Monday, 20 May 2019

The Ealing IICSA hearing - comments

I've taken some time off concerning the IICSA and the Ealing hearings. I needed to take a bit of time away from what is an unpleasant subject, and the day job has required some attention.

However, some people have asked questions in response to my previous articlesm and I now have the energy to offer a belated answer or two.

Peter Agius said "I'd be interested to read your comments on all that Jamison had to say." That's a good and interesting question, and was covered in the closing submissions from the lawyers representing me and various of the Ealing survivors. This would have gone into the oral closing sumbission but had to be cut for lack of time. it went subsequently into the written submission following the end of the hearing.
The evidence given at the end of this case study by current Abbot President Christopher Jamison was on any view clear, seemingly forward thinking and filled with media-friendly soundbites.

Yet the Panel should note that Jamison was giving evidence from a distinctly fortunate position: the Inquiry has been unable to investigate in detail Worth Abbey and School, for which Christopher Jamison was responsible for 8 years. Given the unremittingly grim state of safeguarding at all of the Benedictine settings the Inquiry has examined in detail to date, there is every reason to think that the history of child sexual abuse at Worth is just as appalling as that of Ampleforth and Downside and Ealing and St Benedict’s.

Indeed, had the Inquiry chosen to examine Worth rather than Ealing and St Benedict’s in detail, it is entirely possible that we would by now have heard of Abbot Jamison’s resignation and Abbot Martin Shipperlee’s elevation to the role of Abbot President.
Anonymous (11 Feb at 11:55) said 'The key question remains the killer question is “why has St Benedicts School and the Abbey harvested so many convicted child abusers, who continued their abuse for years, in positions of senior authority ? What does it say about the culture supported and encouraged by the governing bodies ?"'

Ultimately we will never wholly know the answer, but it is pretty clear from the evidence given by Shipperlee and Yeo during the hearing that the loyalty of successive abbots was to the institution and to the monks therein - and not to those whom the institutions and monks had taken into their care. Those of the monks who abused children rapidly learned they would be protected by their peers. There were A number of moments in the evidence which particularly struck me.
Q.  Since David Pearce's release in 2011, did Ealing Abbey, or does Ealing Abbey or the English Benedictine Congregation provide him with housing?
A.  He lives in a --
Q.  You don't have to tell us exactly where he lives.
A.  He lives in a flat for which we pay the rent.  A small flat.
Q.  Do you provide him with a pension?
A..  We don't provide him with a pension, no.
Q.  Do you provide him with any other financial assistance?
A.  No.
Q.  So he just has the flat?
A.  Yes.
Q.  No other financial assistance at all?
A.  No.
Q.  Where does the money come from to pay for the flat?
A.  From our funds, charitable funds.
Q.  Do you have approval from the Charity Commission for that?  Do you write to the Charity Commission asking whether it is a valid use of charitable funds?
A.  I haven't.  I don't know if the bursar did.  It doesn't seem to be up in the record.
Let's just be clear about this. Pearce was convicted & sentenced to 5 years for abuses of 5 separate boys. And the Abbot of Ealing authorised that Ealing pay the rent on his flat out of charitable funds. If this degree of support is offered to a convicted abuser who is no longer a monk, how much more do you think monks will be supported when they are merely accused and not (yet) convicted?

Well, you don't need to think, because we have witness statements which tell you. The following is from the witness statement of Kate Ravenscroft, a drama teacher at the school.
"At the time, the school felt a bit like the Mafia, if anybody complained or said anything about Pearce, Laurence Soper would protect him and to complain meant putting your job on the line. I didn't know what to say to the boy. There had been a number of complaints against Pearce; he had been moved from the junior school to the upper school, to the bursar's office."
Another teacher, Mr Halsall, said
"I made complaints about both Pearce and Maestri but they didn't go anywhere and it definitely harmed my career. At times, it felt like the Mafia, like ramming your head against a brick wall. I believe they all knew how I felt about the various activities and so were very careful around me."
And it wasn't just Shipperlee who was taking this attitude. Richard Yeo, for several years the Abbot President, as also questioned. Here is a portion of the transcript

