until they really get to grips with this and start doing the right thing without reservations and qualifications, the Trustees will never know from what direction the next issue will come - press, officialdom, police, irate parents or blog post.

I know several former pupils who would obtain great satisfaction from the school’s closure because of the way in which they suffered when at the school – not just because of sexual abuse but also because of the bullying by staff and pupils, the beatings (thankfully now illegal), and the generally oppressive atmosphere of the place. But I would be satisfied with knowing that the place has genuinely turned over a new leaf.

It will be obvious when this happens. I will be the first to applaud when it does and I will thankfully get on with other much more enjoyable and interesting activities. But there is no evidence as yet that I can do that.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Father Gerard Hayes

The list goes on. the following is taken from a comment put up on the blog some weeks ago.
I was at St Benedicts' in the late 60s. Dom Gerard, initially headmaster of the Middle School, was notorious for his interest in little boys. Later he moved to the Senior school, where he attempted to abuse me, amongst others. I ran away, kept on running. Others weren't so quick or so lucky. Point being that everyone knew about Gerard – boys and teachers alike. But to go against him was seen as going against the Church and that was the worst sin of all. Anyway, the Abbey at the time was a hot-bed of bullying, waspish homosexuality. . .I knew at least one postulant who left because the atmosphere was so poisonous. Gerard continued his career and activities into the 70s, ending as headmaster of the Senior school. God only knows how many lives he and others like him ruined.
There's a pattern here. Horsey, Hayes, Soper and others. The abuse is widespread. The perpetrators often seem to have been made headmaster of the middle school at some point in their career. The abuse was common knowledge - to both boys and teachers. And nothing was done, because the authority of the church was behind the abusers. They were monks and priests as well as teachers. Sometimes senior monks - headmaster or even Abbot.

And the same management is still in place at the Abbey. Francis Rossiter was Abbot at the time referred to in the account above, he is Prior now.

UPDATE 10th November 2011

With regard to the above article about Father Gerard Hayes, I was repeating a comment which had been made by somebody else on the blog, and the description was clearly indicated to be a quotation, both in my introduction and my use of blockquote formatting

I accept that the original comment was very probably incorrect. Lord Carlile has not indicated in his report that he has received any allegations against Father Gerard Hayes, and I am entirely willing to concur with his conclusion.

I apologise to any of Father Gerard's colleagues or family who may have been distressed by the article.

The point I made in the article was a more general one, as follows. "The abuse was common knowledge - to both boys and teachers. And nothing was done, because the authority of the church was behind the abusers. They were monks and priests as well as teachers. Sometimes senior monks - headmaster or even Abbot."

I think that point has been entirely borne out by subsequent events and has been made in the strongest possible terms by Lord Carlile himself.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

The Times again

The Times is still taking an interest in St. Benedict's. It has published two stories recently. Extracts from the two articles are below.
Priest and teacher at Roman Catholic school charged with sexual abuse
David Brown and Sean O'Neill
November 25 2010 12:01AM

London Two former teachers at one of Britain’s top Roman Catholic schools have been been charged with sexually abusing a young pupil. Father David Pearce and John Mastrie are alleged to have repeatedly abused the boy while he was at St Benedict’s School in the late 1970s. The alleged victim contacted police after reading articles in The Times about allegations of historical abuse at the school, which is attached to the Benedictine monastery at Ealing Abbey, in West London. 

Priest charged with sexual assault of boy in London school
Sean O'Neill Crime Editor
December 4 2010 12:01AM

Two former teachers at a leading Roman Catholic independent school appeared in court yesterday charged with sexually assaulting a pupil.

Father David Pearce, 69, and John Maestri, 72, are accused of a series of assaults on the boy while he was attending St Benedict’s School, Ealing, West London, in 1978 and 1979.

The pupil, who was 11 at the time of the alleged incidents, contacted police in June in the wake of an investigation by The Times into allegations of child sex abuse at the school and at Ealing Abbey, the adjoining Benedictine monastery.

The men appeared before West London Magistrates’ Court in Hammersmith and spoke only to confirm their identities, ages and addresses. They did not enter any pleas to the charges under the Sexual Offences Act 1956 of indecently assaulting a boy under 16. Both will appear in court again next month. 
It seems likely that each hearing in the case is going to get reported by the Times. Hopefully this publicity will encourage more abuse survivors to come forward with their accounts.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Conflicts of Interest

Within about 10 minutes of me posting the article about the appearance in court of David Pearce and John Maestri, I received the first of a number of emails with links to Rule 3 of the Solicitor's Code of Conduct, which deals with conflicts of interest between clients. Some parts of Rule 3 deal primarily with conveyencing or dealing with competition for the same asset, but some parts of it have a more general applicability.
3.01 Duty not to act

(1) You must not act if there is a conflict of interests (except in the limited circumstances dealt with in 3.02).

(2) There is a conflict of interests if:

(a) you owe, or your firm owes, separate duties to act in the best interests of two or more clients in relation to the same or related matters, and those duties conflict, or there is a significant risk that those duties may conflict; or
(b)  your duty to act in the best interests of any client in relation to a matter conflicts, or there is a significant risk that it may conflict, with your own interests in relation to that or a related matter.
On the face of it, it seems clear that there is a conflict of interest between David Pearce and the Trust of St Benedict's, in that he is alleged to have harmed a pupil over whom the Trust had a duty of care. They have differing interests in the "the same or related matters", and it would seem to me that "there is a significant risk that those duties may conflict".

Tony Nelson is acting on behalf of David Pearce, and I understand also acted on behalf of Stanislaus Hobbs at the time of his trial in 2007, in defending both against charges that they sexually assaulted pupils of St. Benedict's School. There's nothing wrong with lawyers acting on behalf of clients accused of crimes, even unpleasant ones. Everyone deserves a fair trial and proper legal representation.

The difficulty arises when the same solicitor acts for another party in the same or a related matter. And in this case, it is Tony Nelson who has instructed Lord Carlile with regard to the inquiry into sexual abuse at St Benedict's School and Ealing Abbey.

This inquiry might conceivably uncover further evidence of wrongdoing by Pearce, with regard to the charges currently under consideration by the courts or with regard to other abuses which might lead to further criminal charges being laid. If Nelson is being energetic in his encouragement of Carlile in the inquiry, then it would seem that he is not acting in Pearce's best interest, and Pearce would be well advised to obtain alternative representation. On the other hand, if Nelson is acting in Pearce's best interest, then it would seem to me that he can only do so by ensuring that Carlile discovers as little as possible. If that is case, the integrity of the inquiry is compromised.

There are cases where a solicitor can act even where there is some degree of conflict of interest. These cases are spelled out in Rule 3.02.
3.02 Exceptions to duty not to act

(1)  You or your firm may act for two or more clients in relation to a matter in situations of conflict or possible conflict if:
(a) the different clients have a substantially common interest in relation to that matter or a particular aspect of it; and

(b) all the clients have given in writing their informed consent to you or your firm acting.

(2) Your firm may act for two or more clients in relation to a matter in situations of conflict or possible conflict if:

(a) the clients are competing for the same asset which, if attained by one client, will make that asset unattainable to the other client(s);

(b)  there is no other conflict, or significant risk of conflict, between the interests of any of the clients in relation to that matter;

(c) the clients have confirmed in writing that they want your firm to act in the knowledge that your firm acts, or may act, for one or more other clients who are competing for the same asset; and

(d)  unless the clients specifically agree, no individual acts for, or is responsible for the supervision of, more than one of those clients.

(3) When acting in accordance with 3.02(1) or (2) it must be reasonable in all the circumstances for you or your firm to act for all those clients.

(4) If you are relying on the exceptions in 3.02(1) or (2), you must:

(a) draw all the relevant issues to the attention of the clients before agreeing to act or, where already acting, when the conflict arises or as soon as is reasonably practicable, and in such a way that the clients concerned can understand the issues and the risks involved;

(b) have a reasonable belief that the clients understand the relevant issues; and

(c) be reasonably satisfied that those clients are of full capacity.
It isn't merely Tony Nelson's firm, Haworth and Gallagher, which is acting on behalf of the two clients, but Tony Nelsom himself in person. So only 3.02(1) applies, because there is a difference in wording between the start of 3.02(1) "You or your firm may act" and 3.02(2) "Your firm may act".

