Thursday, 10 December 2015

Allott and St. Benedict's

Let's just get a few things clear. I realise that the latest news about Peter Allott has shocked and upset a lot of people. I realise a lot of people are thinking that lightning doesn't strike twice in the same place.

Allott is charged with "making" and possessing child abuse images and possessing extreme porn. Within the meaning of the law "making" child abuse images includes downloading them from the internet. Where he allegedly got the images from is not known publicly at this time.

Allott will go through the court process. I'll report anything in the press that becomes available on what he has been charged with and when he will appear in court. While that process is ongoing, I will not speculate on what he may or may not have done, and I will not publish any comments that speculate.

There's no evidence I know of that St. Benedict's could or should have detected anything Allott has allegedly done. If evidence of wrongdoing or negligence by the school comes to light, then I will have no hesitation in saying so. But I'm not going to condemn the school in the absence of evidence. I have no doubt that all sorts of agencies are going to be investigating, and I intend letting them do their work.

It's inevitable that there's also going to be a certain amount of chatter on this topic on social media such as Twitter. I'm going to be just as careful on Twitter as I'm being here.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Peter Allott

According to the Evening Standard, Peter Allott has resigned his post as deputy headteacher at St. Benedict's School.

He appeared at Ealing Magistrates Court today and was remanded in custody until December 23rd.

Child Abuse Images

Peter Allott, Deputy Headmaster at St. Benedict's School, has been arrested and charged with possession of child abuse images. the story is in the Times (behind paywall) and in Ealing Today. He will appear before Ealing Magistrates sometime today (9 December).

The arrest was made by the National Crime Agency who apparently searched his computer. The specific charges are "offences of possessing, showing and making indecent images of children of category A and 2 offences of possession of extreme pornography".

I decided to look up what all this means.

The wording of the charge mentions "making" images. According to the CPS "The downloading and/or printing of indecent images of children from the internet, is capable of amounting to an offence of 'making' the image contrary to section 1 (1) (a) of the PCA 1978."

"Category A" indecent images of children are the most serious kind. According to CPS Legal Guidance, Category A covers "penetrative sexual activity and sexual activity with an animal or sadism".

"Extreme pornography" (again according to CPS Legal guidance) is images of:
a) An act which threatens a person's life; this is not defined in the Act and therefore should be given its ordinary dictionary meaning. The Ministry of Justice note of " Further information on the new offence of Possession of Extreme Pornographic Images" at paragraph 11 gives examples of life threatening acts.

b) An act which results in or is likely to result in serious injury to a person's anus, breast or genitals; this could include the insertion of sharp objects (although in some circumstances this can be done in a way that is not likely to result in serious injury) or the mutilation of breasts or genitals. It is likely to be difficult to prove that cases of 'fisting' involve images that show activity that is likely to result in serious injury so these cases need to be handled with particular care. Serious injury is not defined in the Act and should be given its ordinary dictionary meaning, being a question of fact for the District Judge or jury.

c) The Ministry of Justice note of " Further information on the new offence of Possession of Extreme Pornographic Images" specifically states that the reference to "serious injury" was not intended to expressly link into existing case law with regards to 'grievous bodily harm' contrary to sections 18 and 20 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 (which has been interpreted as being capable of including psychiatric harm).
The NCA has stated that it is "working in partnership with local child protection agencies to ensure wider child safeguarding" and also "It is not believed at this stage that any of the charges involve any former or current pupil at the school". Since Mr. Allott is in a position of trust and authority within a school, there must now of course be an investigation to find out whether there has been any harm to children with whom he has had contact. That investigation will presumably involve multiple agencies, including the police, the local authority children's services and the Independent Schools' Inspectorate.

The school no doubt will have to be inspected again by the ISI. The sorts of questions they will need to be asking include.
  • Was any indication seen by other staff that Mr Allott had an unhealthy interest in children?
  • If so, how was the matter handled, and was a report made to the authorities in the way now prescribed by the school's safeguarding policy?
  • Does this incident reveal any weaknesses in the school's safeguarding arrangements which need to be corrected?
Peter Allott has been at the school for quite some time. He was Head of Theology, Head of Politics and Deputy Director of Sixth Form from 2004 to 2010, and then after time out as a research associate at the Von Hugel Institute, returned as Deputy Headmaster in September 2012.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Benedictine Schools in the first round of cases to be studied by the IICSA

Justice Lowell Goddard of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has announced that Benedictine schools will be included in the first round of institutions to be examined by the IICSA.

Here are the relevant tweets from @IICSA_media

If you have information that you think is relevant to the inquiry, please contact them without delay.

I'll be blogging more about this when I have more details.

UPDATE: The IISCA's full statement has now been published on its website here.