Catholic Church – Benedictine Inquiry oral submissions

CLOSING SUBMISSIONS

From C18-C19

William Chapman (counsel)

David Greenwood (Switalskis)

Switalskis act for C18 and C19. Both were sexually abused by Benedictine monks: not, as it happens, at Downside or Ampleforth. It does not matter. The experience was the same. The reasons for it are the same.
Our submissions are:
The EBC has proved itself incapable of self-governance to protect children in its care. We reject the reasons why offered by the Benedictine monks who have appeared before you. We emphasize the impediments to self-governance presented by:
Catholic teaching; Canon Law; The rules of the Benedictine Order;
Its hierarchical structure;
Its culture;
Its unincorporated status.
We recommend, in summary:
. The creation of a ‘failure to report’ offence with no exception for the confessional.

i. The creation of a ‘failure to protect’ offence.

ii. The extension of ‘position of trust’ offences.

iii. The creation of a new statutory body with powers to police and enforce basic standards of child protection. We envisage a body similar to the Health and Safety Executive.

iv. A review of the powers of the Charity Commission.

Items i) to iii) are recommendations made by the Australian Royal Commission in its ‘Criminal Justice Report’ published last week.

There are real obstacles to the effective enforcement of external regulation that are peculiar to the EBC for the reasons given in a).
d. So long as the EBC is engaged in the care and education of children the EBC may, even with the measures we recommend, pose an unacceptable risk to children. This raises a wider question of the extent to which faith-based education is conducive to the safety of children. We reserve our position on this wider question until the conclusion of the further investigations relating to the Catholic and Anglican church.

The EBC is incapable of self-governance

3. The EBC has failed to implement appropriate child-safeguarding over decades. Those failures have persisted post-Nolan (2001), post-Cumberlege (2011) and post-Carlile (2011). In 2010, on a review of the Downside files concerns were raised in relation to 16 out of the 23 monks at Downside.

4. Those failures persist now even in the face of this Inquiry. Children are still at risk at Downside & Ampleforth according to their own former Abbot and headmaster, Aidan Bellenger. Writing as recently as 1 July 2017, in a letter he never expected to be made public:

‘RC-F77’s attitudes are perverse and criminal and he should not be allowed to reside at Downside. His case parallels that of RC-F18 at Ampleforth’.

5. James Whitehead, the departing headmaster of Downside said in his statement,

“The real reason for my impending departure, in my interpretation, is the fact that, on a number of occasions, I have had to challenge the poor management of Dom Leo as Chair of Governors which extends to a range of areas of School life, including safeguarding.”

6. Those failures have not only exposed children to the risk of abuse: they have in a number of cases been directly responsible for further abuse [give e.g.s]. [Richard White and Gregory Carroll]

7. The EBC has failed for reasons that may prove common to other institutions you will investigate. But is also clear that it has failed for reasons that are peculiar to the English Benedictine Congregation.

8. Let me first reject the various explanations offered by the clerics who came before you:

i. That times were different and social standards were different;

ii. That they were naive;

iii. That we are judging them with the benefit of hindsight;

iv. That child safeguarding measures were not as highly developed in the past as they are now.

v. That record keeping and filing in the past was poor.

9. All those things may be true, but they are not the reasons why the Benedictines failed. A good case study is that of Anselm Hurt because it is a case that spans decades. We know from that case:

a. Social standards were not different then:

. We know that the headmaster in 1970 reacted immediately to the disclosure of Anselm Hurt’s abuse by:

Dismissing him
Reporting him with full details to the statutory authority
i. We know that a parent at the time wrote to the Abbot in these terms because she was concerned that Hurt was preying upon her 15 year old son in 1970 even after his dismissal:

“We were…. told by Father Watkin the real reason for the dismissal…. This man is amoral and evil. He is a member of your community and you must take some responsibility for him…..Father Passmore, if harm comes to [my son] I shall find it very hard indeed to forgive you.”

These offences were as repugnant to right-thinking people then, as now. There were no elaborate safeguarding protocols in 1970. Yet a statutory authority was informed and at least one parent was told why he had been dismissed. The views of the headmaster were clear: that Hurt

‘should not work in a school or youth club or anything of that character in future”.

The monks in charge were not naive then. They were not naive later. They are not naive now.
i. Over the course of the next 40 years, the monastery re-integrated this monk into society and finally into monastic and priestly life. This process of reintegration took place at the same time as child safeguarding awareness and policies developed. Even though Hurt had been kicked out of the monastery, he was looked after. It was a cradle-to-grave service.

ii. The Abbot provided references for various jobs Those jobs included ‘Trainee Child Care Officer’ and ‘probation officer’ a job that involved ‘supervision of offenders of all ages as well as young people who, because of their home circumstances, need special care’. Hurt wrote to the Abbot thanking him for one such ‘glowing’ reference’. He felt bold enough to ask that he would ‘be grateful if you did not raise the matter of the ban [on teaching], as this could naturally complicate things, and possibly weigh against me in a competitive selection’.

iii. Hurt was provided with money. His last letter to the Abbot was in 1974 to ask for money to buy a house. With the support of a Catholic psychiatrist, Dr Seymour – commissioned and paid for by the Abbot – he eventually overturned his ban on teaching. It seems he got a job in Liverpool, married and had children. Stage 1 was completed: he was reintegrated into society.