The exception in 3.02(1) is quite tightly defined. I have no doubt that Tony Nelson is wise enough to have obtained the written consent referred to in 3.02(1)(b). But the mere existence of the written consent isn't of itself enough. In addition, both he and the clients need to be justifiably of the opinion that "the different clients have a substantially common interest in relation to that matter or a particular aspect of it.

The Solictors Code of Conduct (page 49)has extensive guidance notes on how to interpret the rules on conflict of interest.
2. Conflict is defined as a conflict between the duties to act in the best interests of two or more different clients, or between your interests and those of a client. The definition appears in 3.01(2). This will encompass all situations where doing the best for one client in a matter will result in prejudice to another client in that matter or a related matter.

3. The definition of conflict in 3.01(2) requires you to assess when two matters are “related”. Subrule 3.01(3) makes it clear that if the two matters concern the same asset or liability, then they are “related”. Accordingly, if you act for one client which is negotiating with publishers for the publication of a novel, an instruction from another client alleging that the novel is plagiarised and breaches copyright would be a related matter.

4. However, there would need to be some reasonable degree of relationship for a conflict to arise. If you act for a company on a dispute with a garage about the cost of repairs to a company car, your firm would not be prevented from acting for a potential bidder for the company, even though the car is a minor asset of the company and would be included in the purchase. If you act for a client selling a business, you might conclude that your firm could also act for a prospective purchaser on the creation of an employee share scheme which would cover all the entities in the purchaser’s group, this work perhaps requiring the future inclusion of the target within the scheme and consideration as to whether this raised any particular issues.

5. In each case, you will need to make a judgement on the facts. In making this judgement, you might want to consider the view of your existing client where you are professionally able to raise the issue with him or her. You should also take care to consider whether your firm holds any confidential information from your existing client which would be relevant to the new instructions and if so, to ensure that you comply with rule 4 (Confidentiality and disclosure).
It seems to me that there clearly is "some reasonable degree of relationship" between Pearce and the Abbey. It also seems inevitable that some confidential information has been provided by one client or the other. It all seems extremely fishy.

I've no idea who is paying for Nelson to represent Pearce, whether it is coming out of the Legal Aid Fund, whether the Abbey is paying, or Pearce has some independent means. When the Charity Commission carried out its Statutory Inquiries into the Trust of St Benedict's, one of the issues considered concerned the civil case against "Individual A" and the Trust, and the fact that Individial A's representation was paid for out of charitable funds. They concluded that "given the circumstances of this particular case, it was arguable that this decision fell within the reasonable range of decisions available to the trustees".

But at least in the civil case, the two defendents were separately represented. Mr. Paul Stagg (instructed by Match Solicitors) represented Individual A, while Mr. Andrew Warnock (instructed by Beachcroft Wansboroughs) represented the Trustees.

I doubt that any complaint to the Solicitor's Regulatory Authority would get anywhere, and unless and until such a complaint were to be made and upheld, Nelson is able to continue to represent both clients. But it seems to me to be an unnecessary insult to the parents who hope and expect the Trustees to act properly, openly and in the best interests of the pupils of the school.

Even if the Trustees wanted to pay for Pearce's defence (and the Charity Commission agreed that it was OK for them to do so out of charitable funds), it wouldn't have been hard for a different solicitor to have been appointed and paid for, so that there would be no possibility of any conflict of interest. Why do the Trustees insist on sailing so close to the wind?

Do you really want to send your children to a school where the Trustees are prepared to act in this way?

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Father Kevin Horsey

The abuse at St Benedict's goes back a long way, and the ISI report hasn't found all those who have been involved in it.

Here is an account I was given a little earlier this year. The OP who provided it has given me permission to publish it, and has asked just to be called J.
I entered the Middle School in around 1964/5 aged ten or eleven. The Master of the Middle School, not known as the Headmaster in those days, was Father Kevin Horsey OSB.
I was sexually abused in my first year of the Middle School by Father Kevin. This took place in the old gym during the PT lessons. Father Kevin organised team games and the ‘resting’ team sat on the edge of the stage alongside Father Kevin. He sat you on his lap, in turn, and within minutes he would place his hand inside your PT shorts and fondle your genitals. This occurred frequently during the weekly PT lessons, and to many boys.

I did not know the significance of his actions at the time but have never forgotten them since. I can even remember his baggy khaki shorts forty six years later. It should be noted that for an eleven year old boy Father Kevin was an awesome figure in stature. In later life I would say that my main feelings have been of shame and anger. I have never mentioned this to anyone until this year.
Father Kevin Horsey died at Ealing Abbey on 28th November 2006, and was never brought to justice for this crime. According to his obituary on the OPA website, he joined Ealing Abbey (or Ealing Priory as it was then) in 1942.
Between 1942 and 1958 he taught Geography and RI (as it was then called) in the Upper School, was House Master of Powell and Upper 5th Division Master, and coached the Colts XV; he was a member of the London Society of Referees. He also commanded the CCF from 1942 to 1958 and, utilising contacts in the Irish Guards, he continued his military connection for several years by taking groups of cadets to visit army units in Germany. In 1958 he was moved to the Middle School and was Master in charge from 1961-5. He was then transferred to the Parish Team and worked fruitfully in his district for over twenty years. He had a parallel career in the Scout movement. He founded and was Group Scoutmaster of the 20th Ealing Scouts from 1942 to 1970, and served also as Borough Commissioner for Ealing and District Commissioner for Acton.
What outstanding opportunities to molest boys that must have provided him with! Teacher, Master of the Middle School, Rugby, CCF, trips to Germany, Scouts! For abuse to have been as casual, regular and blatant as J describes by 1964, he must have been supremely confident that nobody would report him, or that if they did, nobody would act on the reports. That would suggest that the abuse had been going on for a very long time.

J's account has of course been provided to Lord Carlile.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Pearce and Maestri in court

There was an initial hearing for Pearce and Maestri this morning at West London Magistrates Court. Both were present. No plea was entered by either of them, and the matter has been adjourned to a further hearing to be held on 5th January.

The hearing as far as I can tell was entirely routine, but it was worth going to even so, because one extremely interesting fact emerged. David Pearce was represented by Tony Nelson. Yes, the same Tony Nelson who is the school's solicitor. (As it happens he also represented Maestri on an emergency basis just for this hearing because Maestri's solicitor had got caught up in the weather and hadn't been able to arrive in time.)

So let me just see if I can get this straight in my head. Pearce has allegedly committed abuses at St. Benedict's school. And Tony Nelson, the school's own solicitor, represents him. And the same solicitor has instructed Lord Carlile, providing the terms of reference for an inquiry into abuses at the school in which Pearce allegedly had some part. So he is commissioning an inquiry into abuses at the same time as he is acting on behalf of one of the alleged perpetrators of those same abuses.

For obvious reasons, Pearce's interests are best served by the Carlile inquiry discovering as little as possible - let sleeping dogs lie and all that. But the school's interests are supposedly served by the inquiry discovering as much as possible, so that the school can take the necessary actions to make sure it can't happen again. Otherwise there would be no point in holding the inquiry.

If the school feels that its interests and those of Pearce are not in conflict, the school would have to have interests which are not in conflict with those of an alleged abuser who was formerly a monk and teacher there, and that would in turn mean that the school is also looking for Lord Carlile to learn as little as possible. If true, that would explain why the publicity for the inquiry has been so inadequate.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Welcome to the new Maths teacher!

Let me add my welcome to Mr. Cox on his arrival at St. Benedict's School, as announced in the November Headmaster's Newsletter, and express my hope that he has a successful and productive time at the school.

Let me add my thanks to Mrs Williams and Mrs de Mucha de Vila who have been covering maths classes since September, also as mentioned by the headmaster on the front page of the Newsletter.

And also let me note the complete absence of any information as to whose classes they have been covering or the reason for the need for that cover.

The cover of course had to be arranged because of the departure of the teacher suspended last term over allegations of abuse. I think that departure and the reasons for it might conceivably have justified a small mention in the newsletter, unless the headmaster is again industriously engaged in sweeping dirt under the carpet.

