Monday, 30 August 2010

The Child Protection Policy - 18

And it gets worse...
23. Referral guidelines: A referral to the SSD or police will not normally be made where
  • a referral would be contrary to the wishes of a pupil complainant who is of sufficient maturity and understanding and properly informed, and contrary also to the wishes of the complainant's parents; and
  • the case is one that can be satisfactorily dealt with under the School's internal procedures, the parents being kept fully informed, as appropriate.
However, if during the course of the internal procedures and the procedures required under paragraph 5, it appears that the situation is more serious, the Designated Teacher will again consider whether a referral should be made in accordance with paragraph 22 above.
This is one of the few paragraphs that has been substantially changed in the May 2010 version, relative to the previous version published in September 2009. What used to be the first bullet has been deleted. The existing bullets used to be the 2nd & 3rd of this section, while the first bullet used to say this
  • the complaint does not involve a serious criminal offence; and
What this means is that in the September 2009 version of the policy, a referral would be made if the complaint involved a serious criminal offence, irrespective of whether it was against the wishes of the child or parent. By deleting that bullet, the school has actually made it easier not to refer complaints, even in cases of serious criminal offences! This is heading in absolutely the opposite direction from what the ISI report demanded.

But we know from the ISI report that the school just doesn't refer cases involving staff or trustees to the authorities, irrespective of that the policy says. By making this change, the school appears to be thumbing its nose at the ISI.

The ISI report required that "no case of substance is investigated and dealt with under the school’s internal procedures". But the policy hasn't been changed to implement this. The second bullet of paragraph 23 is still talking about the school's internal procedures.

And the final sentence of paragraph 23 only promises that the Designated Teacher "will again consider whether a referral should be made" if the matter appears more serious, not that a referral will actually be made.

And if you find that this paragraph seems to cover much the same territory as paragraph 22, but saying slightly different things in a different way, you would be right. It all makes it that much easier for the school to find ways of not making a report to the authorities, they can pick and choose which version of the procedure they will apply - if in fact they bother to follow the procedure at all.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

The Child Protection Policy - 17

Next we come to the procedures to be followed by the Designated Teacher on receipt of a report from another member of staff.
22. Action by the Designated Teacher: The action to be taken will take into account:
  • the local inter-agency procedures of the Ealing Safeguarding Children Board;

  • the nature and seriousness of the suspicion or complaint. A complaint involving a serious criminal offence will always be referred to the SSD or the police without further action within the School;

  • the wishes of the pupil who has complained, provided that the pupil is of sufficient understanding and maturity and properly informed. However, there may be times when the situation is so serious that decisions may need to be taken, after all appropriate consultation, that override a pupil's wishes;

  • the wishes of the complainant's parents, provided they have no interest which is in conflict with the pupil's best interests and that they are properly informed. Again, it may be necessary, after all appropriate consultation, to override parental wishes in some circumstances. If the Designated Teacher is concerned that disclosing information to parents would put a child at risk, he or she will take further advice from the relevant professionals before making a decision to disclose

  • duties of confidentiality, so far as applicable;

  • the lawful rights and interests of the School community as a whole including its employees and its insurers, whilst ensuring that a child’s interests are paramount;

  • if there is room for doubt as to whether a referral should be made, the Designated Teacher may consult with the Local Authority Designated Officer or other appropriate professionals on a no names basis without identifying the family. However, as soon as sufficient concern exists that a child may be at risk of significant harm, a referral will be made within 24 hours. If the initial referral is made by telephone, the Designated Teacher will confirm the referral in writing to SSD within 24 hours. If no response or acknowledgment is received within three working days, the Designated Teacher will contact Social Services again.
I'm afraid we have utterly plumbed the depths again here. The first line really says it all. It says that bullets below describe what will be taken into account, not procedures for what will actually be done. This really isn't good enough.

The ISI supplementary report states the requirement very simply.
in the case of a disclosure or suspicion of abuse:

(i) the investigations are to be carried out by the local safeguarding children board or in case of doubt the advice of such an agency is to be sought;

(ii) the child’s interests are paramount;

(iii) referrals are made not only where a case is considered by the school to be serious and criminal;

(iv) no case of substance is investigated and dealt with under the school’s internal procedures.
So, let us make it clear what this means. Every allegation of any substance must be reported to the local safeguarding children board. The school must not investigate any case at all by itself.

There is a very good reason with this. The local safeguarding children board is not going to know the alleged perpetrator, and so is not going to be burdened with the belief that Mr. X or Father Y is a splendid chap who would never do such a thing. Also, the local safeguarding children board is not going to have a commercial interest in finding that there is nothing in the allegation. Paedophile cases are such bad business for a school, it frightens the parents something terrible to think that somebody might have been getting at little Johnny or Jemima.