This was not naivety. The Abbot knew full well that the headmaster’s view, as clearly communicated to the education department

Stage 2 began again with Abbot Charles and Hurt’s reintegration into monastic life in the 1990s. It is particularly telling that the chief reason – when you piece together the correspondence – that Hurt was prevented from returning to Downside was the continued presence of Father Aelred Watkin at Downside – the same man who had said Hurt should not be let near children. That tells you that the much vaunted change of atmosphere at Downside heralded by Abbot Charles was as much about tolerating known paedophiles in their midst than it was about common humanity.
d. Nor was the Abbot of Glenstal naive. He wanted to know about Hurt’s past for the sake of the Abbey and their potential civil liability, not the safety of children. He wrote in 1994: “I have just attended a series of meetings on the whole topic of child-abuse by the clergy, and the insurance implications – quite apart from more exalted considerations – are horrendous” Abbot Charles reviewed the file and sent it. In reply, the Abbot of Glenstal said he would ‘destroy that which was specifically damaging to Anselm as some letter from Rome recommends’. That was pure cynicism, a cynicism that did not receive any reproach or comment from Abbot Charles. On the contrary, Abbot Charles sought to suggest to you at this Inquiry that the proposed action by the Abbot of Glenstal was entirely appropriate.

e. The baton passed to Abbot Yeo. Yeo remembered Hurt from his school days and then as postulant as someone with an ‘engaging personality’. On 11/4/01 he supported his return to the priesthood: Hurt was free to perform all the sacraments and would be most welcome to visit Downside. He did so without any knowledge of what Hurt had done for the last 30 odd years. On 14/7/01 Yeo was elected Abbot President. In September 2001 the final Nolan report was published with its final recommendations:

i. Recommendation 69: It is important to treat current allegations about abuse that took place some years ago (‘historical allegations’) in exactly the same way as allegations of current abuse.

ii. Recommendation 70: Bishops and religious superiors should ensure that any cases which were known in the past but not acted on satisfactorily (‘historic cases’) should be the subject of review as soon as possible, reported to the statutory authorities wherever appropriate, and that there is appropriate follow-up action including possibly regular continuing assessment.

f. Those were recommendations which Yeo said he supported. He said this did not cause him to reflect on what he’d just done for Anselm Hurt. We invite you to reject that. He clearly did reflect on it. He knew what he should do. He deliberately failed to do it.

g. And so we see how over the course of 40 years a known abusive monk, that had been kicked out of the monastery was gradually reintegrated back into the fold, in an Abbey with a school, and with no restrictions on his activities.

h. What happened with Anselm Hurt was not naivety. It was cynicism. It is not judging them with the unfair benefit of hindsight. Father Watkin knew Hurt was a danger from the start until his death. The monks that came after knew what they should have done at the time and flatly refused to do it. It wouldn’t have mattered what safeguarding guidance was in place or how much training they had. They would always have refused to follow it.

i. We reject the excuse that the filing system was inadequate. Abbot Charles told you,

“I think monasteries generally are rather keen on archives, so things don’t get thrown away…..I would say the files are pretty complete, at least with what has been given to be filed.”

He had no difficulty finding Hurt’s records from 20 years before. It contained the relevant information. The problem with the records is that the filing system was opaque to outsiders.
k. Of course, there is not much to be done if records are deliberately destroyed or if the filing system is opaque to outsiders. No one is unlikely to forget the evidence of Leo Davis and how he barrowed loads of monks’ files to a distant wood to burn them over the course of several days.

11. These are highly educated men, all from very similar backgrounds: top public schools, top universities, white, upper middle-class. They ran large estates and large enterprises. These are not unworldly men who could not have been expected to know better. These were monks, who should as a body, have helped lead the way. In many cases they did not even follow. They were following a script of their own. Some, like Yeo, paid lip-service to child-safeguarding. Some like Timothy Wright, did not even do that. Some like Cuthbert Madden made seeming efforts. But as Adrian Child said in respect of essentially voluntary guidance,

“a lot of this seems based on the integrity of individuals….[even where progress was made] it was dependent on the skills and expertise of the coordinator and the doggedness in the endeavour of the abbot”.

11. What Abbot, with any sense of responsibility, in relation to a known abuser in his community, would write (Charles Fitzgerald-Lombard, 18/6/97)

“I am hopeful that the climate among our national witch-hunters will be sufficiently muted for him [Nicholas White] to take up a strictly monastic residence again”.

12. If that is what they are prepared to put in writing or to outsiders, to what depths of cynicism do they descend between themselves on the telephone and in the refectory?

13. Fitzgerald Lombard, Yeo and Wright did not act with integrity. Men of faith, they acted in bad faith. Better men may come. But what if they do not? Had it been left to men like Yeo and Wright, the perpetrators would have avoided criminal justice. The consequence of avoiding criminal justice is that i) the perpetrator goes unpunished ii) there is no public record of the offence iii) he is not subject to any of the restrictions the criminal law then imposes iv) children remain at risk. These monks have sought to create – with some success – a latter-day Benefit of Clergy.

The real reasons for the failings

14. The primary reasons for EBC’s failure is a) the lack of accountability of those responsible for the welfare of children and b) the conflict of interest that inevitably arises when those in charge are responsible for the welfare of children and potential perpetrators.

15. Those reasons are likely to be typical for a number of the institutions you investigate. But there are features of this particular manifestation of the Catholic Church that show how intractable the solution is likely to be.

16. The first is what these men believe in: the teachings of the Catholic Church and the Rule of St Benedict.

a. According to the rule of St Benedict, the Abbot is ‘believed to hold the place Christ in the monastery’ and ‘..the Abbot must never teach or decree or command anything that would deviate from the Lord’s instructions’. Abbot Charles said that ‘apart from the Almighty’ he did not answer to anyone. Even the Abbot President was limited in his power over the Abbot.

b. Abbot Wright wrote, ‘An Abbot’s first task, before all else, is the care of his monks….each of the brethren offer their obedience….Their home is the one place to which they can always return, regardless of what has happened, because their home is defined by an enclosure from which externs are excluded.’

c. When Abbot Wright had the temerity to challenge the paramountcy principle, he was merely stating his truth: monks came before children.

d. The power of the Abbot is qualified only by the necessity of election by the monks every 8 years, the teachings of the Catholic Church, Canon Law and instructions from Rome. The Holy See could remove an Abbot. The Holy See could issue instructions in individual cases. We have seen how powerful that allegiance can be:

i. By Canon 489:

§1. In the diocesan curia there is also to be a secret archive, or at least in the common archive there is to be a safe or cabinet, completely closed and locked, which cannot be removed; in it documents to be kept secret are to be protected most securely.

§2. Each year documents of criminal cases in matters of morals, in which the accused parties have died or ten years have elapsed from the condemnatory sentence, are to be destroyed. A brief summary of what occurred along with the text of the definitive sentence is to be retained.