There may be some cause for embarrassment, as the departed teacher was a very long-serving member of staff. A friend has sent me a school photo dating from 1989 in which he appears. But the embarrassment is not going to go away by keeping quiet about it.

Let me say that I don't know all the relevant facts, or even enough of the facts to feel justified in naming the teacher concerned at this time. But there are some interesting questions that need to be asked.
  • Did he resign, or was he sacked?
  • Was a Notification promptly sent to the Independent Safeguarding Authority on his departure, stating all the relevant details of the case?
  • Was a compromise agreement used to ease his departure?
The way in which parents appear to have been kept in the dark is extremely fishy. If, as the headmaster stated at the safeguarding meeting in September, this case was unrelated to any of the other past cases referred to in the ISI report, then here was an ideal opportunity to polish up the school's image a bit.

There could have been a letter to parents saying that allegations had been made about the teacher concerned, that in accordance with school policy Social Services had been informed immediately, and the teacher had been suspended pending an investigation which had subsequently found enough evidence of misconduct to justify his departure.

This could have been proudly displayed as a sign that for all the past problems they have had, the school is now being vigilant about abuse and the rapid reporting of this incident indicates that the new policy is working well. There is no shame in there having been an incident of abuse - no school can guarantee that it will forever remain 100% free of such cases. The key point is to ensure that such cases are detected quickly, reported immediately and that action is taken so that the harm to children is kept to a minimum.

For all I know, that might have happened here. Any school would have every justification in claiming such an incident as a success and a demonstration of the effectiveness of its procedures. So it seems very odd that the school hasn't taken the opportunity to announce it as such.

There's obviously more to learn about this. I'll keep you posted if and when I discover it.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

St. Augustine's Priory

There seems to be something of a delay in the publication of the ISI inspection report for St. Augustine's Priory School. In July the headmistress made the following comment in a letter to parents.

Where is it?

I have delayed writing this letter to you in the hope that we would be in receipt of the ISI report. It has yet to materialise. When it does, the School will have the chance to correct factual inaccuracies and it will then go back to ISI for amendments and final editing and then be returned to us when we will have a fortnight within which to make it available to all parents.
I believe the ISI inspection took place in April. For publication of the report to be so far delayed is extremely unusual. Given the great problems that St. Benedict's has been having with safeguarding recently, which has resulted in the Trustees commissioning an inquiry by Lord Carlile into safeguarding failures there, I suspect that the ISI will be taking especial care over this report because of the association between St. Augustine's and Ealing Abbey. Father Gregory Chillman was until recently Chairman of Governors of the school and also Chaplain. The report has not yet been published on the ISI website, but when it finally does appear, you will be able to see it here.

And there is this odd statement about "factual inaccuracies" in the headmistress's letter. It is almost as if she is expecting that there will be statements in the report which she regards as factual inaccuracies. She is hardly likely to complain about factual inaccuracies which are complimentary about the school, so it would seem that she may be expecting adverse comment that she wishes to present to parents as being inaccurate.

And if there is adverse comment, given the sensitivity of the ISI to criticism about its ability to detect safeguarding problems, one can reasonably speculate that the ISI may have concerns about safeguarding at the school. Certainly the school's safeguarding policy is highly unimpressive, even though it has been comprehensively updated (in fact rewritten from scratch) as compared to the set of utterly useless procedure-free platitudes that the policy used to consist of at the beginning of this year.

The present version of the policy talks of "appropriate actions" far too often without defining what actions are appropriate, and doesn't specify that all allegations of child sexual abuse will automatically be reported to the LADO. According to section 2.4 of the policy, the EYFS Nominated Safeguarding Children Officer is supposed to report allegations to Ofsted and ISI. This is completely wrong, since those bodies are not investigating bodies and have no power to do anything with the report. The reports should go to the LADO. The latest version of the St. Benedict's Child Protection Policy (the third update published this year) has finally got round to making explicit reference to the LADO in its policy.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Comment policy

I normally operate a policy here of not deleting comments unless they are spam. However, now that charges have been made against Pearce and Maestri, I shall in addition delete any comment which in my opinion might be prejudical to a fair trial or leave me or the commenter open to allegations of contempt of court.

If it should become necessary, I will turn on comment moderation to ensure that comments remain within the law in this respect. I shall not delete comments merely because they are derogatory towards me.

UPDATE: On reflection and having received advice, I have decided to turn on comment moderation with immediate effect for all articles on this blog.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

More charges

According to the Ealing Today website, Father David Pearce and John Maestri have both been charged with child abuse offences dating from the late 1970s. Although the report doesn't specifically say so, it would appear that the victim or victims of these alleged offences are pupils of St. Benedict's, since both were teachers at St. Benedict's at the time.

Mr. Cleugh and Mr. Simmons (the senior and junior school headmasters) have written to parents. Their letter has included the following. "We ask for your prayers for all affected by these latest allegations and for the School at this difficult time.''

Now that is a very odd thing to say. They asking for your prayers for those affected by the allegations. That means thay are asking for your prayers primarily for Pearce and Maestri themselves, as they are most affected by the allegations. And then they are asking for prayers for the school "at this difficult time". There is no suggestion that you should pray for the victims of the alleged crimes.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

The Telegraph Advert

I've now had a chance to see the advert placed in the Telegraph on October 22nd. Now I have seen it, I understand why I and my friends missed it. You can see and understand as well.

It is possible that you find that unreasonably small to read. You can expand it to see what it says by clicking on the graphic above, but then it will be far larger than it actually appeared in the paper. I've looked in detail at the advert, and I can tell that the body of the advert was printed in Georgia font (or a font very siilar to Georgiam with a the characteristic descending capital J) , at a size of 4.5pt, (to the nearest 0.5 pt). This is the text repeated, in 4.5pt Georgia.
An enquiry is being undertaken by Queen's Counsel, Lord Carlile of Berriew, in relation to events at St Benedict’s School, Ealing and Ealing Abbey, which have given rise to adverse publicity. The terms of reference are:
• The history of abuse allegations and findings made by and/or concerning pupils at St Benedict’s School.
• The history of abuse allegations and findings made in connection with Ealing Abbey, and anyone involved in any
    activities at the Abbey.
• The action taken in respect of the matters described in paragraphs 1 and 2 above.
• Past and present policies, written or otherwise, for dealing with such abuse allegations and findings.
• A future policy for the effective protection of young persons by whom any such allegations are made.
• An effective complaints system, and the provision of information about such a system.
• Files and paperwork concerning complaints.   
• Other reassurance for present and prospective students and their parents/guardians.
• Issues concerning presence at the Abbey or School of persons who have been the subject of findings and/or allegations.
Anybody wishing to provide evidence to the enquiry should do so in writing within 28 days to:
Lord Carlile of Berriew QC   
c/o 9-12 Bell Yard   
London, WC2A 2JR

I challenge you to copy and paste that into a Word document, format it using Georgia font at 4.5pt, and then print it and see if you can read it. Remember that the paper loaded into your printer is much better quality than newsprint, and that text is correspondingly more legible because of the higher contrast.

That is the sum total of the advertising campaign for the inquiry in the national press. As far as I am aware, there have been no other adverts placed in any other national paper. So much for the headmaster's promise that "adverts would be placed in local and national newspapers", and Carlile's statement to me at our meeting that there would be "a further round of adverts in the national press". One advert, with text so small as to be illegible if you don't use a magnnifying glass.

I think there is now every reason believe that it is not the Trustees' intention for the Carlile inquiry to uncover the truth about abuse at the school. The balance of the evidence seems strongly towards ensuring that Carlile discovers as little as possible about the past abuses at the school, by ensuring that as few victims as possible get to hear of the inquiry.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The Advertising Campaign

As far as I can tell, the adverts promised by the Abbot to publicise Lord Carlile's inquiry have amounted to exactly three adverts.
  1. An advert on page 17 of the Ealing Gazette on 24th September.
  2. An advert in the Eveing Standard on or around 3th October.
  3. A very small advert in the Daily Telegraph on 22nd October.
The easiest way to contact Lord Carlile, one which he himself recommended,  was via his Parliament email address. So of course, his email address was not included on any of the adverts in the papers, nor was it included in the Call for Evidence on the school website. Curiously, the email address was included in the email sent out to Old Priorians, and is shown on the homepage of the OPA website.