And there is potentially a conflict of interest between a child who has been abused and the safety of the other children at the school. In many cases in different schools, parents have been persuaded that it is not in their child's best interest to make a formal complaint to the police or social services, because of the trauma of police questioning and the possibility of having to appear in court as a witness. So the parents are quietly promised that the teacher will be kept out of the way of their child, no action is taken against the teacher, everything is hushed up, and the teacher remains free to abuse other children.

But if no formal complaint is ever made, then the child can't be assessed to see what his or her needs really are. Because the local social services aren't informed, there is nothing done even to assess the continuing risk to that child. So the parents are gulled into thinking they are acting in the best interest of their child, when in fact the opposite is the case, and they never know because they have been kept away from the sources of advice that would enable them to make an informed decision about their child's welfare.

Now, I can't tell from merely reading the Child Protection Policy for St. Benedict's whether this scenario has occurred here. All I can say is that the policy as currently written would make it very easy for this to happen. Even though the policy states that "a serious criminal offence will always be referred to the SSD or the police" few parents will know the law well enough to know what kinds of acts involve a serious criminal offence. A large proportion of child sex abuse cases involve grooming the child before any serious physical contact is made, so that the child is drawn into complicity in the act. Unless the parents know the law well, it is possible to pass off almost anything short of rape or forcible buggery as not being a serious criminal offence, and a groomed child isn't going to be thinking that he or she has been the subject of a forced physical assault.

Also, the mention of duties of confidentiality in the policy can easily be manipulated to suggest that the school cannot make a report to social services without the consent of the child and the parents, and then the school goes about persuading the parents that in the interest of their child they ought not to consent.

Again, from the document I can't tell whether these kinds of games have been played by the school - they are certainly things that can and do happen elsewhere. All I can say is that the language of the policy looks designed to enable it.

The ISI commented in its report that "the school’s written policy for dealing with allegations and suspicions of abuse was focused on investigation by the school rather than speedy referral to outside agencies". Such investigation by the school is inherently bad safeguarding practice, and is open to the most serious abuse. That is why the ISI report required that "the investigations are to be carried out by the local safeguarding children board".

Once the local safeguarding children board has done an investigation (aided or not by the police as appropriate), there will be one of three possible outcomes.
  1. The allegation is decided to be without foundation.

  2. A criminal charge should be brought against the alleged abuser.

  3. If the alleged abuser is a member of staff or a governor, and the allegation has substance but does not involve a criminal offence, the matter is referred back to the school to undertake whatever disciplinary action is appropriate.
It is notable that the school's policy is entirely silent on what to do when social services refers a case back to the school under the third of these possible outcomes. The policy appears to treat a referral to social services as the end of their involvement.

Or more likely, the school has nothing on this subject because they never refer an allegation against staff or trustees to any outside agency. And in fact, the ISI report makes it clear that this is in fact the case.
The allegations against Fr DP were referred to social services by the school following disclosure by a pupil. The school’s safeguarding records since 2003 do not mention any other report to social services in connection with concerns related to staff, volunteers, trustees or monks.
On the occasion that they referred the allegations against Father David Pearce, the school had already lost the civil case against "C" (who had been awarded £43,000) and was at the time the subject of a Statutory Inquiry by the Charity Commission whose report was yet to be published, and had made a promise to the Charity Commission inspectors that Father David would be prevented from having access to children in future. I suspect that if the Charity Commission had discovered the case for themselves without it having been reported by the school, then the Charity Commission would have seriously considered deregistering the Trust as a charity.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

The Child Protection Policy - 16

We now move on to the paragraphs collectively titled "Procedures". This is a bit strange, since some of the previous paragraphs have also been describing what staff are supposed to do in various circumstances.

Paragraphs 18-21 describe what a teacher hearing an allegation is supposed to do. I'll quote the whole of these four paragraphs together.
18. Initial complaint

A member of staff suspecting or hearing a complaint of abuse:
  • must listen carefully to the child and keep an open mind. Staff should not take a decision as to whether or not the abuse has taken place;
  • must not ask leading questions, that is, a question which suggests its own answer (“was it your father?” or “did this take place on Tuesday when you were away?”);
  • must reassure the child but not give a guarantee of absolute confidentiality. The member of staff should explain that they need to pass the information to the Designated Teacher who will ensure that the correct action is taken;
  • must keep a sufficient written record of the conversation. The record should include the date, time and place of the conversation and the essence of what was said and done by whom and in whose presence. The record should be signed by the person making it and should use names, not initials. The record must be kept securely and handed to the Designated Teacher.
19. Preserving Evidence: All evidence (for example scribbled notes, mobile phones containing text messages, clothing, computers), must be safeguarded and preserved.