Q. BNT006837, again, a handwritten note. It may be we don't need to pull many up. If we can go to page 2. There are a number of references made by monks that you interviewed at the Extraordinary Visitation about longstanding knowledge or suspicion of David Pearce. At the bottom of page 2, two lines below "name redacted":
"When arrived -- 25 years ago -- rumours, and denied; but disappointed RC-F307 says never knew anything about it ... Don't know who to ask, don't know how to talk about it."
Another note -- I won't take you to it -- is: "Abbot felt very angry at David when arrested, felt betrayed by one he had tried to help."
Another says: "Still an abusive mentality in the community."
Another says: "Mid 1970s. Knew David engaged in dubious activities."
Another says: "Since I knew I was junior school head, there was something wrong. Something said about graffiti that said "Father David is bent".
So there were a lot of concerns raised with you 1 during this Visitation?
A. There were, and I go back to what I said before: the concerns weren't exclusively about safeguarding, or, to put it another way, resolving the malaise, if I can put it like that, in the community wasn't just a matter of improving safeguarding procedures; it was a matter of improving the community's human formation, to use a modern term.
Q. What was your reaction to this extensive knowledge of Pearce that appears to have gone back decades?
A. A certain amount of amazement. When I first heard about it in 2001, I was extremely surprised.
Q. Did you think that -- sorry?
A. Sorry, if I can go on. And I challenged Abbot Martin about this.
Q. You did?
A. Towards the end of the Visitation, I saw him and asked him very specifically what he'd known about Father David and he answered --
Q. What did he say?
A. Much the same as what he said to the inquiry, that is to say, he knew that he was -- in the school, he was unfair, that he was harsh, and he was guilty of favouritism. He --
Q. Did you -- I'm so sorry, I keep cutting -- I should look at you and see when you have stopped.
A. He knew that a nickname had been given him, but he said that he felt that this was just boys talking and didn't take it as an allegation.
Q. Did you think that the community was at fault or that Abbot Martin may have been at fault for not reporting David Pearce to the civil authorities when rumours first surfaced -- well, in the 1970s, that the community had not dealt with it. Should it have been dealt with?
 A. I don't know whether you can report on the basis -- report rumours. I would have thought that --
Q. You can investigate on the basis of rumours, can't you, and if something is reported, enquiries can be made?
A. Fine. My concern was, above all, how is the community going to get out of this mess? Those are the questions I was looking at.
So let's just summarise this. Yeo conducted a Visitation, and in the course of the visitation interviewed the monks, several of whom told him of some degree of knowledge spanning decades of abuses by Pearce. And Yeo's concern, above all, was "how is the community going to get out of this mess?"

On 27 February Elly asked this question "I agree with all you say. . . What I genuinely don't understand is why, when it is clear that various adults knew abuse was going on and chose not to go to the police, those adults are not being prosecuted. Isn't there already a law about being an accessory during and/or after the fact? "

Unfortunately, to be an accessory after the fact, it is necessary to be far more active in assisting an offender than merely not reporting abuse. In English law it is not a crime to fail to report a crime. If the police come calling and ask you questions, then you're not allowed to give untruthful answers. But if you know of questions the police ought to be asking but haven't asked, you're under no legal obligation to put them right on this.

I agree with Elly when she went on to comment that "Prosecution is probably the only language such morally devoid people are going to understand." The UK is one of relatively few countries in the world that does not have a "mandatory reporting" law requiring that suspicions of child sex abuse be reported to the authorities. Mr O'Donnell (representing me and several Ealing survivors), in his closing statement to the inquiry said this about mandatory reporting.
Modern society requires that the first concern should be the safeguarding of children and we say that the English Benedictine Congregation can't be trusted to do this. The answer as to how to do this, we say, is, of course, mandatory reporting. You have heard relatively little evidence from external agencies. There was no time to hear from the Independent Schools Inspectorate or the Department for Education, for example. But what you have heard suggests they're effectively powerless to get into these institutions and make real change. You will know the only really detailed, specific proposal for mandatory reporting is that that has been prepared by Mandate Now. It has already been submitted to the inquiry.
I have not mentioned Jonathan West. I will mention this lastly. He summarises the importance of mandatory reporting in the context of this case study very, very well in his blog. He says: "Mandatory reporting would make it almost impossible for a long-running situation, such as occurred at St Benedict's, to happen. First, there will inevitably be a greater climate of awareness, making reporting more likely, and, second, no head teacher is going to risk being prosecuted for suppressing a report of somebody else abusing. These two factors would make it extremely dangerous for abusers to operate in schools. They won't dare. Abuse will be prevented as a result."
To conclude: A8, in his evidence on Monday, said the reason he'd come to give evidence to the inquiry, was out of a sense of duty to the boys who can't be here today. I say that since World War II we reckon hundreds of boys were molested at St Benedict's. Just at St Benedict's. He went on to say: "If this country had had mandatory reporting like the mandatory reporting legislation currently in draft, hundreds of those boys wouldn't have been abused."