The Telegraph ad is particilarly pitiful. It is very small (about 3 inches by 1.5), and the text is so small as to be more or less unreadable without a magnifying glass. It was published on a Friday (generally regarded as being the day with the lowest circulation for national papers) and it was tucked away among the legal notices which is a part of the paper nobody reads unless they are a lawyer..

The headmaster promised that adverts would be placed in local and national newspapers. So he hasn't quite lied, in that adverts have been placed in more than one paper, and at least one local and one national newspaper have been represented. But it is perfectly clear that the advertising has been the most minimal that could possibly be regarded as consistent with the letter of the promise.

If you are a parent who attended the meeting on 14th September I would be interested to know whether this level of publicity is consistent with what you understood was promised at the meeting.

When I met Lord Carlile on 12th October, he told me that there would be "a further round of advertisements in the national papers" in the next week. Plural for advertisements and plural for papers. I've raised this with Lord Carlile since, saying that if he was told that there would be adverts, he has been lied to. One advert in one paper does not make a round by any reasonable meaning of the word.

Publicity in the national papers is very important. Former pupils of the school live all over the country, indeed all over the world. Therefore adverts in the Ealing Gazette or Evening Standard aren't going to reach many of them.

Those who have been abused are in general going to have moved away from the area in much higher proportions than others, in order to try and leave their bad memories behind. For the same reason they are less likely to have kept in touch through the OPA.

It very much appears to me that the adverts have been carefully crafted to involve as little publicity for the inquiry as possible, and to ensure that victims are under-represented in those reached by the publicity. And Lord Carlile appears to be going along with this.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Little Ted's

From today's Guardian website.

Poor regulation, inadequate staff training and a lack of supervision created an "ideal environment" in which nursery worker Vanessa George could abuse children in her care, a serious case review concluded today. The regulator Ofsted was criticised for not picking up concerns about Little Ted's nursery in Plymouth, where George sexually assaulted infants.

Members of the Plymouth Safeguarding Children Board, which carried out the review, found the inspection regime was a "tick box" exercise and called for the government to look at the way checks are carried out by the regulator.
It's worth remembering that Ofsted is responsible for quality assessment of the ISI, who carried out successive inspections of St. Benedict's School without finding anything amiss. Coincidence? I think not.

And Ofsted has recently praised the quality of the ISI's inspections.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Adverts in the national press

At the parents meeting on 14th September, it was promised that adverts publicising the Carlile inquiry would be placed in local and national newspapers.

I've seen one in the Ealing Gazette. I haven't seen any in the national papers. Has anybody else made any sightings? Or has the school been a bit economical with the truth on this?

Monday, 1 November 2010

The original "independent review" at Ealing Abbey and St. Benedict's School

You might remember that the Carlile inquiry is not the first "independent review" that the Abbot has commissioned. The school website already has this document: Ealing Abbey – Independent Review Feb 2010 Summary.

I analysed the document in a previous article. But I've now learned a bit more about how that review was conducted. The original publication did not identify who the review was conducted by. However, the ISI Supplementary Report stated that the review was carried out by the safeguarding officer of the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton.

A friend of mine phoned him up, and the conversation was most illuminating. The safeguarding officer told him that:
  • He had only been on the premises for a morning.
  • He had only examined paperwork and had not carried out any interviews.
  • He inferred that Pearce had committed more than one crime but was not aware of the extent of his offending.
  • He believed that he had done what the Trustees had asked him to do.
  • The report looked at how to move forward rather than thoroughly investigating past allegations.
  • He believed that the summary published on the school website was a fair reflection of his original report.
Now, remember that Abbot Martin wrote a letter to all parents on 2nd October 2009, the day Pearce was sentenced for a series of crimes on dates ranging from 1972 to 2007. He started by saying:
Fr David Pearce, who taught at St Benedict’s from 1976-1992, pleaded guilty on 10th August to serious criminal offences against children and has now been sentenced to 8 years imprisonment.
And later in the letter he said:

I am instructing an independent review into this matter to examine what there is to be learned in order to ensure that there can never be a recurrence of this situation.
"This matter" can only reasonably be read as meaning all of Pearce's crimes, as referred to in the first sentence of his letter. And "a recurrence of this situation" can only reasonably be read as meaning the failure to prevent Pearce from continuing to offend over such a long period of time. But when the Abbot commissioned the review from the safeguarding officer of the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton, he didn't actually tell him what crimes Pearce had been convicted of. Apart from the one Pearce committed while on restricted ministry this was left to him to infer!

About the only defence the Abbot has is that he didn't explicitly say what he meant by "this matter" and "this situation", so he was free to define them in whatever way he wanted, irrespective of the impression a reasonable reader would have received from the letter. He is free to ignore most of Pearce's 35-year paedophile career even though any reasonable person would expect an inquiry to look at why he operated within the Abbey unhindered for so long, even being placed in a senior position at the school.

And of course the Abbot did choose to ignore all this, and the "independent review" addressed only the procedures of the Abbey, not of the school, and addressed only the failure to supervise Pearce adequately once he was on a restricted ministry, not the failure to ascertain earlier the danger he posed to children and take action to protect them.

And the summary of the report (carefully stripped of any information that might identify those who had conducted the review) was put up on the school website as a reassurance to parents that all is now well with the school, even though the school was not included in the terms of reference and the school's procedures were not examined. If the ISI and the DfE hadn't got involved after I raised the issue with them, then this would have been an end to the matter, Lord Carlile would not have been asked to conduct another review, and there wouldn't have been even the minimal improvements to the school's child protection policy that have been made this year.

In the circumstances, with regard to this most recent "independent review" being conducted by Lord Carlile it is fair to wonder whether the Trustees have again deliberately withheld information, so that the inquiry can find out as little as possible and its conclusions can be as reassuring as possible. Obviously, they can't be quite as blatant about it as they were last time round, and obviously Lord Carlile is now in possession of far more information that the poor old safeguarding officer of the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton was ever allowed access to. I have no doubt that they have told Lord Carlile that he can ask anybody about anything related to the matter, but if he doesn't know the right questions to ask because the Trustees haven't told him all he ought to know, he's not in a position to issue a comprehensive report.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The Paul Foot Award

Sean O'Neill and David Brown of The Times have been Highly Commended in the judging for another award, the Paul Foot Award for the best investigative campaigning journalism of the year. According to Private Eye their commendation is for their report "on the failure of Ealing Abbey to protect children from a known paedophile priest".

Congratulations again.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

What a joke!

Ofsted has just issued a notice in which it pats itself and the other inspectorates on the back for all the good work they are doing.
Ofsted has praised the quality of inspections carried out by the three inspectorates (other than Ofsted) that inspect independent schools - and advised them on how to continue improving their inspection services.


In our recent letters to the inspectorates, Ofsted noted that all inspectorates were operating well and met the standards for an approved inspection body in independent schools.

Ofsted also recognised the expertise of the lead inspectors across all the inspectorates, the good evidence base they gathered to substantiate judgements, their good communication and engagement with schools and the fact they all took safeguarding very seriously. Their reports were clear and useful to schools.
In the 2010 report letter on the quality of the inspections and reports by the ISI, written by Christine Gilbert, HM Chief Inspector of Schools (i.e. the head of Oftsed) to Christine Ryan, Chief Inspector of the ISI, Gilbert is full of praise for the professionalism and efficiency of the ISI inspectors. The letter was written on 25th August 2010. It makes no mention of safeguarding or child protection. It makes no mention of any shortcomings in this area, with respect to St, Benedict's or any other school (and there have been failings at other schools as well).

This is praise for the ISI inspectors who completely missed the clear regulatory failings in the Child Protection Policy at St. Benedict's School, and who only noticed that there were any problems when they made a further visit at the insistence of the DfE, who had in turn been told by a member of the public (i.e. me) about convictions of former teachers during the current inspection period.

What a joke. What a sick joke.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Yet another update to the Child Protection Policy

St Benedict's School has published its third version this year of its Child Protection and Safeguarding Policy, and its second version in September.