20. Record
  • Make brief notes as soon as possible after the meeting. This may be possible in the meeting itself.
  • Write up your notes in full and include time, date, place and signature.
  • Describe observable behaviour e.g. was shaking, continued to cry, constantly moved around the room. (Do not interpret these features)
  • Record the actual words spoken by the child wherever possible.
21. Reporting: All suspicion or complaints of abuse must be reported to the Designated Teacher, or if the complaint involves the Designated Teacher, to the Headmaster or other Deputy.
Paragraph 18 isn't at all bad. The steps to be taken are broadly the ones required by good safeguarding practice. I would quibble a bit about the phrase "sufficient written record" - sufficient for what? Basically the record should contain everything the teacher can reasonably remember about what the child has said and about the child's behaviour at the time.

Paragraph 19 is a bit more of a problem in the way it is written. Mobile phones and computers not already the property of the school cannot be taken from their owners without consent, even if they contain evidence of possible abuse. To do so is theft. In the event that evidence is contained within such items, the safeguarding of evidence must consist of copying the information and promptly returning the device to its owner. Furthermore, in the event of an allegation or suspicion of a crime, it is not the task of the school to investigate, but instead to immediately refer the matter to the police and/or Social Services, who have both the duty and authority to obtain and safeguard evidence in the way described.

Paragraph 20 is a more extended version of the record-keeping part of the last bullet of paragraph 18.

Similarly, paragraph 21 is an extended version of the reporting requirements of the last bullet of paragraph 18. There is some contradiction here. Paragraph 18 requires that the report is provided to the Designated Teacher, while paragraph 21 qualifies this, in the case where the Designated Teacher is the subject of the complaint, in which case the report is provided to the Headmaster or other deputy.

In fact, good safeguarding practice should have a slightly more formal reporting chain than this, unambiguously covering all possible cases. The report should be made to the Designated Teacher if the concern involves the conduct of a volunteer, visitor, governor, trainee or another young person or child, or somebody from outside the school. If the concern involves the conduct of a member of staff, the report should be made to the Headteacher. If the concern involves the conduct of the Headteacher, the report should be made to the governor or trustee who has been designated as having responsibility for child protection. In the absence of such a designated governor, the chairman of trustees (i.e. the Abbot) automatically assumes that role.

For all that these paragraphs are about the best-written of the document so far (not all that much of a commendation admittedly), they still give the impression of not really having been read and edited for consistency and organisation. Something this sloppily put together doesn't inspire confidence in the care with which it has been written or will be implemented.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

More Arrests

The Independent On Sunday has the following on its website today.
Two men aged 71 and 68, working at a prestigious Roman Catholic school, have been arrested, and another living abroad has been summoned back to the UK in a police investigation into allegations of child abuse.

Following claims of sexual assault made by two men in their forties, the pair working at St Benedict's School in Ealing, west London, were released on bail until next month. An 80-year-old man who lives overseas is to attend a UK police station.
The Times had a more detailed version of the story last Wednesday. Here are the key points.
A police investigation has begun into new allegations of child abuse at one of Britain’s top Roman Catholic schools, threatening to overshadow the papal visit that begins a month today.


The allegations, against three former teachers at the school, are the latest in a series of scandals that have led to monks and teachers being jailed or barred from contact with children.


One of those under investigation is Pearce, 68, who is serving a five-year jail sentence after admitting abusing eight pupils between 1972 and 2008.


The second person involved in the investigation is John Maestri, a former mathematics teacher at St Benedict’s. Mr Maestri, 71, has been convicted on three occasions of sex offences against children and placed on the sex offenders register indefinitely.


A third former teacher, who has been the subject of a previous police inquiry, has also been accused by one of the alleged abuse victims. He has never been charged with any previous offence and is understood to be co-operating with detectives.
I have a pretty good idea who the third man is, but I'll leave that to be announced by the police in due course.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The Child Protection Policy - 15

On whistleblowing:
17. Whistleblowing

All staff are required to report to the Designated Teacher, any concern or allegations about school practices or the behaviour of colleagues which are likely to put pupils at risk of abuse or other serious harm. In exceptional cases such reports should be made to Ofsted. There will be no retribution or disciplinary action taken against a member of staff for making such a report provided that it is done in good faith.
This is another paragraph that has a misleading title. Reporting an allegation made against staff to the Designated Teacher is not whistleblowing by any commonly understood meaning of the term. Whistleblowing is where the reporting of abuses within the chain of authority has failed to bring about action and somebody decides to raise the matter in public.