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Mr Cleugh's mysterierious memory

My lawyers have been having an exchange of emails with the Ealing Abbey/St. Benedict's lawyers over Cleugh's comments in IICSA hearing. Richard Scorer wrote to Tony Nelson the same day
From: Richard Scorer
Sent: 08 February 2019 11:44
To: Anthony Nelson
Subject: IICSA Catholic - Cleugh evidence urgent

Dear Anthony

I understand you represent Mr Cleugh.

This morning Mr Cleugh said in evidence in relation to our client Mr West: "I was very concerned at the content of not what he was trying to do in terms of the blog, I understand subsequently -- I do -- that the voice of the abuser must be heard and that was a useful channel for doing it. But I did strongly object to the personal and often libellous statements that were written on it. Now, in fairness to him, he eventually put something on the website which said if anything was posted that he considered -- he would remove it."

Can you clarify:

(1) Whether Mr Cleugh is alleging that Mr West made libellous statements on his blog;
(2) If so, what those allegedly libellous statements were
(3) If not, whether the allegation is that the libellous statements were made by other individuals posting on Mr West’s blog

Given this is the last day of the hearing I would be obliged if you would respond promptly

Richard Scorer
And he also wrote urgently to Ruth Henke, the barrister representing Ealing Abbey/St Benedict's, who gave the closing submission on their behalf. He attached the Nelson email to thhis.
From: Richard Scorer
Date: Fri, 8 Feb 2019 at 12:28
Subject: FW: IICSA Catholic - Cleugh evidence urgent
To: Ruth Henke

Dear Ruth

See below.

If it is not being alleged that Mr West has made a libellous statement on his blog, can you make this clear in your closing submission please

Richard Scorer
There was no reply that day from either of them, And Ruth Henke's closing submission made no reference to Cleugh's comments. So Richard wrote again to Nelson on 12 February.
From: Richard Scorer
Sent: 12 February 2019 08:57
To: Anthony Nelson
Subject: RE: IICSA Catholic - Cleugh evidence urgent

Dear Mr Nelson

I refer to my email below and would be obliged to receive a response as soon as possible please.

Kind regards
Richard Scorer
Still no reply. Several attempts were made to contact nelson by phone. Richard Scorer had the definite impression that Nelson was avoiding him. Eventually they spoke on 19th February, and this is Scorer's note of the conversation.

RS reaching Tony Nelson (TN) by phone. I said we needed a written response to our questions.

He said that this is difficult for him as he “doesn’t want to become the target for blogging”.

I said there is no reason why anyone would target him for blogging in respect of the questions we have put to him. The questions are directed at Mr Cleugh. We have sent them to him because we understand him to be representing Mr Cleugh. So as far we are concerned he is the messenger for Mr Cleugh, and we are asking him to obtain Mr Cleugh’s instructions and respond.

He said he thought Ruth Hencke had already responded to me. I said I hadn’t received anything from her. I spoke to her on the day, and she said that she had “more immediate priorities” than responding to me. This was presumably a reference to preparing her closing statement. I have not received anything from her since.

TN said he understood otherwise. I assured him I had not received anything.

He said he would speak to Ruth but that I would receive a full reply to my email by close of play tomorrow.
It had so far taken eleven days just to get a promise of a response the following day. To nobody's surprise, the promised response did not appear on time. on 22nd February, Nelson finally replied as follows.
From: Anthony Nelson
Sent: 22 February 2019 09:15
To: Richard Scorer
Subject: Re: IICSA Catholic - Ealing Abbey and St Benedict's

Dear Richard,

I thank you for your recent communications.

I regret to say that I am unable to assist you in this matter.

I was however pleased to receive your suggestion for lunch together and would welcome hearing from you so that we can make arrangements.

With kind regards,
Anthony J. Nelson
I don't imagine for a moment that he thought he would get away with such a non-response.
From: Richard Scorer
Sent: 22 February 2019 09:36
To: Anthony Nelson
Subject: Re: IICSA Catholic - Ealing Abbey and St Benedict's

Dear Tony

When we spoke earlier this week you assured me that I would receive a “full response” to the questions put. You also informed me that Ruth Hencke had responded to me, which she hadn’t.

Can you therefore please clarify your email below.