I've checked through the new version. The changes are solely in Appendix 2. Last month I described some Continuing shortcomings in the Child Protection Policy. These have mostly not been addressed in the newest version. The main improvement in the policy is to make it clearer that referrals of allegations to outside authority should specifically go to the LADO (Local Authority Designated Officer for child protection).

But Appendix 2 is still contradicted by various other bits of the policy. Although Appendix 2 mentions the LADO, section 23 simply mentions "the Social Services Department", and Section 22 mentions referral to SSD as well. because of these sorts of contradictions (there are far more than I have mentioned here) even this third version of the Child Protection Policy is still too full of holes to be worth much.

A child protection policy and procedure shouldn't be all that hard to write and to write clearly. In circumstance X, you do Y. Make sure that X and Y are adequately defined. Make sure that you don't have two different Ys for the same X in different parts of the document. Make sure that overall you cover all contingencies that you can think of as being reasonably plausible. For the unanticipated events, have a default situation of asking for guidance from the appropriate people in Social Services - the LADO for adult-on-child abuse, Childrens Services for child-on-child abuse.

This isn't hard to do. For the school to have such a poor child protection policy even at the third attempt this year means they really aren't trying. They are looking to make the minimum changes they think that they can get away with in terms of persuading the ISI and DfE that they have met the regulatory requirements. There is no sign of any interest in fulfilling Recommendation 2 of the ISI Supplementary Report, to "render the safeguarding policy a model of excellence in its wording, implementation and review".

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Call for Evidence on the OPA website

Lord Carlile's Call for Evidence has been placed on the home page of the OPA website. An email has also been sent to everybody on the OPA email list.

The text of the Call for Evidence on the OPA site is the same as that which was published in the Gazette, but with the addition of Lord Carlile's email address

However, the home pages of the school and abbey websites still make no reference to the Call for Evidence. 

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Meeting with Lord Carlile

Some friends and I met Lord Carlile today to discuss the sex abuse scandal at St. Benedict's School as part of his inquiry, and it was a very constructive meeting.

Lord Carlile has asked that the meeting remain private, and that I do not blog about what was said at the meeting until after he produces his report, and I have agreed to this. However there were two points which he is happy for me to repeat here.

The first concerns allegations of criminal activities. He expressed the view that if anybody wishes to come forward with allegations about David Pearce, then it would be advisable to do so sooner rather than later. The more time that passes, the greater the likelihood that Pearce's lawyers would be able to get any prosecutions struck down for abuse of process because of the delays involved. I might not have the form of words that he used exactly right, but this is the essence of it. So if you are a victim or a witness and have an account of abuse by Pearce, then his suggestion is that you should come forward and give a statement to the police about it as soon as possible.

The second point concerns the timetable for the inquiry, and specifically the closing date for the Call for Evidence. Apparently there are further notices going into the national papers this week, and he intends treating the 28 day period as starting from when these final notices are published, so that means the end of that period will be on or around 10th November. But he made it very clear that he doesn't regard that as a hard cutoff. Submissions that arrive a bit after that date will be considered if at all possible, though of course submissions that arrive very late, once the final report writing is underway, probably will not be able to get very much consideration. The date should be regarded as a target rather than as a limit beyond which submissions will not be considered. That said, if you have a contribution and you can get it to him within the 28-day period, he would find that helpful.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

You couldn't make it up!

The Call for Evidence is now on the school website - in the same inaccessible spot as the terms of reference.

Home page -> Information for Parents -> School Policies and other Information -> Call for Evidence by Lord Carlile QC

Let me make it easier for you. It is here.

It has the same form of words as the advert in the Gazette, with the same 28 day time limit, but the document is undated, so you can't tell when the 28 days started.

You couldn't make it up!

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Publicising Carlile

So, we are nearly 3 weeks on from when Carlile's inquiry and its terms of reference were announced in the parents' meeting, and about 2 months on from when the Times first broke the story of the Carlile inquiry. I think it is about time we had a look at what the Trustees have done to ensure that people can contact Carlile to contribute evidence.

First let me describe what was promised at the parents' meeting on 14th September:
  1. Lord Carlile would be at the school on 5th October, and any parent who wished to speak to him could make an appointment via the headmaster's secretary Mrs. Simmonds.
  2. Notice of the inquiry would be placed in national and local newspapers, so that people can contact Lord Carlile directly at his chambers, and that parents could do this if they wished by email.
So far it appears that there has been one advert placed in last week's Ealing Gazette, on page 17. It provided a postal address to contact Lord Carlile, but no email address, although that had been promised. The advert failed to mention the word ‘crimes’ or ‘convictions’ and failed to mention that the inquiry is on the subject of child sexual abuse at St. Benedict’s school.

Although friends have been looking out for the adverts in the national press, there have been no sightings of any so far. If you happen to see one, do please email me to let me know.

The Terms of Reference are on the school website, in what web designers call a "level 4" location. i.e. one that can only be reached by at least 3 levels of link from the home (level 1) page of the site.

Currently on the home page of St Benedict’s we have the understandably vital announcement that there are a series of ‘Open Mornings and Evenings’ for which dates and times are provided. We also have the Latest News box on the home page which informs us of the following highly important events:
  • International Music Festival Success
  • Open House in The Cloisters
  • Four Shipwrecks, a Wedding and a Funeral
  • Historic first Tournament Win for U12 Netball Team
  • Lower Fourth Green and Orchard Picnic
  • Papal Visit – Twickenham and the Big Assembly
  • A day to remember at Lord’s
  • New Outdoor Play Area in Junior School
  • Fencing Victory against Eton
  • ‘Deutsche Abenteur’ at the German School

But strangely, no mention at all of an inquiry being conducted into child sex abuse at the school.

No one in web design expects any visitor to find anything posted in a level 4 location. And interestingly, even the level 4 page is lacking some rather important information. All of the following is missing.
  • The timetable for the inquiry.
  • Who the inquiry team wish to hear from
  • Whether discussions with Lord Carlile will be confidential
  • When it is expected that the report will be issued.
  • Contact details and methods of contributing to the inquiry
  • Location and dates of meetings
  • Contact details for Lord Carlile
The people most likely to have suffered child sex abuse in the past at St Benedict's School are the former pupils there. In other words, Old Priorians. The school knows how to contact Old Priorians - there is even an OPA email list for getting OPA and school news out to them. An obvious step would be to send out an email to the OPA mailing list to tell them about the inquiry and explain how they could get in touch and give evidence if they wished to. I have friends who are OPA members and on the email list. No such email has been received by them.

The overwhelming impression is that the school is keeping as quiet as possible about this inquiry, and doing all it can to ensure as few people as possible try to contact Lord Carlile. Then Carlile can produce a report saying that he didn't receive much evidence of abuse at the school, and this can be presented to parents as suggesting that it is all a storm in a teacup.

But if nobody (apart from readers of this blog) knows about the inqury, then the fact that Carlile receives relatively few submissions isn't evidence of anything at the school.

Parents, this is the kind of manipulation that is going on. The Trustees show no sign of any interest in having the inquiry get at the truth, they want an inquiry that can be presented as showing there is no evidence of widespread abuse.

And you might also like to consider that delay of a month between the ISI Supplementary Report being issued and copies of it being provided to you. Might it possibly be that in the intervening time, your cheques for the next term's school fees had to be sent? Of course, that wasn't the stated reason for the delay, the stated reason was that it would be impractical to contact parents during the holiday period. Of course it would. A letter might remain on your doormat for  whole fortnight before being opened. So to prevent that, they delayed sending it for a month instead. Much more practical. Definitely. No question.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

The Bevins Prize

The shortlist for the 2010 Bevins Prize for investigative journalism has been announced.

The Times's Sean O'Neil and David Brown are on the shortlist for their investigation into the child sex abuse scandal centred on Ealing Abbey and St Benedict's school.

These are some of the articles written by The Times back in April.

Britain’s top Catholic ‘protected’ paedophile

The Catholic boy abused by Father David Pearce whose life fell apart

Catholic Church’s bluster over child abuse puts its good work at risk

Archbishop of Westminster ‘dodged apology over sexual abuse’

Congratulations to Sean, David and The Times.

