Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Statement following June 6th IICSA Hearing

Today, the inquiry has been discussing a proposal from its own senior lawyers that events at two monasteries and their attached schools should be excluded from the Roman Catholic investigation.
The reason given for dropping Ealing Abbey is a scheduling clash with the forthcoming criminal trial on child abuse charges of a former senior Benedictine monk. The date of this trial has been known to the inquiry for almost six months. The reason given for dropping Fort Augustus is that it is in Scotland, even though it was run by the English Benedictine Congregation and therefore the institutional failure is that of an organisation based in England.

If Professor Jay adopts this recommendation from her senior legal team, she will break a public promise not to reduce the scope of the inquiry’s investigations, made when she was first appointed chair.

There are two troubling aspects to this proposal. The first is that the inquiry’s lawyers thought that a reduction in the scope of the inquiry was an appropriate response to a date conflict for a hearing not due to start for a further five months. It gives the impression that the inquiry is more interested in its own convenience than in a determination to seek the full truth about abuse in the Roman Catholic Church.

Second, the proposal was made a month ago and the inquiry intended that it would remain secret until today's hearing. They expected that abuse survivors from both Ealing and Fort Augustus would co-operate in keeping quiet about a proposal which jeopardises their right to give their evidence in open hearings. The inquiry had no moral right to ask this of them, and inevitably there have been some stories in the press.

The inquiry’s response to these stories has been to demand that, as a condition for receiving further documents, survivors sign a confidentiality undertaking that bars them from speaking in public about any document on any subject that they receive from the inquiry. This is a ludicrous over-reaction, and contrary to the Home Secretary’s explicit instruction to conduct the inquiry with the maximum possible degree of transparency.

In some cases, child sex abuse has not been discovered promptly in part because institutions have used onerous confidentiality obligations to prevent whistleblowers from disclosing concerns which would cause unwelcome publicity. It is ironic to see the inquiry displaying precisely the habits it will have to investigate and expose in others.

This inquiry is extremely important and I want to see it succeed. To do so, it must retain the confidence of the survivors whose evidence will be central. This sorry sequence of events could hardly have been better at undermining their confidence had the inquiry been acting with that deliberate aim in mind.


  1. I am a former St Benedict's pupil who was designated as a "core participant" in the inquiry and was expecting to be called to give evidence.

    Now I am told that St Benedict's may be excluded from the enquiry and that I will be required to sign a non-disclosure agreement before I receive any documents. I have no intention of signing any such agreement under any circumstances whatever.

    It has reached the point where I am having serious doubts about whether I want to continue to participate in this charade.

    1. As an ex pupil of St Benedicts (I left in 1961) I inderstand your frustration and desire to simply "forget the whole thing." I urge you to stick with it - we must not allow those monks and lay staff who so badly let down those students whose well being they were entrusted with by parents to get away with it. You and the other students so affected deserve justice - that can only be obtained if you all contribute fully to any enquiry.

    2. I hope that as many survivors as possible will continue to participate. But I will never criticise a survivor who decides that participating is causing so much damage to his or her welfare that they feel they must withdraw.

      In running this blog and my related campaigning, I've always taken the view that the welfare of survivors has to come ahead of getting the campaigning word out. Any other order of priorities would simply be exploiting the survivors all over again, and would simply be wrong.

  2. Fort Augustus group of core participants with IKP, fronted by our charity White Flowers Alba concur, we were abused and threatened to be silent

    We will not see worst two schools excluded, what is the point this expensive farce if it is not to make findings fact upon the abuse?

    The inquiry is doing the job of the Roman church & covering up, it's a appalling failure of all us victims

    A L behalf group

  3. David Greenwood7 June 2017 at 14:18

    I have been staggered that the inquiry's lawyers are seriously proposing not examining Ealing and Fort Augustus, the centres which demonstrate most clearly how this type of loose religious organisation can operate to assist and shelter abusers. Examination of these two centres is essential and will take longer than 3 weeks.

    David Greenwood

    Lawyer for 7 Core Participants in the Catholic Inquiry

  4. My only relationship with Ealing Abbey is that I am a concerned member of the public in the local community.
    I am appalled by what we are learning about the attitude of the UK establishment to child sexual abuse. I have followed the Australian Royal Commission and been impressed at the quality and openness of the lawyers. I look for the same quality in our Inquiry. If it removes cases like these, without consultation or sufficient reason, and exploits confidentiality like this, we can only believe we are seeing more of the same cover up.