Are you saying that you are not instructed to respond to us (in which case we will direct our questions to Mr Cleugh directly), or that you are instructed to refuse to answer the questions we have put to you?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Richard Scorer
A further deafening silence. Scorer wrote again.
From: Richard Scorer
Sent: 25 February 2019 11:30
To: Tony Nelson
Subject: RE: IICSA Catholic - Ealing Abbey and St Benedict's

Dear Tony

I haven’t heard further from you, so I’m just emailing to make our position clear in the light  of the various exchanges.

I asked you below to state whether you are not instructed to respond to us (in which case we will direct our questions to Mr Cleugh directly), or whether you are instructed to refuse to answer the questions we have put to you. No response has yet been forthcoming.

In the absence of a response from you on this by 4pm today, given that you have never suggested in correspondence that you are not instructed by Mr Cleugh, we will proceed on the basis that you are instructed on his behalf and that of the school, but that your instructions  are not to respond to our questions, and our clients will  comment publicly on that basis.

I hope that makes our position clear.

Richard Scorer
Finally we get a reply of sorts that makes some passing attempt to address the subject.
From: Tony Nelson
Sent: 25 February 2019 12:19
To: Richard Scorer
Subject: RE: IICSA Catholic - Ealing Abbey and St Benedict's

Dear Richard,

Thank you for your email.

I believe that Mr Cleugh was referring to the comments on the Blog, made by unknown individuals and not attributable to your client. Mr Cleugh was not criticising your client nor the existence of his blog, but simply an anonymous entry that was distressing.

Please acknowledge safe receipt.

Yours sincerely,
Anthony J. Nelson 
Scorer wrote back.
From: Richard Scorer
Sent: 25 February 2019 12:25
To: Tony Nelson
Subject: RE: IICSA Catholic - Ealing Abbey and St Benedict's

Dear Tony

Can you clarify which entry this was please.

Richard Scorer
And for once Nelson replied reasonably promptly.
From: Tony Nelson
Sent: 25 February 2019 12:41
To: Richard Scorer
Subject: RE: IICSA Catholic - Ealing Abbey and St Benedict's

Dear Richard,

My understanding is that the entry was an anonymous entry which was subsequently deleted.

Kind regards,
Anthony J. Nelson
Scorer acknowledged.
From: Richard Scorer
Sent: 25 February 2019 13:02
To: Tony Nelson
Subject: RE: IICSA Catholic - Ealing Abbey and St Benedict's

Dear Tony

I note the position and the confirmation that Mr Cleugh’s reference to “personal and often libellous statements on Mr West’s blog” relates to a single anonymous entry which was subsequently deleted.

I will let you know if we have any further questions

Richard Scorer
We had a bit of a think about this and decided it really wasn't good enough. Cleugh had said of the blog in evidence under oath "I did strongly object to the personal and often libellous statements that were written on it." Note "statements" in plural, and there was no suggestion in his evidence that the statements he was objecting to weren't written by me.

So Scorer wrote again.
From: Richard Scorer
Sent: 27 February 2019 10:17
To: Tony Nelson
Subject: RE: IICSA Catholic - Ealing Abbey and St Benedict's

Dear Tony

I write further on this matter, having obtained further instructions from my client Mr West.

You will be aware that Mr Cleugh gave evidence on oath, and therefore any false statement given in evidence, inadvertently or otherwise, will needed to be corrected without delay.

Mr West has undertaken an extensive search of both the published and unpublished/deleted comments, and can find no record of anything along the lines described by Mr Cleugh.

If the comment was as upsetting at the time as Mr Cleugh stated in evidence, then it would have been reasonable to have made a copy, and also to have complained about it to Mr West.

Therefore, please clarify:

1. Did Mr Cleugh make a copy (e.g. a screenshot)? If so please provide it to us and to IICSA.
2. Why did he not complain at the time?

If Mr Cleugh provides clear evidence that the alleged comment was at some point posted on the blog, then Mr West would be glad to apologise in public for any distress this caused him. However it is Mr West’s position that no such comment was ever published on the blog. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, a public apology is due to Mr West for making a false statement about him, and it would be appropriate for you to write to IICSA with a copy to us stating that Mr Cleugh was mistaken and wishes to withdraw that part of his evidence.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Richard Scorer
The final reply came from Nelson the following day.
From: Tony Nelson
Sent: 28 February 2019 15:44
To: Richard Scorer
Subject: IICSA Catholic - Ealing Abbey and St Benedict's

Dear Richard

Thank you for your email of yesterday.  Mr Cleugh has a clear recollection of that about which he gave evidence at the Inquiry.

