Thursday, 26 May 2011

My complaint to the Metropolitan Police

When the prevention of harrassment letter was served on me on 5th April, the police officer who did so refused to give me her name & number when I asked, saying that her details were on the letter itself. In fact her name and rank were (rather illegibly) given on the letter, but her warrant number, home police station and contact phone number were not included, although the printed information at the bottom of the letter indicated that this ought to have been provided.

I took a rather dim view of this, and accordingly put in a complaint to the Metropolitan Police website. On 19 May, I received a phone call from Detective Inspector Yates from Acton police station, and we had a very civilised conversation about it. He promised that he would have a word with the officer in question. We also had a discussion about Mrs Gumley Mason's complaint. It was all very amicable. After the conversation I wrote to him as we had agreed, enclosing a scan of the letter, so he could see for himself whether the information provided was adequate. This is what I wrote. (I've deleted the name of the officer concerned. I see no need to publish it.)
Dear Inspector Yates

As we discussed on the telephone today, please find attached a scanned copy of the prevention of harrassment letter served on me on 5th April. As you can see, much of the information listed at the bottom as being required is missing. Now that you have told me that that the officer's name is [name deleted], I can make that out, and probably also the rank (DC). but the warrant number, station attached and contact telephone number are not present, although clearly indicated in the printed information as being required.

As I understand it, you suggested that you would issue a verbal reminder to DC [name deleted] of the need to identify herself in response to a request from a member of the public. On the phone, I indicated that I am satisfied with this course of action. On reflection, I wish to qualify that. If this is not the first occasion of a complaint against her of this nature, then I will wish to reconsider whether my complaint should be taken any further.

You indicated that I would be invited to the station to sign a form describing the resolution of the complaint. Assuming this is the first such complaint against DC [name deleted], I see no need for a visit, I am happy for the resolution of the complaint to be on record by means of an exchange of letters or emails between us.

I have also attached for your records a copy of my letter to Mr David Murphy, chairman of trustees of St Augustine's Priory School, concerning Mrs Gumley Mason's complaint against me, requesting that if she or the school are concerned about any further comments on my blog, then they should contact me about it without delay, and that I will be entirely amenable to requests to delete any comment which is genuinely abusive. The letter was sent by recorded delivery to Mr Murphy, but I have received no reply.

I wish to place on record my reasons for writing about St. Augustine's. I am concerned by the regulatory failings in child protection measures there, including (as described in a recent report by the Independent Schools Inspectorate) failure to carry out adequate CRB, List 99 and other checks on staff, failure to promptly report allegations and incidents of abuse to the LADO, failure to notify the ISA within a month of a staff member leaving when their fitness to work with children is in question, and shortcomings in the school's written child protection procedures and the implementation thereof. It is my view that the school's child protection procedures are still significantly short of good safeguarding practice, and arguably still do not meet regulatory requirements for prompt reporting of allegations to the LADO. These matters are all the direct responsibility of Mrs Gumley Mason in her role as headmistress of the school. There is a clear public interest justification for raising these issues, and I intend to continue to do so until substantial improvements are made.

For your information, the prevention of harrassment letter, letter to the chairman of trustees and my notes of the subsequent police visit have all been published on my blog

Yours sincerely

Jonathan West
He replied to me today, with a very nice letter confirming what he has done, as follows.
Dear Mr West

I am glad to report that I have now done everything you asked me to do in connection with the complaint you made about the incident on 5th April.

I have spoken to DC [name deleted] and reminded her of her responsibilities to fully identify herself. Her name was on the letter but I can see from the copy that it may not have been entirely clear. She was on a very busy schedule and was attending your address at my request fitting it in amongst her already existing workload. I can confirm that she has no other complaints of this nature.

We take any complaint against the police very seriously. You have my assurance that we are committed to resolving the points you raised with us and improving the service we offer to the community.

I hope you are satisfied with the steps I have taken. You have the right of appeal to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) if you think I have failed to follow the correct procedures. You have 28 days within which to make your appeal to the IPCC. You are advised to post your appeal in good time to ensure it reaches the IPCC before the end of the 28th day. The 28th day is on 8th May 2011. Appeals received after 28 days may not be allowed unless there are exceptional circumstances.

You might want to consider using guaranteed next-day delivery post service to ensure that your appeal is received within time.  If you do decide to appeal, this is the address to write to:

The Independent Police Complaints Commission
90 High Holborn
London WC1V 6BH

You can have a copy of the Police record of your complaint, showing that your concerns have been formally recorded. If you would like this, you need to put your request in writing and send it to me within 3 months of the date on this letter.