Monday, 27 September 2010

28 Days

A comment left on the Call For Evidence article said this:
Abuse at St Benedict's has been going on for decades and we have 28 days to submit our evidence!
Of course, he's right. It is completely unreasonable for this to be limited in this way. I've been contacted in private by a significant number of victims of abuse at the school. I know how hard it was for them even to make a private and confidential approach to me. Some of them have gone on to make a report to the police, some have not yet felt able.

Among those who have made a report, in some cases it took a gradual process of encouragement over several weeks before they finally plucked up the courage to pick up the phone and make the call. For the inquiry to go in just 28 days from an impersonal (and obscurely worded) ad in the local paper to victims coming forward with cogent accounts of events which they had suppressed in their memories for anything up to 40 years is just not remotely plausible.

There are only two possible explanations of this.
  1. Those who placed the ad have not the faintest idea of the psychological effect abuse has on children.
  2. Those who placed the ad have deliberately designed the ad in order to get the most minimal possible response.
The ad also omits issues of absolutely vital importance to any victims who might be considering contributing. Issues such as confidentiality - Will my name be published? Will the details of my experiences be given to the school? Will contributing to the inquiry in any way affect my rights to make a civil claim or to report a crime to the police? Would contibuting to the inquiry in any way impede ongoing police investigations?

I sent Lord Carlile an email saying that I had advised any victims who might be considering civil action to consult with their solicitors before making a decision about participating, and that similarly I had advised those who had made statements to the police and where there were ongoing police investigations to check with the police to ensure that any contribution would not hamper police enquiries. He replied as follows.
You are right to suggest that the persons you mention should obtain independent legal advice. I expect such advice to be to the effect that anything said to me will not risk compromise of other proceedings - not least because it is not my intention to publish the material they provide in an attributable manner.
That's fine, but this is the first knowledge I had that  he would not publish such material "in an attributable manner". That ought to have been included in the ad, not in an email reply to me. And unless that intention is published, then any legal advice provided by victims from their solicitors can't make the assumption that the information will be treated confidentially.

Then there are issues of the location of any meetings. Lord Carlile appears to be assuming that for his own convenience and the convenience of those who live near the school, meetings will be held at the school itself, and people will be waiting in the school for the previous meeting to end so they can go in for their own discussion. Nothing could be better calculated to discourage people to come forward than the idea that they would have to return to the scene of the crime in order to give evidence about it. I have arranged to meet Lord Carlile at his chambers. You can too. It is neutral ground, in Central London, away from the school. But it shouldn't be me assuring you of this, this should have been included in the original ad - if the aim was to encourage people to come forward.

Given that a current teacher is under investigation, and there are indications that the abuse has been going on for decades, even if the school were overnight to change so radically that no new abuse were to occur starting tomorrow, the chances are that as past victims gather the courage to come forward, there is going to be a long "tail" to this matter, as people perhaps 30 years hence come forward with complaints of abuse that they suffered at the school in their childhood. The inquiry cannot and will not be the end of the matter.

If you are a victim, even if you find yourself unable to contribute evidence to the Carlile inquiry, that doesn't in any way affect your right to go to the police later on with a description of the abuse you suffered, whenever you find that you have the strength to do so. The Carlile inquiry is entirely separate from any police investigations and has a different purpose.

I've been calling for an independent inquiry since my very first article on this topic back in August last year. I can hardly refuse to co-operate now that it has been set up and I've been invited to give evidence, no matter what my reservations might be about how it has been organised. So I'm going to tell Carlile all I know, subject to the promises of confidentiality I have made to the victims who have contacted me.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Call for Evidence

An advert has appeared in this week's Ealing Gazette, top left quarter of page 17. The wording is as follows:

An enquiry is being undertaken by Queen's Counsel, Lord Carlile of Berriew, in relation to events at St. Benedict's School, and Ealing Abbey, which have given rise to adverse publicity. The terms of reference are:
  • The history of abuse allegations and findings made by and/or at St Benedict’s School.
  • The history of abuse allegations and findings made in connection with Ealing Abbey, and anyone involved in any activities at the Abbey.
  • The action taken in respect of the matters described in paragraphs 1 and 2 above.
  • Past and present policies, written or otherwise, for dealing with such abuse allegations and findings.
  • A future policy for the effective protection of young persons by whom any such allegations are made.
  • An effective complaints system, and the provision of information about such a system.
  • Files and paperwork concerning complaints.
  • Other reassurance for present and prospective students and their parents/guardians.
  • Issues concerning presence at the Abbey or School of persons who have been the subject of findings and/or allegations.
Anybody wishing to provide evidence to the enquiry should do so in writing within 28 days to:

Lord Carlile of Berriew QC
c/o 9-12 Bell Yard
London, WC2A 2JR
Quite frankly, unless anybody already knew about what the publicity has been all about, I doubt very much that this advert would enlighten them. As I've mentioned before, the terms of reference aren't even grammatically stated, and this version is even worse than the one which appears on the school website, in that the numbered list of points has been converted into a bulleted list, making it that much less clear what "paragraphs 1 and 2" are.

But the thing that I think can be discerned from this advert is the true objective of the Trustees. The advert doesn't once mention "sexual abuse" or the harm done to victims, but instead coyly refers to "events" and "allegations", as if these allegations had not already been substantiated in four separate criminal trials and one civil action. Most tellingly, the first paragraph mentions that these events "have given rise to adverse publicity".

That seems to be the primary concern of the Trustees, spelled out in the first paragraph of the advert. The objective is to find a way of damping down the adverse publicity, not to find out the extent to which sexual assaults have been endemic within the school over decades.

I doubt that Lord Carlile saw the wording of this advert before it was approved for publication. But in due course I will be able to find out.

If you are a victim of sexual abuse at the school or the Abbey, then I have the plea for you: Please go to the police and report it. It doesn't matter if the abuse happened last week, last year, 10 or 30 or even 50 years ago. It doesn't matter if the perpetrator is now dead or already in prison. It doesn't matter if you feel that the abuse you suffered is "relatively minor". Any kind of sexual abuse can be thought of as "relatively minor" compared to forcible rape or buggery, but many kinds are nonetheless illegal and can wreck the victims' lives.

You may feel that there is no point - that it would be your word against your abuser's. But if several different victims of the same abuser all come forward, then it is no longer a matter of the unsupported word of one victim. So by coming forward you might not only obtain justice for yourself, but also help others to obtain that justice, and help ensure that pupils at the school today are made more safe.

The police can use every piece of information that is provided to them. The more they have, the more detailed is the picture they can build of those who have been involved, either in actual abuse or as an accessory to crimes by engaging in a cover-up, procuring the silence of victims.

Paedophile abusers depend on obtaining the silence of their victims, through fear, shame or misplaced loyalty. And they are very good at instilling all these. Abusers who are Catholic priests have all the magisterial authority of the Catholic Church to draw on, they can fill you with fear that you will be condemned to hell if you tell, they can threaten you or your family with ruination, they can tell you that nobody would believe you. They can make claims on your loyalty because of other help or assistance they have provided to you or your family, they can say how much harm would be done to the school (and to your education) if you were to have to leave or he were to stop teaching you. Because they have worked themselves into positions of trust and authority, they are especially dangerous, because parents have trusted them with the care of their children.

If you decide you are able to come forward and report crimes to the police, it is worth also considering providing a submission to Lord Carlile's inquiry. Any contribution to that can go wider than merely describing crimes against you. You can describe the overall atmosphere and culture of the school, so he can decide whether that contributed to allowing the sexual abuse to remain hidden for so long.

Let's tell Lord Carlile what has really been going on. Write to him, ask for a meeting. He may suggest that he meets with you at the school, but if the school holds bad or fearful memories for you, you are under absolutely no obligation to meet him there.

I shall be meeting Lord Carlile, and after the recent unpleasantness outside the school gates, I have told him that it would be entirely inappropriate to meet on school premises. I have made an appointment to meet him at his chambers in Bell Yard. If you want to meet him to go through your account in person, you can make the same request.

Lord Carlile has requested that the meeting be private, in that no account of it (beyond the fact that a meeting has taken place) is published before he issues his report. My guess is that this request is being made as a matter of course to all those he is arranging to meet, and I think that is fair enough, though I've pointed out that it's not reasonable for other accounts to be suppressed in perpetuity should publication of his report be cancelled or unreasonably delayed.