Abbot Dillon of Glenstal appears to have received a standing instruction from Rome to destroy documents damaging to a monk.
iii. The seal of the of the confessional is absolute: even where a child tells a priest in confession that he/she has been sexually abused. The seal of the confessional protects abusers and encourages them to abuse further by granting absolution. You can infer from A221’s (the boy at Downside abused by Richard White) evidence and that of Richard Yeo that these monks confessed their sexual abuse to their fellow monks and did so repeatedly as they carried on abusing.

iv. Richard Yeo himself told us that there was sufficient concern that there were elements of Catholic theology that ‘might tend to encourage abusive behaviour’ that the EBC sponsored a conference about it. His own particular concern was that:

‘there is something in the nature of the priesthood deriving from the fact that, according to Catholic theology, there is an ontological effect on the person on becoming a priest, does this have an effect in creating an atmosphere where child sexual abuse is — I won’t say facilitated, but made less unlikely.’

This begs the question: if there is a conflict between Catholic theology, teaching and practice, and the abuse of children, what will the Benedictines do about it? The answer has, we say, been demonstrated in the evidence. The safety of children comes second.
f. This is the same concern raised by the United Nations when it wrote in 2014:

“the Committee reiterates its concern about the Holy See’s reservations to the Convention which undermine the full recognition of children as subjects of rights, and condition the application of the Convention on its compatibility with the sources of law of Vatican City State”.

17. The second reason is the hierarchical structure of the EBC.

a. The harmful concentration of power in one individual – the Abbot – was demonstrated by the evidence of George Corrie. Even as Prior and safeguarding officer, he was unable to persuade the Abbot to adopt a child protection procedure.

b. The person with power at Ampleforth, Abbot Timothy Wright, was able to resist outside interference for an extended period by refusing to hand over or name individuals against whom there had been complaints. He recruited a lawyer to help with the resistance (and may have avoided full disclosure – we will never know as the police didn’t pursue a search warrant. See the evidence of Barry Honeysett of North Yorkshire Police.

c. Both Eileen Shearer and Jane Dziadulewizc made it clear they were frustrated that guidance by the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service was simply that: advisory only.

18. The third reason is the culture and traditions of the EBC.

. This was an old boys’ club. Once in, you were catered for, for life. These were almost exclusively, public-school (usually Ampleforth/Downside), Oxbridge-educated, upper middle-class, white, men. They often knew each other from school or university days. They lived literally, and not just figuratively, like brothers. They worked together, ate together, prayed together, celebrated mass together – and heard each other’s confessions. A clear case of the operation of this old boys’ club was the case of Anselm Hurt. Even after estrangement lasting over 20 years he was levered back to full monastic life.

a. It’s a club that came with very worldly benefits. Jane Dziadulwicz: “Downside Abbey is absolutely beautiful. It really is beautiful, as is the school, and it has beautiful facilities, it is a beautiful environment. The monks’ rooms are well furnished and they are very comfortable. Their private spaces are comfortable. There are plenty of private rooms within the abbey that are very comfortable.”

b. A job as an EBC monk also came with high status. You were not just a priest, but a well-to-do pillar of the community. Deference came automatically from parents who were, effectively, lay members of this club. We heard how A221’s father a) sought an injunction to prevent publicity as much for the Church’s sake as his son’s and b) was prepared to shake the hand of Father White even after he had learned that White had abused his son.T

c. To outsiders this is often intimidating. It played its part in inhibiting decisive action and the full use of their powers by, for example, Barry Honeysett (who acknowledged some reluctance to embark on a search of the Ampleforth premises) and DC Mark Smith (who was on the verge of arresting Aidan Bellenger for obstructing his inquiries) and even Elizabeth Mann who hesitated before disclosing the contents of her risk assessments.

19. The final reason is the legal status of the EBC.

. Religious organisations do not have a corporate structure and so cannot be held accountable. In law these organisations are simply groupings of individuals who by their nature can leave the organisation, disappear or die. They are simply unincorporated associations. It is a point raised by Richard Yeo himself: ”The only juridical persons associated with religious congregations in this country are the charitable trusts which hold the property of most of our congregations.”

a. As unincorporated associations the EBC (and many other Church organisations) are not, and cannot be, subject to effective external regulation.

b. The absence of a corporate structure leads to confusion and non-standard practice.

c. The internal working of religious communities is not based on sanction for poor performance. It is based on trust that each individual is performing well.

20. We agree with Adrian Child when he said:

“..I don’t see any value in tinkering around the edges and saying, “Here you are. Here is a third opportunity [post-Nolan, post-Cumberlege]. Go away and sort this out yourself….there needs to be accountability and some kind of mandatory enforcement.”

Recommendations

Mandatory reporting

21. The panel should make it clear that the moral obligation is to report known or suspected child abuse to the police.

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22. The panel recommend the creation of a failure to report offence targeted at institutions where the relevant person:

a. Knows or suspects that a child is being or has been sexually abused or

b. Should have suspected (on the basis that a reasonable person in their circumstances would have suspected)

By a person associated with the institution.

23. We appreciate that this would impose criminal liability for failure to report a suspicion that the person did not form.

24. A law which requires professionals who work with children in ‘Regulated Activities’ to inform the Local Authority Designated Officer (‘LADO’) or in appropriate circumstances children’s services the professional knows, suspects, or has reasonable grounds for knowing or suspecting child abuse. Failure to inform would be a criminal offence. Presently this is only guidance which is all too frequently ignored.

25. This legislation would introduce a much stronger culture of abuse prevention as well as supporting and protecting mandated staff. In the absence of law those staff who do report presently are, by default, whistle-blowers with very little protection. Law can be a catalyst for behavioural and cultural change. The aim of the proposal is not to criminalise staff but to support them when they are faced with the most challenging circumstances – concerns of potential or known child abuse. Being legally mandated to report removes an enormously challenging set of decisions staff are currently being asked to make. We have seen in this case study the effect of the absence of mandatory reporting.

26. We are satisfied that, where the elements of the reporting obligation are met, there should be no exemption, excuse, protection or privilege from the offence granted to clergy for failing to report information disclosed in or in connection with a religious confession.