There is no direct nor intended criticism of Mr West and we have made it clear that the subject matter was from an anonymous source.  Mr Cleugh has not retained material and we trust that this can now be the end of the matter.

Anthony J. Nelson
The most interesting thing about this last email was the statement that "Mr Cleugh has a clear recollection of that about which he gave evidence at the Inquiry."

The thing is, if you study the 7th February transcript, his memory of several key events seems not at all clear. For instance this:
Q. Just looking at what some of the other staff in the school said, can we look at MPS002946_003. This is Mr Halsall's witness statement. You will have read it. About a third of the way through the big paragraph in the middle, he says: "When Cleugh became head, I attempted to make him aware of past issues with Pearce and others. He did not welcome this."
A. Well, I can honestly say I do not remember that. That gentleman was a member of my senior team, so he would have had access to the discussions that were going on but I have no recollection of that.
Or this concerning the restrictions on Pearce.
Q. What did you know about restrictions on Pearce and how he was monitored?
A. Well, I was -- once the restrictions were put on him, I was fully aware that he was not allowed into the school and I conveyed that to the staff.
Q. How were you aware of that?
A. I would have been informed by the abbot.
Q. Did you see what the restrictions were?
A. I can't remember that.
Q. So it was through a conversation?
A. Yes. I mean, I'm not saying I didn't see it, but I have no recollection of it.
Or this, concerning the discussions with ISI prior to the November 2009 inspection.
Q. There are certainly two things that you say, aren't there: you tell Fox that Pearce has been accused and convicted of an offence which took place off the school premises, in the monastery; and you say that the abbot has commissioned a review. But what you don't say is that he's been under a restrictive covenant since 2005 because of previous behaviour; you don't refer to the fact that there's been a High Court judgment against Pearce and the Trust in 2006 when substantial damages were awarded to the victim?
A. Well --
Q. Do you agree with that?
A. No, I don't.
Q. You did say those things, did you?
A. Sorry?
Q. You did say those things?
A. I can't actually remember an interview that I had with the reporting inspector that actually happened 10 years ago, but in actual fact, from the word go, I tried to be open and honest with Rodney Fox about David Pearce and about [redacted] -- sorry, David Pearce and RC41.
And also this about conversations with ISI in 2009
Q. The point is that on that page that we have just looked at, where do you say that there was a restrictive covenant in place?
A. Oh, I'm sorry. Well, it doesn't say, but, in actual fact -- I can't remember the exact conversation I had, but inspectors do not write down everything that's said between two people.
Q. So perhaps he failed to write that down?
A. Well, I don't know.
Q. What about the scale of the offending of which Pearce was convicted: four boys plus A621 over a 30-year period?
A. Well, he was told of all those in his October visit.
Q. Was he told on this visit?
A. I honestly can't remember, but it wasn't a deliberate act on my part.
Q. And you're not suggesting, are you, that he has deliberately left it out of his notes?
A. I am not suggesting he deliberately left it out of his notes, because I -- and I can't remember the exact conversation, but there was nothing for me to be gained by trying to infer it was one offence.
Q. Well, you didn't mention that all victims had been pupils of the school, did you?
A. Well, once again, after the case had come to court, yes, I did. It was all in the letter.
Q. You did not mention that David Pearce had been head of the junior school and that some of his offending had been committed whilst he'd held that position?
A. I honestly can't remember. But, I mean, I -- if that's what the notes are saying, maybe we didn't. But it's not something I ever tried to hide.
The interesting thing about the passage above is that his memory of events is distinctly ropey but his memory of his intentions (which of course nobody can cross-check) is crystal-clear. His memory of comments on the blog appears to be completely clear, much clearer than the events involving his responsibility as headmaster of the school.
Q. On prize giving day, in 2010, you gave a speech?
A. I did.
Q. It is INQ002991_005. It was in the News letter?
A. No, it's the Priory magazine.
Q. In that speech -- on the left-hand side of the page - you said:
 "I absolutely refute that anyone associated with the Benedictine school has misled the inspectors or protected offenders -- such allegations are, at best, misguided and, at worst, deliberately malicious. Recent media and blog coverage seem hell-bent on trying to discredit the school and at the same time destroy the excellent relationship between the school and the monastery. Is this part of an anti-Catholic movement linked to the papal visit? I do not know, but it feels very much as if we are being targeted."
A. I mean, I would stress that before I said that, I actually had said, "There is no excuse for abuse of anyone, and particularly children. There have been failures here in the past and, quite rightly, those involved have been or are being exposed and punished". That was the surmise to it. Now, to put it into context, if I -- should I have said those words?
 Probably not. But you have to understand that the -- at the time, there was -- particularly on the blog, there was very sort of personal and offensive comments being made, both about the school and my personal -- and me personally, which caused great distress, and it really did feel as if we were being targeted.
 I felt, in terms -- of course everything that came out subsequently, everything to do with -- that came out as a consequence of the Carlile Report showed there was a really major issue in St Benedict's in the '70s, '80s and '90s -- into the '90s.
But in the correspondence between Nelson and Scorer this now appears to be just one distressing comment subsequently deleted which I can find no trace of.