There cannot be any procedure on whistleblowing, as it will only happen when the procedures have broken down. To have a paragraph in the procedures on whistleblowing is meaningless and can only be designed to fool parents into thinking that staff have the freedom to raise issues outside the chain of authority without retribution. If the procedures have in fact broken down, then any such assurances are without any value.

OFSTED in any case is not an appropriate recipient for reports. Reports of adult-on-child abuse should be made to the Local Authority Designated Officer for child protection, part of Social Services, and reports of child-on-child abuse should be made to Children's Services.

Monday, 16 August 2010

The Child Protection Policy - 14

Next section.
16. Duties of employees, trustees, school advisors and volunteers

The Headmasters, all other employees and trustees of the School as well as every school advisor and volunteer who assists the School is under a general legal duty:

a) to protect children from abuse;
b) to be aware of the School's practice and policies on Child Protection and to follow them;
c) to know how to access and implement the procedures, independently if necessary;
d) in dealing with a child protection issue to remain as objective as possible. Never assume that you “know” which categories of children are at risk;
e) to keep a sufficient record of any significant complaint, conversation or event. Information should be recorded verbatim, if possible. Do not prompt, lead or suggest information to the child;
f) to refer to the Designated Teacher (or in his/her absence, the Deputy Designated Teacher) immediately;
g) in the case of allegations brought against a colleague to refer the incident to the Designated Teacher who will then refer this to the Headmaster immediately (please see the section below on Staff Allegations);
h) to undertake appropriate training including refresher training at three-yearly intervals.
What's this business of a "general" legal duty? Why the qualifying adjective? In what way is a "general legal duty" different from a plain "legal duty"? The impression given is that a general legal duty is one that need not be taken too seriously, that it is something in the background which does not result in any specific action required of staff. This is reinforced by the rather vague descriptions of procedures which are listed.

It is not stated how employees, governors and volunteers will initially acquire the knowledge necessary to carry out their duties. It should be stated that they shall take up their duties only after they have undergone an induction in which they are made aware of their duties in respect of child protection, the school’s policies and procedures, and the relevant people to contact.

Then there is a matter of a "sufficient" record of events. Sufficient for what purpose?

The duties and the procedures for executing them should be separated for clarity and the avoidance of confusion. Where there are two descriptions of the same procedure (as for instance here and paragraph 18) there is inevitably scope for confusion as to which is the correct procedure to follow. To avoid such confusion, procedures must be kept separate from other text, must be stated only once, and should be entirely clear as to the extent of discretion available to a staff member when following the procedure.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

The Child Protection Policy - 13

Next section.
15. Staff Responsibility

Staff should be clear to understand that they are not making a diagnosis, only receiving concerns. None of the signs listed above may actually prove that a child is being abused and these indications should not be taken as proof. They may be indicators, which when put into context, provide justification for action.

Emotional abuse is more than just the occasional criticism of a child. Abuse is a symptom of continued negative treatment, which ostracises or belittles a child. This is usually the result of extremes of inappropriate care by the parents and so very difficult to confront.

ALL abuse is emotional abuse irrespective of whether or not it is accompanied by physical injury, sexual abuse or neglect.
This is all terribly mixed up again. The paragraph is titled "Staff responsibility", but doesn't actually describe anything that the staff are responsible for, except that they should be clear that they are not making a diagnosis, but merely receiving concerns. Nothing is described about what they do with these concerns.

And the brakes on any action are clearly applied by the sentence "None of the signs listed above may actually prove that a child is being abused and these indications should not be taken as proof", implicitly suggesting that the staff member should do nothing unless or until he does have proof. It seems that the indicators must be "put into context" before action can be justified.

This is yet another demonstration that the policy is one long excuse for doing nothing.

And then the last 2 paragraphs go on again about emotional abuse and how all abuse is emotional abuse, again pointing the finger at parents. A description of emotional abuse should be in the section under that title. But for some unfathomable reason, it has ended up here.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

The ISI reports again

The Times (full page article on page 3 yesterday) has a new report on St Benedict's School. The online version is stuck behind the Times paywall, but the BBC has taken up the story, and their version can be seen here.

There are two parts to the story. The first is that the Independent Schools Inspectorate has issued an unprecedentedly critical report about the school. I've read the report and so can you.

The other part of the story concerns the fact that the school has decided to set up an Inquiry! Well I never!

And it is to be chaired by a Lord
- Lord Carlile of Berriew QC, one of the country's most prominent (and expensive) barristers, and the government's independent reviewer of terrorism laws. Goodness only knows what his daily fees will be, and quite what is his expertise with respect to safeguarding practice in independent schools is a complete mystery.

And of course, in order to ensure that he conducts a thorough review, it is quite obvious that he will not be able to report until after the Pope has been and gone. How convenient!