As I understand it, the Call for Evidence advert will also be placed in the national papers as well. If you happen to see one please let me know. I've suggested to Lord Carlile that the call for evidence should also be placed on the Abbey and School websites, included in a letter to all parents, and sent out as an email to everybody on the OPA mailing list. To the best of my knowledge none of this has been done so far.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Reporting abuse to the police

A comment today on my previous article raises some important issues, sufficiently important that I'm going to repeat part of the comment here and respond rather than simply reply in another comment on the other article.

The kind of dilemmas I face in coming forward include (1) is my own complaint enough - an allegation that one of the three parties under investigation would regularly squeeze my thigh high-up during regular extra coaching sessions as a tongue-in-cheek and slow punishment for getting answers wrong? It's horrible to have to explain it and even worse if it doesn't help the police make a case.(2)Although I know this is wrong, one cannot help having a sense of guilt about betraying Benedictines who, along with abuse, did actually help me a lot, and I have had it said to me by a former old boy contemporary that to go public with any complaint would be a very wicked thing to do. It would certainly upset a lot of people if they were to know.
I do entirely sympathise with your dilemma, and have heard similar things expressed by other victims, both at St. Benedict's and elsewhere. Your concerns and reactions are entirely normal for the situation you find yourself in.

Let's deal with the individual points in turn.

Is my own complaint enough? By itself, perhaps not enough for a criminal prosecution. But it might help police discern part of a larger pattern of abuse which enables them to move forward with a prosecution. There's also the matter of Lord Carlile's inquiry which I'm going to discuss again in another article soon.

It's horrible to have to explain it. I wholly sympathise. I've heard the same from others. This is a major reason so few victims ever come forward, and why it is that of those who do come forward it takes so many of them decades to summon the courage. But if you can summon that courage, I think that you will find that in the long run it helps you with the rest of your life, it will be a bit of control you have wrested from those who would have you remain silent and helpless. From what I've seen of other victims, taking power back in this way often does wonders for the person's confidence and self-esteem.

It's even worse if it doesn't help the police make a case. If you don't come forward, it can't possibly help the police. But you know from other arrests and prosecutions that the police have taken an interest, and that their interest is continuing. The chances are that it will help, even if it is only in a small way. And of course, if you don't come forward, there is perhaps an increased chance that other children will end up suffering as you did.

Although I know this is wrong, one cannot help having a sense of guilt about betraying Benedictines who, along with abuse, did actually help me a lot.  Gary Glitter had some good songs as well, and those songs gave a lot of enjoyment to people in his day. That doesn't make the abuses right, nor mean that he didn't deserve to go to jail for them. And of course, it was only because they worked themselves into positions of trust and authority that those Benedictines were able to have access to so many children and were so able to do so much damage to them. Some of the monks and priests who didn't actually participate in the abuse are undoubtedly complicit by themselves remaining silent in the face of anything that they have seen and heard. The fact is that the good they did is what they said that they were supposed to do.

I have had it said to me by a former old boy contemporary that to go public with any complaint would be a very wicked thing to do. This old boy is saying that it is OK for priests to abuse children and not OK for the abuse to be reported. I'll leave it to you to decide what form of morality this represents.

It would certainly upset a lot of people if they were to know. Social pressures. Who do you think has been involved in building up those social pressures? Amongst others, it is the very priests who have been involved in the abuses. Clever career paedophiles go to great efforts to burnish their outward appearance of respectability.

Paedophile abusers thrive on secrecy and silence. They rely on their victims not coming forward. The main reason it is so difficult to come forward is that imperative not to tell was imprinted at an emotional level long before your rational mind was sufficiently developed to question and reject an order of this kind coming from somebody in such a position of high authority.

Some victims have gone on to make statements to the police after contacting me privately. The reports that I have had of the interview process are that it is handled sensitively, that time is given where necessary for coffee or smoke breaks to allow the victim to recover his composure after going through a difficult part of the interview, and the officers conducting the interview are specialists in investigating this kind of crime.

If you come forward and live in the London area, you will probably be invited to come to Northwood Police Station to give your statement, and be interviewed by one or more officers of the Northwood Child Abuse Investigation Team.

If you live elsewhere in the country and reaching London is difficult for you, then as I understand it what normally happens is that you will be interviewed by officers from a Child Abuse Investigation Team from your local police force, and your statement and a videotape of the interview is sent to Northwood.

This is what will probably happen if you are a victim of abuse at St. Benedict's. If you happen to have come across this blog having been abused elsewhere, the procedure will of course vary to some extent - it will be a different Child Abuse Investigation team which investigates your case.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Continuing shortcomings in the Child Protection Policy

I have to say that as a result of the DfE having a hissy-fit about the May 2010 version of the Child Protection policy, the new September 2010 version is somewhat better. But it would have required a very serious effort to make it worse than the May 2010 version, so saying it is an improvement isn't that much of a commendation. There certainly isn't enough of an improvement to justify the policy being described as "good" or even "adequate". It still has very serious deficiencies. These are some of the most obvious:

Section 22 deals with the duties of the Designated Teacher, but does not specify what the Designated Teacher will actually do on receiving a report or allegation of abuse, but rather there is a list of things which the Designated Teacher "will take into account". This kind of wriggle-room is precisely what a Child Protection Policy ought not to have.

The training requirements with regard to safeguarding remain wholly inadequate. Section 9 specifies that the Designated Teachers and deputies shall receive "basic child protection training and training in inter-agency working and will attend refresher training at two yearly intervals". Other staff, according to section 16(h) are to undertake "appropriate training including refresher training at three-yearly intervals". What is "appropriate" is not specified, but is presumably less than the "basic" training specified for the Designated Teachers. This falls far short of the recommendations of the Ealing Safeguarding Children Board, as indicated in their Training brochure. This document indicates that the Ealing SCB Target Group 3 training is suitable for Designated Teachers and people with comparable levels of responsibility for safeguarding matters, while Target Group 2 training appears to be the level suitable for other teaching staff, and Target Group 1 is suitable for ancillary staff who have occasional contact with pupils. Only the Target Group 1 training could reasonably be described as "basic". The Child Protection Policy should be specific in describing the required levels of training, and should reflect the recommendations of the local Safeguarding Children Board.

The ISI supplementary report mentions that a member of the Board of School Advisers has been appointed as the "child protection governor". However, this person's name and duties are not stated anywhere in the Child Protection Policy. Also, the policy makes reference in section 31 to "Other staff with Child Protection responsibilities", but does not describe what their responsibilities and duties are. There's no point in having such positions unless there is some description of what the occupants of those positions are supposed to do.

Appendix 2 appears to have been copied and pasted whole from the policy of another school. No attempt has been made to harmonise the text with the rest of the policy. An obvious example is that Appendix 2 refers to "Child Protection Officers" rather than "Designated Teachers". It is clearly necessary that this new Appendix is properly integrated into the policy and that any necessary consequential changes to other clauses are made, to ensure that there is no contradiction or confusion between potentially conflicting requirements in different clauses.

Although the policy is now clearer about always referring cases to Social Services, it doesn't state that allegations of adult-on-child abuse shall always be referred specifically to the Local Authority Designated Officer for Child Protection (LADO). This needs to be changed.

The policy is silent on the procedures to be followed on completion of a police or Social Services investigation, either in terms of what to do with a teacher pending a criminal trial, or in terms of what procedures to follow if the case is passed back to the school for further investigation and/or disciplinary action under the school's internal procedures. This is a particular concern, since the school is presumably applying these non-existent procedures to the current investigation of the suspended teacher.

Section 30 requires that the Designated Teacher shall monitor the operation of the policy and procedures. Since a large proportion of the procedures are carried out by the Designated Teacher, we have the ridiculous situation where the Designated Teacher is supposed to monitor his own actions. A more independent monitoring scheme needs to be put in place.
The overwhelming impression is that the school has made the minimal changes necessary to scrape through the regulatory requirements, and that there is no desire or intention on the part of the school to make the thorough overhaul of both its policies and the school culture that would be necessary to promote excellence in its safeguarding practices, as described in Recommendation 2 of the ISI Supplementary Report. The headmaster even tried to pass off the May 2010 version as "wholly compliant" until the DfE rumbled him. It took me 22 articles to highlight the shortcomings of that version, and even then I probably missed a few!