Cleugh's memory of events for which he was responsible didn't seem to improve the following day. Here he is on the subject of my attempt to get the governors to improve the safeguarding policy in 2013.
Q. Jonathan West has made a statement, and you have seen that statement?
A. I have.
Q. It's at INQ003040, and I am going to ask us to turn to this section. Just by way of background, we have paragraph 197 there. The paragraph before establishes that Jonathan West, in 2013, after the new board of governors for St Benedict's had been appointed, decided to make a further attempt at persuading the governors to reform the school's child protection policy.
 In paragraph 197, he says:
 "I received no reply to this letter for some months, so on 4 September I sent copies of the letter and enclosures by recorded delivery to the home addresses of all the governors", and so on.
 At 198, he says:
 "I received a reply from one of the other governors saying that he would be taking up the matter at the next meeting of the governors."
 Was the child protection policy subsequently amended in 2013 in response to, and as a result of, Mr West's concerns?
A. I honestly can't remember, but I repeat what I said yesterday, that we were continually reviewing and updating our safeguarding policy, and that we were engaged with lots of different people helping us in that.
 But, I mean, this has moved on three years from your previous question, and of course by then we were into a new board of governors. But the new governors did take safeguarding extremely seriously.
I'll leave you to decide what to make of all this. I've provided links to the full transcript for both days of Cleugh's evidence, so you're welcome to take a look in case you think I might have quoted him out of context.

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Why didn't they have to report?

In a comment on the Who knew? Everyone! article, Elly has made a very pertinent and important point.
What I genuinely don't understand is why, when it is clear that various adults knew abuse was going on and chose not to go to the police, those adults are not being prosecuted. Isn't there already a law about being an accessory during and/or after the fact?
That's a very good question and deserves a full answer.

As a general principle of English law, it's not a crime to fail to report a crime. The exceptions are few and narrowly drawn. One exception is that under the Proceeds Of Crime Act 2002, financial institutions and their lawyers have a statutory obligation to report suspicions of money laundering or bribery to the authorities.

But there is no equivalent legal duty to report child abuse. That means that you could be the headmaster of a school, actually witness one of your staff raping one of your pupils in the school changing rooms, but you will have no legal duty to report anything about it to anyone.

To be an accessory, you need to do more than just not report it. You would need to do something more active, such as giving misleading answers to the police if they ask. But if the police don't ask, you have no obligation to tell them that there are questions they ought to be asking.

Elly goes on to say:
The numerous cases at St benedict's, plus the numerous cases in many other Catholic schools and institutions, makes one thing abundantly clear: many Catholics are willing to stand by while children are abused. Prosecution is probably the only language such morally devoid people are going to understand.
And I agree entirely. About 80% of countries worldwide have a "mandatory reporting" law applicable to child abuse. Britain is unusual in not having such a law. These last few years I have spent a fair bit of time campaigning for mandatory reporting in support of the organisation Mandate Now. They have produced detailed proposals for such a law in England and Wales and have provided those proposals to IICSA for their consideration.

Elly, I hope you (and others) will lend your vocal support to the introduction of mandatory reporting of reasonable suspicions of child abuse in Britain.

Monday, 18 February 2019

Who knew? Everyone!

Yesterday's Sunday Times carried a powerful piece by Stephen Bleach.

Who knew about the abuse at St Benedict’s? The entire Catholic Church

(The article is behind a paywall but you can register for free and view a couple of articles a week.)

A key point of the article is that the cover-up was widespread and not restricted to Ealing, and continues to the present. As the article describes:
2011, with accusations against him mounting, Soper — the rapist who groped me and abused so many other boys — skipped police bail and went into hiding. Scotland Yard launched a hunt and asked the church for help.