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Imagine yourself in the Abbot's shoes

Let’s just put ourselves in Abbot Martin Shipperlee’s shoes for a minute, and ask what could be done about all the bad publicity there has been about child protection at St. Benedict’s School.

Let’s hypothesise that things have come to sufficient of a pass that there is a need to restore parents’ confidence, and possibly also the confidence of the civil authorities such as the ISI and the Department for Education, and perhaps even the parishioners, the Archbishop and the public in general. Also, given that the Pope is coming in a few weeks, there is a need to spike any stories the mainstream press might run in the meantime about child sex abuse at Ealing Abbey. I don't doubt that Archbishop Vincent Nichols would be livid if a big Ealing Abbey abuse story were to hit the papers on the eve of the Pope's visit.

So what is needed is some significant gesture.

The obvious thing is to announce an Inquiry, so that he can say “we are looking carefully into all these issues and aim to learn from past problems and prevent them from recurring”. Then the papers are stymied and can’t say that the Abbey is doing nothing. The ISI and the DfE can hardly complain about an inquiry either. Everything gets kicked onto the long grass.

But what sort of an inquiry should it be?

That depends on what he would be trying to achieve by it. If the main aim is to hold off the papers until after the Pope has been and gone, and then hope that the story dies of old age thereafter, then what is needed is for the inquiry to be led by a friendly Catholic who has little or no experience of child protection issues but is a well-known politician or other high-profile name. Except for the fact that he is rather busy organising the Pope’s visit, Lord Patten of Barnes would be absolutely perfect for the job, or failing him, perhaps one of the candidates for the job of Ambassador to the Holy See.

If a whitewash is wanted, then he would absolutely have to ensure that the leader of the inquiry is part of the establishment and so knows what sorts of things aren’t supposed to be inquired about too closely. He would also want a big name that impresses the yokels so it doesn't occur to them to look much at the details of what is (and more importantly what isn't) in the final report. A Lord of some sort would be ideal. Such people are expensive, as you're buying their name and reputation, but with £10m/year of school fee income that needs to be defended, it would be a price worth paying. Think of it as the personal appearance fee for a celebrity in a marketing event.

The report would certainly not be published until safely after the Pope has departed these shores, and until the new intake of children are safely settled in to the school for the Autumn term (and their fees safely paid into the school's bank account). It would be a nice fifty pages or so of legal waffle with lots of long words designed to impress parents who have no knowledge and experience of such things. A nice colour printed copy could be posted to each parent to show how exceedingly diligent the school is now being about all of this.

The key to making it look impressive and complete while ensuring that difficult questions never need to be answered (or even asked) is in the careful selection of the Terms of Reference. The previous “independent review” was a little too blatant about narrowing the scope of its Terms of Reference, in that it excluded the school altogether, excluded almost the whole of Father David’s paedophile career at the Abbey, and did not address any complaints made against any other priest or teacher, even those who had been convicted of crimes carried out against pupils at the school in the course of their duties.

Should there be new inquiry, it would have to be a bit more subtle than that, but it could easily be limited, for instance only to Father David and John Maestri, on the basis that since nobody else has been convicted, everybody else should automatically be considered innocent, and there is therefore nothing to be concerned about. It could also be limited to finding out a what those two individuals had done, and carefully avoid looking into what others had done that enabled the abuse to go on for so long without becoming public.

It would be possible to write the Executive Summary of such an inquiry already, even before anybody had been appointed to conduct it. It would go something like this.
  • It is possible that Father David and John Maestri abused a few more people than they have actually been convicted of, but there isn’t enough evidence to say how extensive the problem was. It’s all in the past now anyhow, since neither has any current connection with the school and so there is no remaining danger to children.

  • It would have been preferable to have detected their activities sooner, but what happened in the past was consistent with child protection practice at the time, and so no blame can be assigned to anybody.

  • We found no evidence of any cover-up. Oh my dear God no! Certainly not! Who could possibly be so beastly as to imagine such a thing?

  • There are a few minor changes that need to be made to the school’s current child protection procedures to clarify responsibilities and ensure that any future incidents are handled according to the letter of the law. We must look forward not back.
But it would of course still be a whitewash.

If the Abbot wanted actually to have an inquiry that was serious about finding out what has gone wrong, and wanted to change both the procedures of the school and the overall culture of the Abbey to ensure that any abuse discovered in future isn't allowed to continue, then the inquiry would need to be run on rather different lines.

It wouldn't have a big name fronting it. The mere presence of a big establishment figure would be an almost certain indicator that a whitewash is being conducted and paid for, because the real experts in this area charge more modest fees. What is needed is independent expertise of a very specific kind. The experts involved need to have a detailed knowledge of child protection law and practice, and need to have experience of dealing with safeguarding issues specifically in the context of independent schools. Such experts can be found, but not usually from amongst establishment figures.