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Failure to protect offence

27. The panel should consider introducing an offence of failing to protect a child from the risk of sexual abuse. Such a law has already been enacted in the Australian State of Victoria in 2015. Under the Victorian offence in section 49C, persons in authority in an organisation are required to protect children from a substantial risk of a sexual offence being committed by an adult associated with that organisation if they know of the risk. They must not negligently fail to reduce or remove a risk which they have the power or responsibility to reduce or remove.

28. “Many of our case studies reveal circumstances where steps were not taken to protect children in institutions. These include examples where persons were allowed to continue to work with a particular child after concerns were raised, and they continued to abuse the particular child. They also include examples where persons who had allegations made against them were allowed to continue to work with many other children and they went on to abuse other children. In some cases, perpetrators were moved between schools or other sites operated by the same institution.”

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The extension of ‘position of trust’ offences.

29. The panel should review the criminal offence of ‘abuse of position of trust’ under sections 16-24 of the Sexual Offences Act 2005. It should consider whether the existing categories of forbidden relationships with 17 & 18 year olds should be broadened. It might be broadened to include the case where the offender has an established personal relationship with the victim in connection with the provision of religious, sporting, musical or other instruction to the victim. We make this suggestion following the evidence of A117 who was abused by F80 when she was 17 and wheelchair-bound and he was 52 and a senior monk at Downside. We make the suggestion whether or not it proves possible to capture the described behaviour of F80. The categories as they currently stand are too narrow.

30. We note this was a recommendation made Australian Royal Commission in the recently published Criminal Justice Report.

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The creation of a new statutory body to police and enforce regulatory

31. We invite the panel to consider the creation of a new statutory body to police and enforce minimum national standards of child-safeguarding. We envisage such a body having similar powers to the Health & Safety Executive. The Health & Safety Executive operates for the safety of workers. Children are an even more vulnerable group. The absence of a powerful statutory body dedicated to their protection is a serious defect.

32. Such a body will:

a. Establish a register of relevant Institutions that look after children.

b. It will be an offence to look after children without being on the register.

c. To be on the register institutions have to introduce a corporate structure.

d. “regulated” institutions will be forced to adhere to minimum safeguarding regulations.

e. have the power to prosecute regulated organisations for breach of this guidance (similar to HSE prosecutions). Fines will be imposed.

f. All complaints are to be passed to the independent body by a receiving institution with a criminal sanction for failing to do so.

g. The body will gather information from complainants. It will have the power to compel disclosure of material.

h. It will liaise with and assist civil authorities such as the police and social services. It would ensure the police and other statutory organisations are taking appropriate action within reasonable timescales. It will have the power to compel the police to investigate and refer cases to the CPS.

i. For the purposes of making an award of compensation and support It will investigate the complaint using the balance of probabilities as the standard of proof.

j. The body will decide on reparations and support to be offered to the complainant.

k. Complainants will be allowed to take advice from lawyers and a contribution towards legal costs will be awarded.

l. The cost of the body’s work, support, reparations and legal costs are to be paid from a levy on the institutions.

m. It will provide to Government and the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child with regular reports on progress of UK organisations in fulfilling their obligations at the UN conventions.

Charities Commission

33. Both Ampleforth and Downside schools have charitable status. The panel should:

a. review the powers of the Charity Commission to change that status when serious child safeguarding concerns are revealed;

b. Consider whether the ‘advancement of religion’ should remain a charitable purpose given the conflict between that purpose and child safety.

34. Should the State be subsidising institutions that, in the words of Aidan Bellinger, tolerate and encourage paedophiles or where, in the words of Richard Yeo, there are elements of the promoted theology that encourages child abuse?

35. it is a wonder any parent would feel confident sending their child to these schools, let alone those who, because they are necessarily rich, have a choice. As it is, these schools have long enjoyed charitable status and the tax relief that follows. If these were state schools with a less august history and a lesser sense of their own importance – if they were not, in short, pillars of the Catholic establishment – they would have been closed.

36. What happened was beyond mere negligence, a lack of understanding of proper procedures or a naivety that is excused by their cloistered existence. The evidence is that these monks deliberately put children at risk to protect paedophile monks and the institutions in which they lived. They fomented an environment that promoted abuse and tolerated it when discovered. Given the requirement for confession to fulfill their priestly function, discovery was almost immediate. They have behaved like this not just in the dim and distant past but recently: post-Nolan, post-Cumberlege. I should like to say the Benedictine Order have at least paid lip-service to modern reforms. In the case of Abbot Timothy Wright, you could not even say that.

37. Stripped of the religious cloth that has hung like a heavy pall over all these proceedings there is nothing left but an unincorporated association. One whose care of children should not be tolerated in any walk of life. To the extent you hesitate at such a suggestion I would invite you to consider that the reason for your hesitation is simply the power and influence of these revered institutions.

—–

I would like me to record my gratitude for the tenacity and bravery of those victims of abuse who have given evidence. I would also like to give credit to organisations such as the Ministry and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors group for their support and ideas.

Week 3 of the English Benedictine Congregation Inquiry – Crass Disregard for Children and Burning Records

The evidence started this week with former headmaster, Aidan Bellenger, who was complacent and slightly evasive in his evidence. He agreed there was a conflict between the best interests of children and having the monastery in the control of the governors and finance. He admitted being involved in the decision-making on allowing a serial abuser, Richard White, back into the monastery. He told the Inquiry he wasn’t aware that DC Mark White considered that he was obstructing the police investigation and was close to being arrested. He denied being slow to reveal documents to the police. He was aware that monks who had abused were appointed in 2006 and 2007 to the board of governors and board of trustees. He agreed he took no steps to remove them.

Mr Bellenger agreed he wrote two letters in 2016 and 2017 setting out what he felt were the failures at Downside and pointed out that previous Abbots had protected abusers and that 3 abusers were still being harboured by the monastery. He is in the process of leaving the Benedictines.

The deputy Head, Andrew Hobbs, gave evidence that child protection at Downside had not been good enough. He recounted the failed Ofsted inspections of 2010 and 20011 and the steps taken to retrieve the situation. Changes now include better recruitment checks, physical separation between the school and the monks quarters, training for all on safeguarding, and better information sharing. he agreed there was more to do.

