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.