The Archdiocese of Westminster (which was responsible for safeguarding at the abbey) provided a file on Soper in which, police said, there was “extensive, some might say excessive, redaction . . . one page was completely blanked out”.

Police also asked the Vatican if it knew where Soper was. The Vatican did not reply. In fact the Vatican — or at least some people within it — had a very good idea where he was. As was revealed at the IICSA, Soper had more than €400,000 stashed away in the Vatican bank, and during the five years he was in hiding he periodically contacted the Vatican, requesting transfers to an account he had set up with a bank in Kosovo. Despite repeated requests, the Vatican did not pass this information on to the police.
Stephen Bleach contacted the school, the Abbey and the Papal Nuncio's office requesting an interview. All refused. This is what happened when he tried to contact the Nuncio.
The man who picked up the phone at his official residence in Wimbledon actually laughed at me. When he’d recovered, he said: “No, no, no, absolutely not. The nuncio does not give interviews to anyone.”
The school refused an interview request, providing only a statement concerning all the changes that have been made. Key among them was that “There is now no physical access between the monastery and the school.”. This very much struck Bleach. As he says:
That sentence is the most telling. It could well be that St Benedict’s has, finally, changed. I hope so. But if it has, it has done it not by embracing the church, but by escaping from it: by reducing the influence of the clergy, and indeed physically keeping them out. It says something when, in evidence designed to reassure a judicial inquiry it can keep children safe, a Catholic school solemnly assures the hearing that it has put up a fence to ward off monks.
More than 100 senior Roman Catholic bishops from around the world will gather in Rome this week for a summit Pope Francis has called to address clerical sexual abuse. The Guardian headline reads Credibility of Catholic church at stake in sexual abuse summit. Quite frankly, I wonder what credibility the author of that headline imagines the Catholic Church might still have. There's very little of it that I can perceive.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Cleugh's inquiry evidence about me

Cleugh, in giving evidence to the inquiry, was asked at one point "Did you consider that Mr West's interventions were malicious?"

I'm not going to repeat his reply here, but you can read it in the transcript. (Each page of the PDF is divided into 4 separate numbered pages. Cleugh's reply starts at line 3 of page 12 of these numbered pages. The specific point I want to address is on lines 16-20, his description of a blog comment he claims was made here.

Now, when I saw this, I was very surprised. I didn't remember any such comment. But I thought OK, there are a quarter of a million words in the blog and it has been running for nearly 10 years. I might have forgotten it. So I did a websearch of the blog, using a variety of search terms to see if I could find it. No sign of it.

I keep a separate record of all the comments, whether or not they are published. As those of you who have commented here know, I have a moderation system here for comments, they don't appear on the blog immediately. When a comment is made, I get an email notification containing the comment and I then decide if it can be published. Maybe it might have been briefly published and then deleted? So I searched through the comments. Nothing there either. No comment even remotely resembling the one Cleugh describes has ever been submitted to the blog, much less published.

It might be that the comment was made elsewhere (perhaps on Facebook?) on a part of the web over which I have no control rather than on the blog and Cleugh has got it mixed up in his memory. But then I'd expect a wider websearch to find it. But I still come up with nothing.

Had such a comment been published it would have been ample justification to take a screenshot, pass it to the school solicitors and get a stiffly-worded solicitor's letter to me. But interestingly Cleugh has made no reference to upsetting comments on my blog in his written statement to the Inquiry, and he hasn't provided a screenshot of the comment in any of the exhibits to his statement. In fact his statement makes no reference to me at all.

If I had received an email requesting that a comment of that kind be taken down, then I would have readily agreed to do so. In fact when an issue arose about comments about Mrs Gumley Mason at St Augustine's Priory School, I wrote to the chair of Trustees offering to remove on request any offensive comment that was brought to my attention. No such request was ever made.

Anyway, I provided the Inquiry last year with a complete copy of all the blog articles about St Benedict's (including comments) as an exhibit to my own statement. They can easily conduct their own searches on it and decide the truth of the matter.

(Note: if you read the comment on the IICSA website and then quote the words of it in a comment here, I won't publish it. The comment has not appeared here and that's how it is going to stay.)

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Abbot Martin Shipperlee resigns

It was bound to happen. Once the inquiry's lawyers had dug through the documentation they demanded from the school, the abbey, the police, the DfE, ISI and Charity Commission, the cover-up could no longer be maintained and the extent of it could no longer be denied.