“Prior Administrator” Leo Davis gave evidence in an uncertain way. He was a man in his late 60s with white hair. He recounted disastrous dealings with Anselm Hurt and Richard White, both of whom had been known offenders but who were allowed back into the monasteries and into contact with pupils. He agreed publicity was a principal concern and advice from a barrister QC to disclose abuse of Richard White to the police was rejected. An interesting statistic arose that 16 of the 23 monks at Downside had safeguarding complaints lodged against them. He confirmed that RC-F77, another monk against whom a complaint had been lodged, was still living at Downside under a “behaviour covenant”. He had been made a trustee in 2007. RC-F77 breached his covenant in 2012 by walking across the school playing fields and attending a church service which boys attended. Not all parents have been told about his presence on site. Another monk accused of persuading a pupil to give him oral sex was moved from Downside to a parish in Turvey but the monastery didn’t tell Turvey of the risk he posed to children. F Leo denied knowing about Dunstan O’Keefe downloading pornography in spite of a letter from one monk to the Abbott that “We all knew he was downloading images”. An internal note was produced which set out steps to be taken to clear O’Keefe’s position up. The note included the words “destroy hard drive and floppy…computer destroyed…theft”. O’Keefe was even told by the Abbot Richard Yeo to “lie low and keep out sight” at the school. He was in fact allowed to be a novice master and has access to boys.

Most of the evidence we have heard is characterised by a systematic disregard for safeguarding good practice but evidence given by Leo Davis on 12th December 2017 was the height of crass disregard for the law by these monks. Leo David was the headmaster at the time but in July 2012 he set about moving large numbers of documents from the Headmaster’s basement and carting them over the space of 4 days off site in a wheelbarrow through the woods surrounding Downside and burning them. He claimed he didn’t know what they contained. This was two years after the police had asked for documents but felt they had been held back. He agreed the monastery had employed a PR consultant, Tony Domain, to “avoid hazards and advise on what to say to parents”. Leo David agreed he wanted to avoid media interest.

Richard Yeo, the former Abbott of Downside and former Abbott president agreed that the status of priest creates a risk of child abuse by creating an atmosphere where priests feel protected. He confirms that an abuser who was allowed back in to the priesthood, Anselm Hurt, had been a childhood friend of his and that he helped him gain position at Downside. He admitted failing to report Richard White or Dunstan O’Keefe in 2002 after the Nolan report recommended he should. Richard Yeo went on to help the Abbott of Ampleforth to introduce a secret safeguarding code. This had been kept secret from CSAS, the Catholic church’s central safeguarding advisory body.

It appears to have been standard practice for Abbotts and headmasters at Downside to interfere with and try to undermine boys who had complained. There came a point in his evidence where he had described the fact that a complainant was alcoholic and asking his Mother for money as “that little nugget” – as if it would help to defeat the allegation made by the former pupil. Did he not question the root cause of his alcoholism ?

It was put to him that Canon 489 requires a secret archive to be kept for complaints about priests. Yeo said this referred to Bishops and not Religious (the term for heads of religious Orders such as monks, brothers and nuns).

When questioned about the confessional he could not recall if any monk had confessed child abuse to him. He agreed that if a child told him it has experienced sexual abuse in the confessional he would be bound by sanctity of the confessional and would not be able to report it to the police. Overall Richard Yeo came across as extremely evasive and failed to give a straight answer to any of the questions posed.

Adrian Child, former Assistant director of COPCA and CSAS (the national body advising Catholic organisations on safeguarding) gave evidence.

  • He found that not all Dioceses adopted the centrally agreed safeguarding guidance.
  • He had put together a dispute resolution procedure for cases where there was an allegation but no conviction but 50% of dioceses and orders rejected it, including CCIA, the Catholic Insurance office. To quote his evidence “To say ‘my hands are tied or my insurer won’t let me settle the case’ is not moral or adequate”.
  • He criticised the lack of money put into safeguarding.
  • He criticised the seal of the confessional for getting in the way of safeguarding.
  • He described Ampleforth as a microcosm of the Catholic Church.
  • He criticised the fact that safeguarding depended on goodwill between Bishops and Religious leaders.

He summarised by saying that the system needed legislative oversight for all religious bodies, sport, drama, music, etc where children are looked after. Legislation is needed that has teeth and can deliver sanctions for breaches of safeguarding. To quote his words to Professor Jay and panel “Don’t tinker around the edges. We need accountability and mandatory enforcement”.

Claire Winter, The Somerset County Council LADO (“Local Authority Designated Officer”), gave evidence to confirm she was involved with overseeing Downside between 2010 and 2016. She counted allegations against 16 of the 23 monks at Downside.

She recommended a safeguarding audit as the state of record keeping was poor. There were CRB/DBS check missing for staff, records missing and files were separated between school and monastery records.

She found that she couldn’t entirely rely on the Abbott telling her about which monks or priests were a concern. She was not confident that restrictions on monks activities were being monitored. One monk forbidden to have access to the internet was discovered to have unlimited access .

Evidence from Helen Humphries, HM Inspector of Education was heard. She explained the nuts and bolts of school inspections. Kate Richards of the Independent School Inspections body explained the standards the schools should have attained.

I will be working on oral closing submissions with William Chapman and will post a copy once it has been handed in to the Inquiry. A full written submission will be posted here next Friday.

David Greenwood

Wednesday 13th December 2017

 

 

 

 

Catholic Church Inquiry week 2

This is week 2 of the Inquiry into the Catholic English Benedictine Congregation. It has also dealt with some aspects of Catholic theology and how they affect the Catholic response to child sex abuse allegations.

The second week of the Inquiry has unearthed more shocking revelations and began with evidence from the former headmaster and Abbott of Ampleforth, Leo Chamberlain. His complacent evidence was breath-taking when set against the fact that numerous allegations of child abuse on boys had been made yet not passed on to the police or social services. He eventually agreed that that monks running Ampleforth school have had no awareness or accountability on child abuse.