Please let me close by expressing my sincere thanks. This has been a constructive process for all of us here and your cooperation has been invaluable. Thank you again.

Yours sincerely

Tim Yates
Detective Inspector
Ealing Borough
I've replied thanking him and saying that I now consider the matter closed.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The John Jay Report

The Guardian CiF belief website is running a series of articles this week on the subect Is the Catholic abuse scandal over? While the John Jay report is about the abuse scandal in the US, there has also been a lot of comment about the scandal in the UK. Both St. Benedict's and St. Augustine's have got a mention in the comments. Somebody who goes by the screen name of sonoftherock has been posting cherry-picked bits out the the ISI's November 2009 report on St. Benedict's, and I have pointed out to him that he knows perfectly well that he is being deliberately deceptive, in that he knows that the ISI visited later and came to a somewhat different conclusion, and that the Charity Commission has been extremely critical of the trustees for failing to deal adequately with somebody known to be a threat to children.

The following is my first comment in the series of articles, the first paragraph is a quote from the article itself.
The report shows a clear and steady decline in the incidence of reported abuse from about 1980 onwards. We now know of almost 800 allegations for 1980. In 2008 there were 17.

This is not necessarily an indication of a fall in actual offending rates, and if there has been a fall in offending rates, it is almost certainly not as steep as those bald figures suggest.

The reason is that there can be a very long delay between an offence occurring and the victim summoning the courage to come forward. Therefore there are almost certainly many incidents that occurred in 2008 which have not yet been reported by the victims. A much larger proportion (though by no means all) of the offences from 1980 will have been reported,and so a far larger proportion of the perpetrators are now known about.

And the scandal was never really about the fact that some priests abused children. Paedophiles will always be attracted to occupations which involve contact with children. This is to be expected and there is nothing we know of that can be done to completely prevent this. Therefore what has to happen is to minimise the harm that can be done.

That requires two things above all others. One is effective screening to ensure that those already known to be a threat to children are kept out of jobs that involve care of children. The other is a culture of awareness involving immediate and automatic reporting of incidents to the civil authorities so they can be properly investigated, and any abuser removed from contact with children as quickly as possible.

The scandal of the Catholic church was that its policies and procedures were the exact opposite of this, and could hardly have been better designed to ensure the maximum harm to the largest possible number of victims had they been designed with that specific aim in mind.

Whether the scandal is now over, or at least running down, depends on the extent to which good safeguarding practice has now been implemented across all parishes, schools and other institutions.

I'm sure that in some places good practice has been introduced. But I'm equally sure (from direct experience) that there are also places where there has been a great deal of foot-dragging.

Whether the scandal is on its way to being over depends on the proportion of good practice to bad. Since places with bad practice are going to remain hidden until a problem occurs there, we aren't in a position to know that the scandal is seriously on the decline. I very much hope it is. I fear it is not.

Even if safeguarding practice were now so exemplary across the whole Catholic church worldwide that there was no avoidable case of abuse from today onwards, there are still 30 years worth delayed reports of past abuse yet to occur. The bad headlines aren't going to go away, but their effect could be greatly reduced if the church were in a position truthfully and verifiably to be able to say "we have learned, and our procedures are such that this could never happen today". I don't think we are there yet.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

A new deputy head for St. Augustine's

It seems that the rumours of the departure of one of the deputy heads were true. The vacancy for the post has been advertised in the Times Education Supplement.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Blogger software problems

The Blogger software and computers which host this blog have had some problems in recent days. You can read about the problems here.

A few comments may have been deleted and not yet restored by Blogger, and I think there was some trouble even trying to make comments for a while. But all seems to be well now.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

An appeal

Earlier today, somebody anonymously posted a comment on the Where was the report? article, starting with the words "Easter has passed".

I'm very interested in the contents of the comment, but would need to get some more information before I felt able to publish it in full.

So this is an appeal to the author of that comment. Could you please contact me privately by email at I will keep the correspondence and your identity strictly confidential.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Where was the report?

In the Headmistress' letter to parents on7th July 2010, Mrs Gumley Mason wrote the following.
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
Well, I can tell you where the report was. It was on her desk. The first draft of the report was sent to the school on 24th May, and Mrs Gumley Mason had already made comments to the ISI about "factual inaccuracies" in the report. By the time the letter to parents was written, there had already been quite extensive phone calls and correspondence between the school and the ISI, in the course of which the ISI notified the school that further information about safeguarding at the school had been received and that it was being discussed with the DfE and safeguarding agencies.