This specific expertise is needed because independent schools form a very particular and unique environment, where there is inherently a conflict of interest between protecting the children from a predator who may have obtained a position on the staff, and protecting the reputation of the school.

The first duty requires that cases are properly reported and even publicised, the second absolutely requires that everything is covered up. And many people rationalise their prioritising of the school’s reputation as being for the “greater good” of all the other pupils whose education might be disrupted if the school were to have to close or if their parents decided they needed to change their children’s school. A messy paedophile case unsettles everyone and is terribly bad for business!

The second requirement would be for the inquiry not only to be independent but to be seen to be independent. Given that the Catholic Church has had something of a worldwide problem with child abuse, and given that Ealing Abbey has already had one abortive so-called “independent review”, for any new inquiry to be seen to be independent, the experts appointed would need to have no prior connection either with the school or with the Catholic Church. Child protection is a non-denominational matter and expertise from outside the Catholic Church should be welcomed.

The third requirement would be that the experts must be given free access to all the Abbey’s records, all the school’s records, and be free to interview whoever they wish. That includes present and past monks and teachers, present and former pupils (including victims), parents and any other interested parties. The names, CVs and contact details of the experts conducting the inquiry would need to be published so that anybody who has relevant information can get in touch.

The fourth requirement would be that the Terms of Reference are crystal clear. They must be extensive, enabling the inquiry to go back decades. They must require the inquiry to address the past history of the school and abbey as well as its present procedures. They must require the inquiry to look into the handling of all complaints or allegations of abuse by clergy and lay teachers, including allegations made against people who have not been convicted of any crimes. They must expect the inquiry to address issues of cover-up, where allegations were not forwarded to the civil authorities or where the victims were persuaded by one means or another to remain silent about the abuse. In other words, the terms of reference should enable the inquiry to be as thorough as the Ryan Report was in its investigation into the Archdiocese of Dublin. Any St. Benedict's inquiry would be on a smaller scale, so there is no possible excuse for making it less thorough. Any inquiry would have to be free to make recommendations about teachers and/or monks who are still at St Benedict’s, if the experts think that they pose any kind of threat to the safety of children.

The fifth requirement would be that the report would be published in full. It should protect the identities of victims, whether or not their cases have resulted in criminal prosecutions, but this is the only detail that should be omitted. Any Executive Summary separately published must have been prepared by the experts and not edited in any way by any other person.

In the unlikely event of such an inquiry being set up, I would want to see the following questions asked and answered. If a significant proportion of them weren’t, then I would very much suspect a cover-up, whether or not there was an establishment figure involved.
  1. Has the school or the Abbey made any agreement to pay a sum of money in exchange for not proceeding with a civil action in any case involving sexual or other abuse alleged to have been committed by Father David, Father Stanislaus, John Maestri or any other monk or teacher? If so, when, and how many times, and was a clause included in the agreement(s) requiring the victim(s) to keep the matter confidential?

  2. Was any action taken to restrict the alleged abuser’s access to children at the time of any of these agreements?

  3. Were the allegations made by the victim reported by the Abbey or school to any civil authorities? If not, why not?

  4. When Father David was arrested in January 2008, the Trust sent a Serious Incident Report to the Charity Commission. Did they make any other notifications at that time? (For instance to the Independent Safeguarding Authority?) If not, why not?

  5. Has Father David been arrested on any previous occasion(s)? If so, were any notifications passed to civil authorities (e.g. the ISA, the DCSF Teacher Misconduct Section which preceded the ISA, the LADO, or the Charity Commission) at the time?

  6. What was the reason that Father David was moved from the post of Junior School headmaster? If this was related to concerns about his suitability to be working with children, was a Notification sent to the DCSF Teacher Misconduct Section at that time?

  7. What other complaints have been made regarding inappropriate sexual behaviour by Father David? What was the school’s response on each occasion?

  8. When was it decided that Father David should be placed on a restricted ministry?

  9. What was the reason for making that decision?

  10. What restrictions on Father David were decided on?

  11. What arrangements were made to supervise and enforce the restrictions?

  12. Who was advised that Father David had been placed on restricted ministry?

  13. What reason was given to them for Father David having been placed on restricted ministry?

  14. Were any of those advised of the restricted ministry asked to supervise or enforce the restrictions in any way? If so, what were they asked to do?

  15. Were the civil authorities notified of the decision to put Father David on a restricted ministry?

  16. Paragraph 4.4 of the report of the ISI Inspection carried out on 9-12 November 2009 states “The trustees and advisors are aware of and are diligent in discharging their responsibilities for the welfare, health and safety of pupils, including taking proper steps to review and evaluate the effectiveness of their child protection policies and procedures. A serious recent incident involving a member of the monastic community caused the trustees to request an independent review of the measures taken to minimise risk. The advice received from the independent experts has been fully implemented.” What review was this? Who carried it out? What recommendations were made by the independent experts, and what changes were made in response to the recommendations?