Former detective Barry Honeysett from NY Police underlined his shock at the Abbott’s responses to safeguarding issues when he strongly criticised the monks’ and the headmaster’s behaviour after 2003 when evidence of the activities of a number of monks had been reported to the police by the psychologist, Elizabeth Mann. He referred to a letter he had received from Abbott Timothy Wright in which he clearly set out why he would always put the defence of his monks first above the interests of abused pupils. Mr Honeysett criticised Abbott Wright’s failure to disclose abuse to social services and the police, his insistence on drip-feeding the police with what he knew about abusing monks. At this point I was left wondering why the police didn’t seek and execute a search warrant for documents as the Abbott and his lawyer seemed to have led the police on a merry dance for over 12 months before they worked out who the offenders were.

We heard moving evidence from another boy from Ampleforth and abuse from F Piers Grant-Ferris.

We heard that an offender, Gregory Carroll, had been moved out of Ampleforth and into a parish without his offending being brought to the attention of the police or social services. This was more crass disregard for the safety of children in the receiving parish.

Another (current) headmaster of Ampleforth, Cuthbert Madden, gave evidence in a ghostly and slightly aloof manner and was cataloguing the errors of he and his predecessors. F Bernard Green’s indecent assault on a boy resulted in prevarication before there was eventually a report to the police. Importantly there was tampering with the boy’s evidence as the school talked to him and his family before the police. This has emerged as a common theme at Ampleforth and Downside. Even Headmaster Madden was critical of the decision to allow the repeat offender, Grant-Ferris, to work in the Abbey bookshop at which boys regularly attended. He ran through more errors resulting from the monks’ failure to alert the police and keeping cases in house.

Importantly Headmaster Madden agreed that he had to obey orders from Rome and that he could expect to be removed from his post if he didn’t obey. This is important as Rome requires allegations against Catholic clergy to be kept entirely secret – this is in direct contradiction to the CSAS own guidance and the “working together” protocols to which all are expected to adhere.

A startling revelation came when Headmaster Madden revealed that he himself had been under police investigation arising from allegations from 4 boys but that the police had confirmed they would take no action. He still faces an internal inquiry.

The Inquiry then turned it’s attention to Downside Abbey school and began with very moving testimony of a very vulnerable girl who at the age of 17 was groomed and repeatedly sexually assaulted by a Downside Abbey monk. She described indecent assaults and a catalogue of reports which were met with either no response or totally inadequate and sometimes aggressive and defensive responses. At one point when she was at a low ebb she was invited to have a retreat at Ampleforth. During this time she suffered an attempted rape by one of the monk. These were truly shocking experiences.

Jane Dziadulewicz, the former safeguarding co-ordinator at the RC Diocese of Clifton gave her evidence. In summary she described finding resistance and cynicism from the monks towards safeguarding. She describes not having been told about all the disclosures. She explained that Abbott Aidan Bellenger didn’t give her detail on cases without her having to ask.

She recounted a few incidents of abuse by monks at Downside. Dunstan O’Keefe had been caught masturbating outside a primary school and had been cautioned. Another monk fathered a child whilst undertaking missionary work in Peru. He also assaulted a novice nun in Washington. He was moved to East Anglia where a further complaint was made about him.

Jane Dziadulewicz (‘JD”) described a bullying culture at the Abbey community among the monks, the junior of whom felt unable to have a voice. She found in files that having received complaints there was a tendency to be defensive, to blame the children and fail to inform the police.

Overall JD felt frustrated by the lack of reports to her, the police and social services when the Abbey and school found out about complaints. She described :-

  • a lack of enforcement by the Bishop and Abbott
  • names were omitted from documents, documents were lost
  • Many cases had been covered up
  • there was a failure to challenge monks
  • monks were allowed in children rooms
  • the proximity of the Abbey to the school posed a safeguarding problem

Structural issues she raised were :-

  • She had no powers to require anyone to do anything
  • Support from Bishops was patchy
  • Bishops can choose whether to comply with no accountability
  • There is too much emphasis on forgiveness and an unwillingness to laicise offenders (allowing monks to offend repeatedly)
  • Canon lawyers generally refuse to recognise the COPCA or CSAS procedures (church guidance on responding to complaints)

JD felt we needed Mandatory Reporting to be introduced and a body that can hold the church accountable. She also advocated that safeguarding training is compulsory for all clergy.

The Inquiry also heard from a young man who had been sexually abused by F Nicholas White and the fact that his abuse was repeatedly brought to the attention of the Abbott and was swept under the carpet. There was no report to the police until he himself spoke to the police in 2011. In a dreadfully sad reflection he noted that his own Father wanted to protect the name of the Catholic Church so didn’t report it to the police and sent him back to the senior school where the abuse continued. This complainant felt religion is a space in which paedophiles can go “under the radar” as the organisation believes in redemption through the confessional.

We also heard from Dr James Whitehead, the current headmaster of Downside. He is the first lay head of Downside. His criticisms of the Abbey and school were :-

  • Management structures – the Abbott is the influential chair of the governors
  • the monastic trustees are in control of the school finances
  • there is consequently a conflict of interest if a complaint is received
  • Abbeys are not controlled from outside with no oversight

He felt there should be Mandatory Reporting introduced and a body set up to oversee safeguarding in this area.

Liam Ring is the new Clifton Diocese safeguarding co-ordinator and like his predecessor, JD, complains that he had no power over the school. He also complained that he tried to direct the school to carry out safeguarding response but was ignored by the head and Abbott.

DC Mark White of Avon and Somerset police described a lack of co-operation from monks and the Abbott and delays in provision of documentation. He states the Abbott was close to being arrested for obstruction of justice.

James Michael Hubert Fitzgerald Lombard (Abbott Charles), the Abbott between 1992 and 1998 was questioned and said “It is regrettable that we’re in a position where Abbott can’t say a monk has an unalterable right to return to his monastery. Its very sad but its the world we live in.” He is effectively saying this Order will only obey the law when they are required to. When asked who controls him he said “I don’t answer to anyone but the almighty.” This makes disturbing reading as Abbott’s primary duty is to their monks before anything else (including children safety).

On confessionals he confirmed that a priest can give mass even when his sins of child abuse have not yet been absolved in the confessional.