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Providing Evidence to Lord Carlile

Lord Carlile is conducting his inquiry into safeguarding and child abuse at St. Benedict's School, and I understand that he's willing to take submissions from anybody connected with the school who has any knowledge, information or concerns that they want to impart.

It appears that Lord Carlile intends holding meetings at the school itself. This seems to me to be a fantastically bad idea - any former pupil who was a victim of sexual abuse or other mistreatment at the school is likely to find the thought of re-entering the school very intimidating, especially if the purpose is to dredge up painful memories of past events there. Even parents who have had bad experiences with the school might find it difficult to go into the school to meet Lord Carlile.

I have been in contact to make arrangements to meet Lord Carlile, and I have requested that we meet away from school premises.

As far as I can tell, neither the school nor abbey website has yet published any means by which parents, former pupils or others can contact Lord Carlile directly.

So if you have information you want to pass to the inquiry, but feel that it would be too intimidating either to pass written submissions via the school or to go into the school for a meeting, I am happy to act as a channel, either to pass a request to Lord Carlile for a meeting elsewhere or to pass on a written submission. Email me at

But if you want me to act as a channel to Lord Carlile please contact me soon, ideally within the next week. As I understand it, he's aiming to get his report completed by the end of the year, it will take time to order all the evidence that he has received, and I don't doubt that he still has other commitments to fit in. I can only presume that he's going to try and fit in as much evidence-gathering and as many meetings and interviews as possible into early October.

The Carlile Inquiry

We now know a bit about the Carlile Inquiry. The inquiry was described in the meeting on 14th September and the the Terms of Reference have been posted on the school website. They are as follows:
To provide a report and recommendations covering the following issues:
  1. The history of abuse allegations and findings made by and/or at St Benedict’s School.
  2. The history of abuse allegations and findings made in connection with Ealing Abbey, and anyone involved in any activities at the Abbey.
  3. The action taken in respect of the matters described in paragraphs 1 and 2 above.
  4. Past and present policies, written or otherwise, for dealing with such abuse allegations and findings.
  5. A future policy for the effective protection of young persons by whom any such allegations are made.
  6. An effective complaints system, and the provision of information about such a system.
  7. Files and paperwork concerning complaints.
  8. Other reassurance for present and prospective students and their parents/guardians.
  9. Issues concerning presence at the Abbey or School of persons who have been the subject of findings and/or allegations.
The first and most obvious thing we can say is that this appears to be authentic Abbotspeak. As with the previous "independent review", it appears that the Abbot is constitutionally incapable of creating a numbered list consisting wholly of grammatical and meaningful sentences. One would have thought that given the huge amounts of money that they are about to spend on this inquiry (somebody who is a Lord and senior QC isn't exactly going to be cheap) that they would have taken a bit more of a look at this before publishing. It doesn't exactly stand up as an advert for the quality of education currently provided by the school.

With respect to items 1 and 2, the question is "findings by whom"? Whose findings are we concerned about here? If we are talking about the school's findings, then items 1 and 2 will be very quickly be disposed of, since the school has hardly ever found that anybody has abused anybody at all!

Whether there is anything to report with regard to item 3 depends to a great extent on how Lord Carlile interprets items 1 and 2.

On all these points, there is a worrying point in that nothing is said about how far into the past Lord Carlile is to probe. The earliest account of abuse I'm aware of dates from the late 1940s, and there is no reason to expect that the earliest example I happen to have heard of is the earliest that has occurred. If Lord Carlile is going to get to the start of the abuse, he might have to end up investigating the founding of the Abbey back in 1897 and of the school in 1902!

With regard to item 4, it might be hard to obtain evidence about unwritten policies. But the absence of written policies or the failure to follow written policies shouldn't be too hard to spot.

Item 5 is simply not grammatical. If it had ended with "young persons" then it might have made more sense. I suppose I'll have to ask Lord Carlile what he thinks it means when I meet him.

Item 6 is unclear. Does in mean investigating whether there has been and effective complaints system in the past or whether there is one at present? Or is it accepting that there isn't, and this point is about what needs to be done to institute a complaints system in future?

In any case a "complaints system" is far too broad an issue. Complaints about what? This inquiry is supposed to be focussed on safeguarding, and therefore what is needed is an effective and well-operated child protection policy. An effective child protection policy by definition includes provisions for dealing with allegations of child abuse. It seems that the trustees don't even have a clear idea about the basic vocabulary of child protection, let alone how to run a child protection policy in a school. I suspect that Lord Carlile might have his work cut out!

Item 7 is also ambiguous. Does this mean that Lord Carlile will review existing files and paperwork concerning complaints, or that he will make recommendations concerning how such files should be maintained in future?

And what on earth is this business about reassurance in item 8? How on earth is Lord Carlile supposed to investigate that? In fact, I rather suspect this betrays the Trustees' real objectives in this. They are spending a sum probably of the order of a quarter of a million pounds on an exercise in reassurance. As the headmasters comments at the safeguarding meeting amply showed, there is no evidence of any interest in actually improving safeguarding, but they want to give the impression that Something Is Being Done. Lord Carlile's name will of course appear on the cover page of the report in letters rather larger than the title. And of course a glossily printed copy will be sent to each parent. The aim is to provide a reassurance to parents that All Is Well Really, if with some minor tweaks to procedures.

Sorry if the capital letters make this all look a bit like Winnie the Pooh, but as far as I can tell, this is how the school is actually in the habit of addressing parents, as if they were three years old and being read a bedtime story. With some parents it may work. The interesting thing is going to be whether Lord Carlile is prepared to go along with such an exercise in reassurance. It may turn out that he feels that the abuse had been so bad and the attempt to avoid facing it is so blatant that he isn't prepared to go along with it and issues a surprisingly critical report. We shall see.

Item 9 is really none of the inquiry's business. There are legal obligations which the Abbot is trying to sort out with the Department for Education, but the law and the ISI's recommendations are perfectly clear. The school, as part of its duty of care to the children, has a legal obligation to ensure that persons who are known to a be a danger to children are kept off the premises.

There is another issue here, and that is what has been left out of the Terms of Reference. The above covers what his Report is supposed to contain. But the Terms of reference don't include anything about how he is to go about his inquiry.

This was filled in a bit by the headmaster at the meeting last week. Apparently Lord Carlile will be interviewing people in addition to looking at documents. Adverts are to be put in the local and national press inviting old boys and victims to come forward and give evidence. And even I have received an email invitation to speak to him! But there is one obvious way of encouraging OPs to come forward with their experiences which seems to have been forgotten - an email to the OP main email list. Or perhaps it is just that Richard Baker is less than keen on more evidence appearing about the activities of his friend David Pearce.

But the real problem with this inquiry is that it ends merely with a Report. The trustees will have spent all that money, and still will not know how to operate an effective child protection policy. To change that, several additional things are going to have to happen.
  1. The Trustees and headmasters are going to have to decide that they want to have an effective policy
  2. The Trustees, headmasters are going to have to be provided with an unambiguous and well-written policy and set of procedures, that not only meets the school's legal obligations but is a model of excellence.
  3. The Trustees, headmasters and staff need to learn how to operate the policy
  4. The Trustees, headmasters and staff need to have ongoing mentoring to ensure that they don't drop back into old bad habits.
At present, the evidence from the headmasters comments in the Safeguarding meeting offers no confidence that even item 1 can be achieved.

Item 2 isn't all that hard, I know where a model policy can be found and it would be a straightforward matter to adapt it to the school.

Item 3 is much harder, especially if the will from top management is absent. But if that problem can be overcome, there are organisations who could come in and provide a consulting and training service for this. One possible organisation is the Lucy Faithfull Foundation.

Item 4 can be dealt with by ongoing mentoring and refresher training from the same organisation, if there is the will from management.

The interesting thing though is that these four items could be achieved perfectly well without involving Lord Carlile at all, but by commissioning the Lucy Faithfull Foundation or somebody similar immediately.

So why are they spending all this money on Lord Carlile?