  17. In the Abbot's letter to parents of 2nd October 2009, he stated “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.” What did he mean by “this matter” and “this situation”?

  18. Earlier in the letter he stated “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.” In that context, what did he expect that a reasonable reader would believe was meant by “this matter”?

  19. When did the Abbot decide to commission the independent review referred to in the letter?

  20. Who carried out the review?

  21. Why have their names not been published?

  22. What were the terms of reference given them?

  23. What line of reasoning was followed in deciding on these terms of reference?

  24. When was the report received, and why was it not published?

  25. Who prepared the summary now posted on the Abbey website?

  26. What are the differences between the summary and the original report? Why are they there?

  27. In his letter to parents of 22nd April the Abbot stated that “a number of statements in the newspaper articles were incorrect”. Which statements were these, and why was no effort made in the letter to advise the true situation as he saw it?

  28. In his letter of 22nd April, the Abbot stated “However as a result of issues relating to Fr David we have reviewed all our procedures and policies for Safeguarding of the Vulnerable, as has been noted by the Charity Commission.”. This is not the case. The Charity Commission in Para 17 of its report noted that the existing policies “had been reviewed by the appropriate authorities”, and in para 54 noted that “the trustees have confirmed publicly that an independent review will be carried out to ensure that this situation can not reoccur”, but they did not state conform that any review had been carried out. So why did he make that untrue statement?

  29. In his letter of 22nd April, the Abbot stated “No doubt you will be aware of the recent inspection report on St Benedict’s which judged Child Protection to be good and overall pastoral care to be outstanding.” Was he aware of the fact that the Independent Schools Inspectorate had by then withdrawn its November 2009 inspection reports from its website? If so, why did he continue to rely on that report?

  30. When Father Stanislaus Hobbs was arrested, were any other civil authorities notified by the school or the Abbey?

  31. Has Father Stanislaus been arrested on any previous occasion?

  32. Has the school or the abbey received any complaints of sexual abuse or similar inappropriate behaviour by Father Stanislaus? What action was taken in response?

  33. What action has been taken as a result of the “Italian incident” described in court during his trial? For instance, was a Notification returned to the DCSF following Father Stanislaus’s admission of abuse?

  34. Has Father Stanislaus been placed under a restricted ministry? If so, is it still in force, what are (or were) the restrictions and how are (were) they enforced?

  35. When was John Maestri first appointed as a teacher at the school?

  36. When were complaints first made concerning sexual abuse or other inappropriate behaviour by John Maestri? What action was taken as a result?

  37. When was it decided that John Maestri should be appointed Middle School Headmaster?

  38. At the time of the decision, what complaints had been made against him regarding sexual abuse or inappropriate behaviour, and how had they been dealt with?

  39. Why did John Maestri not take up his post as Middle School Headmaster?

  40. When did John Maestri leave the school? What prompted his departure?

  41. When John Maestri left, did he take up another teaching position subsequently?

  42. Did the school provide a reference for John Maestri for that or any subsequent teaching position?

  43. Did the reference include any mention of complaints about inappropriate sexual behaviour, or about the reasons for his departure from the school? If not, why not?

  44. Did the school send a Notification to the Teacher Misconduct Section of the Department of Education about the circumstances of his departure (as required by law)?

  45. When did Father Gregory Chillman resign as a Trustee of the trust of St Benedict’s?

  46. For what reason did he resign?

  47. On what date was he arrested?

  48. Was a Notification made to the ISA?

  49. Was a Serious Incident Report sent to the Charity Commission?

  50. Has there been any allegation or complaint made concerning sexual abuse by Father Gregory in his role as priest, teacher and/or Trustee at St Benedict’s? If so, what was done in response?

  51. Has there been any allegation or complaint made concerning sexual abuse in his role of Chaplain and/or Chairman of Governors of St. Augustine’s Priory School? If so, what was done in response?

  52. When did Father Gregory resign as Chaplain of St. Augustine’s Priory School? Why did he resign?

  53. When did Father Gregory resign as Chairman of Governors of St. Augustine’s Priory School? Why did he resign?

  54. Was any Notification passed to the ISA or any other civil authority?

  55. Has Father Gregory been placed under a restricted ministry? If so, who was informed, is it still in force, what are (or were) the restrictions and how are (were) they enforced?

  56. Have any complaints of sexual abuse been made against any other present or former monk or teacher at St. Benedict’s? If so, what was done in response in each case?