It emerged that Abbott Charles helped a convicted child abuser, Anselm Hurt, to find a position at Glenstal Abbey in Ireland and acknowledged that there was an order from Rome that he should destroy correspondence about this.

On the issue of F Nicholas White (also known as Richard White), this Abbott was letting Nicholas White know that he could come back after child abuse once contemporaries of an abused boy had left “to avoid scurrilous gossip” (a 1991 letter). This came after Abbott Charles in his statement had denied having anything to do with Nicholas White. It seems he was caught out. In another 1991 letter he minimised White’s behaviour. In 1993 he goes on to try to persuade Abbott Mark Dilworth at Fort Augustus Abbey to house Nicholas White for a short time. This all underscores the disregard for child welfare by this order and the church.

In summary it appears that the English Benedictine Congregation and Catholic Church should not be responsible for supervising children for four reasons :-

  1. Their Theology, teaching and practice demonstrate their faith always trumps safeguarding.
  2. Their legal status means they are difficult for statutory authorities to control.
  3. Their hierarchical structure with power concentrated in Bishops and heads of Orders means adherence to safeguarding pends on the attitudes of individuals.
  4. Church culture and traditions with bonds of priesthood mean secrecy and defence of institutional reputations comes before child safety.

For all these reasons I will be asking the Inquiry to recommend mandatory reporting of suspicions of child abuse is enacted immediately and that an independent body is established to be the first port of call for any complaints and which will remove responsibility for responding to complaints of child sex abuse from institutions.

The position of the Catholic Church at this point appears, on the evidence heard so far, to be stark. It is doubtful that there should be religious control of schools or indeed contact between priests or religious with children in any circumstances.

David Greenwood

8th December 2017

 

Catholic Church Is investigated at Inquiry

This week IICSA (the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse) started its examination of how the English Benedictine Congregation dealt with allegations in its monasteries and schools.
The English Benedictine Congregation is an amalgam of monks following the teaching of St Benedict. It owns and runs monasteries and private schools, principally Ampleforth, Downside and Ealing Abbey school.
Evidence brought out during evidence of the first 5 days shows an organisation which considers itself above secular laws, preferring to deal in house with allegations of child sex abuse by its members. Abuse covering the mid 1960s to 2010 has been uncovered and two survivors gave compelling evidence of thoroughly wicked abuse from monks at Ampleforth.
Eileen Shearer, an official advising all UK catholic clerics on safeguarding gave a straightforward account of the barriers put up by the church and religious communities against adopting good standards of safeguarding responses. She found most Bishops to have been disinterested. One record of a conversation between the psychologist Elizabeth Mann and Abbott Timothy Wright of Ampleforth showed the Abbott was not willing to accept external advice and that effectively “Ampleforth’s policy on safeguarding was that there was no policy for monks”. The disagreement on how to deal with offenders led to Mrs Mann being sacked from her role by the Abbott.
An experienced social worker, David Molesworth gave evidence that he was met with “obfuscation, defensiveness and obstruction” when he tried to persuade the Abbott and Prior to share information. He found it incredibly that Ampleforth was unwilling to share information on allegations and had even failed to disclose to him the fact that they had known about offending by multiple abusers for many years.
All this evidence affirms what we already know – which is that Catholic doctrine and orders from Rome encourage Bishops and Religious to keep these allegations secret. It seems they hold on to this teaching rather than follow advice from their own advisers like Eileen Shearer.
The evidence continues next week. Former Abbott General Richard Yeo returns to the witness box. His evidence is likely to be just as interesting. Read more

MEDOMSLEY DETENTION CENTRE – 7 Ex officers charged 21st November 2017

MEDOMSLEY DETENTION CENTRE – 7 EX-OFFICERS CHARGED

The Crown Prosecution Service and Durham police have charged 7 men who used to work at Medomsley Detention Centre, Consett, County Durham, with a series of abuse offences.
The charges arise out of ‘Operation Seabrook’, a police investigation that has been running since 2013 into allegations by over 1,400 ex-detainees that they were abused at the centre. The abuse allegations include incidents of both physical and sexual assaults allegedly committed by a large number of officers.
Medomsley was open from the 1960’s until 1988 and housed young inmates on relatively short-term sentences, many of whom had been sent there for relatively minor offending.
Kevin Blakely, Alan Bramley, Brian Greenwell, David McClure, John McGee, Christopher Onslow and Neil Sowerby, aged between 61 and 73, are due to appear at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates Court on 19th December. They face charges relating to individual complaints by ex-detainees and have all been charged with Misconduct in a Public Office.
The police have confirmed that their investigation continues with the CPS still considering files relating to a number of other ex-officers. They will welcome contact from ex-inmates who have not previously spoken to them, and ask that they be contacted on the police ‘101’ number or by email at operation.seabrook@durham.pnn.police.uk.
Switalskis Solicitors have for a number of years been representing clients who were abused at Medomsley and currently have a substantial number of clients whom we are assisting in making claims against the Ministry of Justice. If you have been affected by treatment you received at Medomsley then our experienced and expert team will be able to talk with you in confidence about how we may be able to help you.
If you would like a private consultation then please do not hesitate to contact our Caroline Chandler or Rob Casey who are dealing with claims arising out of Medomsley abuse, under the expert guidance of our David Greenwood, one of the leaders in the field nationally in this area of law.
We can be contacted on 01924 882000 or by email (caroline.chandler@switalskis.com or rob.casey@switalskis.com)

Lambeth Council abuse claims

By Amy Clowrey, child abuse solicitor.

 

In 2016 Lambeth council accepted that, historically, many children were psychologically, physically and sexually abused in their care and a redress scheme is currently being developed to compensate survivors. They accepted that this was a large number of children spanning over a many years.

 

This acceptance was a direct result of the hard work of Shirley Oaks Survivors Association (SOSA) and the courage of victims in speaking out.

 

The redress scheme is still being discussed by legal teams for Lambeth and SOSA, a timescale is yet to be confirmed but it is hoped that some progress will be made soon and that finally the survivors can have some redress after many years of waiting.

 

Switalskis Solicitors are representing a number of survivors of historical abuse suffered whilst in the care of Lambeth council.

 

Applications to the proposed scheme should be made now and we would be able to advise you on an application and alternative remedies.

 

If you are a victim of abuse whilst in the care of Lambeth and would like a confidential chat with a member of our specialist team, please call 0800 138 4700.

Foster care abuse cases – Update 18th October 2017

Armes v Nottinghamshire County Council 2017 UKSC 4

Vicarious liability in Foster care abuse cases

This case has been eagerly awaited by those claimants who until now have been denied compensation after having been abused by their foster carers. Councils who retain foster carers have until now been able to avoid paying compensation to victims of foster care abuse as it was previously thought that the relationship between the council and the foster carer was not sufficiently close that the council should pick compensate the victim.

This new ruling confirms that Councils are vicariously liable for abuse carried out by their foster carers on the basis that :-

Councils recruit , select and train foster carers. They monitor and assess them on an ongoing basis.

The council retains parental responsibility and makes decisions on things such as medical treatment.

Foster carers are paid allowances by the council.

The council has a close degree of control over their foster carers and can remove children from their care at any time.

Councils are aware that this foster care arrangement involves a risk of sexual abuse as children are placed in the houses of foster carers. Councils create this risk when children are placed with them.

Councils are in a better position than foster carers to meet compensation claims.

The case can be viewed here https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2016-0004-judgment.pdf

If any person harmed whilst in foster care wishes to talk confidentially with David Greenwood or Carole Spencer at Switalskis they can be contacted on 01924 882000 or david.greenwood@switalskis.com

 

Lemn Sissay – “The Report”

Last night I attended the Royal Court theatre in Sloane Square, London, to see something dramatic. It wasn’t a performance in the traditional sense. It was the reading of his a psychological report.
It sounds dry doesn’t it ? It was far from it.
The report plotted the life course of Lemn Sissay the famous poet, playwright and performer. It exposed how a succession of adults who should have protected him failed him. First social workers failed to return him to his birth mother as an infant, then his foster family set him up to fail their christian values tests. They spat him out aged 12 and then the residential care system in Wigan set to work on the black kid who had just lost the only family he’d ever known.
Throughout he’d suffered open racial abuse at school and in his home town, Atherton.
The care system kicked him out and at 17 with no support he was left to make his own way.
I’m left wondering how he managed to get through all that without turning into a bad boy. How come he’s not an armed robber ?
I can’t answer that one but somewhere along the line Lemn has taught himself superhuman powers of self restraint. Any normal person would have railed against the system and sunk deeper into the stereotype of the angry young man they seem to have been trying to create.
It might have something to do with his intelligence and his creativity with the pen. Lemn himself has explained his influences through this time in his “Origin” series of programs on BBC radio 4. In short his poetry and writing pulled him through.
It has not ended well despite his “successful” public persona.
As the psychologist, Elie Godsi, explains he had hasn’t been without his issues (alcohol, relationship and inter- personal difficulties) but he is working hard at finding stability and a sense of belonging that most of us take for granted. His rightful place is as part of his birth family. Failures meant he was denied access to the best schools unlike to his siblings.
Having his psychological report read to him live on stage has no doubt been challenging for him but Lemn is so well known that he is able to have a supportive audience listen to it alongside him.

Most importantly, by doing this he is broadcasting to the world just how child abuse and neglect shapes the lives of our children.
Lemn is sacrificing his privacy to teach us all that our institutions must do better.
More information about this incredibly moving performance is here.

David Greenwood

1st May 2017
—————————————————
Lemn Sissay’s The Report
Sun 30 Apr 2017
“One reader. One table. And me. And The Report.”

Lemn Sissay MBE is a poet, playwright, broadcaster and actor.

Lemn was brought up in care and he is taking the social services to court for stealing his life. As part of the legal proceedings Lemn has had to undergo a 5-hour psychological assessment.

When a person claims abuse by the system a report is written. The Report unveils everything.

Just before Lemn turns 50, he will hear a reading of this medical assessment, The Report, for the first time live on the Royal Court stage. He invites the public to join him.

“A few weeks ago I sat down in a beige interview room in the legal district of Leeds City Centre. I thought it was going to be easy. The man sat behind the table opposite me had been appointed by my lawyer. He was neither friendly ‘we’re going to be five hours at least’ or unfriendly ‘There’s a lot to get through.’ He clicked his ballpoint pen and the psychological interrogation of my life began. Mid way through the interview I broke down.

This week I received The Report via my lawyer. He said it brought him to tears. I’ve decided to listen to it for the first time on stage, supported by an audience.”

Read by Julie Hesmondhalgh to Lemn Sissay
Directed by John E McGrath
Produced by Sarah Sansom

Lemn Sissay is an Honorary Doctor of Letters, has an MBE for services to literature, is Associate Artist at Southbank Centre and is a Foundling Fellow.

Jerwood Theatre Downstairs

6pm

Any profits from the performance will go towards the set up of the Lemn Sissay Foundation.

 

Eastbourne College abuse – Andrew Boxer and Graham Jones convicted.

Two former teachers at Eastbourne College were convicted in April 2017 at Hove Crown Court of offences of indecent assault against a pupil of the school between 1988 and 1993.

The former teacher, Andrew Boxer, was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment whilst Graham Jones was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment.

Switalskis solicitors have been asked to advise on the case.

If any former pupils at the school, witnesses or family members wish to talk confidentially with David Greenwood at Switalskis he can be contacted on 01924 882000 or david.greenwood@switalskis.com

 

Child Sexual Exploitation charges in Huddersfield and Dewsbury. West Yorkshire Police investigation.

Lawyers at Switalskis Solicitors act for a number of young women who were sexually exploited by men in the Huddersfield and Dewsbury areas. 29 men have been charged with offences and will be appearing at Huddersfield Magistrates court on 12th April 2017. The police operation has been codenamed Operation Tendersea.

This comes after our team assisted girls in Rotherham, Sheffield and Oxford pursue prosecutions and compensation claims.

If you need confidential advice call either Sally Smith, Bev Mercer, Amy Clowrey or David Greenwood on 01924 882000 or e mail david.greenwood@switalskis.com