  57. Has any other present or former monk or teacher been arrested or otherwise questioned by police in connection with any allegation of sexual abuse? If so, what was done in response by the Abbey and/or school in each case?

  58. Has any present or former monk or teacher been dismissed from a post at the Abbey or school, or resigned rather than risk dismissal, or been redeployed to a different post, as a result of concerns about his/her suitability to be working with children? If so, was a Notification made to the civil authorities in each case?
But I'm sure the Abbey's supporters will say that of course there's no need for any kind of inquiry at all. The Abbot is doing a splendid job! It's sheer impertinence to suggest that any inquiry could possibly be thought to be necessary. If you feel that way, feel free to say so. You will be most welcome.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

The Child Protection Policy - 12

Now we come to the school's definition of neglect.
14. Neglect

This is the persistent or severe neglect of a child, which results in serious impairment of that child’s health or behaviour.

This may be exposure to danger or by repeated failure to attend to the physical needs and developmental needs of a child.

The non-organic failure of a child to thrive may result from neglect of a child but will always require medical diagnosis by appropriate exclusion of organic causes.
We even now have a tautology in a definition! Neglect is severe neglect. Well, yes!

And where on earth did this phrase "the non-organic failure of the child" come from? It's gibberish! And in any case, is is not part of a definition of neglect, but is instead part of the issue of distinguishing between neglect and medical causes of problems.

OK, Let's see how it should be done. here is the definition from 4.2.10 to 4.2.13 of the London Child Protection Procedures.

4.2.10 Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and / or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child’s health or development.

4.2.11 Neglect may occur during pregnancy as a result of maternal substance abuse.

4.2.12 Once a child is born, neglect may involve a parent failing to:
  • Provide adequate food, clothing and shelter (including exclusion from home or abandonment);
  • Protect a child from physical and emotional harm or danger;
  • Ensure adequate supervision (including the use of inadequate care-givers);
  • Ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment.
4.2.13 It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child’s basic emotional needs.

Some of this is not applicable to the school environment - for instance neglect during pregnancy. But otherwise, this is a good solid definition of neglect which could perfectly well be dropped into the school's policy verbatim.

So let's now look at the school's description of signs of neglect, which is thr second half of paragraph 14.
Possible signs of neglect:
  • Failure to thrive (looks thin emaciated, unwell, below average height, weight)
  • Unusually hungry
  • Has regular accidents especially burns
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Avoidance of School medicals
  • Tiredness
  • Reluctance to go home
  • Poor social relationships
  • Frequent lateness/non-attendance
  • Inappropriate clothing
Again, we can compare this with the London Child Protection Procedures, paragraphs 4.3.25 to 4.3.28.

4.3.25 It is rare that an isolated incident will lead to agencies becoming involved with a neglectful family. Evidence of neglect is built up over a period of time. Professionals should therefore compile a chronology and discuss concerns with any other agencies which may be involved with the family, to establish whether seemingly minor incidents are in fact part of a wider pattern of neglectful parenting.

4.3.26 When working in areas where poverty and deprivation are commonplace professionals may become desensitised to some of the indicators of neglect.

These include:
  • Failure by parents or carers to meet essential physical needs (e.g. adequate or appropriate food, clothes, warmth, hygiene and medical or dental care);
  • Failure by parents or carers to meet essential emotional needs (e.g. to feel loved and valued, to live in a safe, predictable home environment);
  • A child seen to be listless, apathetic and unresponsive with no apparent medical cause;
  • Failure of child to grow within normal expected pattern, with accompanying weight loss;
  • Child thrives away from home environment;
  • Child frequently absent from school;
  • Child left with inappropriate carers (e.g. too young, complete strangers);
  • Child left with adults who are intoxicated or violent;
  • Child abandoned or left alone for excessive periods.
4.3.27 Disabled children and young people can be particularly vulnerable to neglect (see section 5.10. Disabled children) due to the increased level of care they may require.

4.3.28 Although neglect can be perpetrated consciously as an abusive act by a parent, it is rarely an act of deliberate cruelty. Neglect is usually defined as an omission of care by the child’s parent, often due to one or more unmet needs of their own. These could include domestic violence (see section 5.11), mental health issues (see section 5.29), learning disabilities (see section 5.30), substance misuse (see section 5.31), or social isolation / exclusion (see section 5.1.1 to 5.1.4), this list is not exhaustive.

While offering support and services to these parents, it is crucial that professionals maintain a clear focus on the needs of the child.

Again, the school has some correct indicators and has missed some, but more importantly has missed the key piece of context, which is that these indicators often mean little individually, and that a picture needs to be built up over time. This means proper record-keeping and regular contact and information-sharing with other professionals.