I have no means of knowing what was on Abbot Martin's mind when he wrote his letter of resignation, but the two failings that struck me the most were his admission that he had failed to pass to the police in 2001 a serious allegation about his predecessor Abbot Laurence Soper, and that the Abbey lawyers had in effect threatened another complainant against Soper into silence in 2004.

Anyway, whatever the detailed reasons, he's done the right thing and resigned. I have some degree of respect for him for that. However the respect would be greater if he had done the right thing without exhausting every other possible option first. For almost his entire time in office he has been engaged  in what looks from the outside to be an increasingly desperate search for measures to prevent this all coming to light.

There was the Wright/Nixson report commissioned in 2009. This was commissioned by the Abbot, it had a very narrow remit covering the abbey and monastery but not the school. Wright and Nixson spent a total of 2 days in the monastery, and did not undertake a detailed document review. Nonetheless a summary of the report was published on the school website as fulfillment of Shipperlee's promise to parents of a review of school safeguarding.

Then there was Lord Carlile's report. Ruth Henke, the barrister representing Ealing Abbey and St Benedict's School at the inquiry made a valiant effort in her closing remarks to suggest that a major turning point had been made by commissioning and accepting the Carlile report. She said:
As I said in opening, we have learnt from our past mistakes as institutions, and the institutions I represent today in my closing address before you are the institutions as they are today. We say that you can learn not simply from the mistakes, but it is also good practice to learn from the positives and from good practice itself. What was the significant positive? We say it was the commissioning of the Carlile Report in July 2010 when, when you look at the evidence, you may think we were between a rock and a hard place, but when we did the right thing. And that should be acknowledged. Because that results in a report that brings about fundamental and significant change.

On behalf of those I represent, I know that the independence of the report is put into question. So, in closing, may I say this: firstly, the report is by an expert. It is commissioned by the abbey. But I ask: how is that different from any singly instructed expert in any family or civil court throughout this land? We say no different whatsoever. Where does the integrity of the expert come from? From their professionalism, from their independence and from how they exercise it without fear and favour.
I would expect from somebody in her position to emphasise such positives as can be found from what I'm sure she will have been saying in private was a right car-crash of a case. And she said it very well. All credit.

But the claim that Carlile was a turning point really doesn't stand up to any kind of scrutiny. First, the culture of coverup was the primary problem. And it looks very much as if things were covered up from Carlile as much as from everybody else. In his position as a barrister and QC, I find it very hard to believe that had the 2001 and 2004 allegations been known to him that he would not have included them in the report. It follows that he was lied to, even if the lie was one of omission. The only alternative explanation is to suppose that Carlile and Shipperlee conspired to produce a misleading report. I really don't believe Carlile to have been unwise enough to embark on such a course. I do believe Shipperlee capable of not informing Carlile, just as he didn't inform the police of the 2001 allegation.

And this is not the only thing that Carlile was not told. When Abbot President Richard Yeo conducted his Extraordinary Visitation in 2010, he conducted interviews with all the monks. Several of them disclosed that they had known something about Pearce's activities for decades. One monk is recorded as saying "mid '70s, knew David engaged in dubious activities". Another "Knew since I was junior school head that there was something wrong. Graffiti: Father David is bent." Another monk spoke of rumours existing when he arrived 25 years ago and expressed disbelief that a previous Abbot claimed that he "never knew anything about it".

So it is clear that knowledge of Pearce's abuses at least were commonplace among the monks for 30 years or so before he was convicted. In the light of this, Shipperlee's own professions of ignorance when giving evidence aren't all that credible. Knowledge of wrongdoing doesn't magically evaporate when you reach high office. Shipperlee's serial inactions were put to him, and in giving evidence about them, individually and collectively they had no explanation he could offer. That was a very careful formulation. That doesn't mean they have no explanation, or even that he doesn't himself have an explanation. It is just that he can't offer it. The explanation could simply be that he was covering things up, and this is what I believe to be the case. I've believed it ever since my one and only meeting with him in September 2009. That impression was put to him by counsel to the inquiry.

Carlile's recommendations were solely to do with reform of governance, definitely a subject that needed attention, but no governance reform will of itself prevent abuse. Secular schools have safeguarding scandals as well, and to guard against that you need an excellent and unambiguous safeguarding policy, and Shipperlee and Cleugh just couldn't bring themselves to implement that at the time. The version of the safeguarding policy published with Carlile's report still had gaping holes in the reporting arrangements, suggesting that making reports depended to a degree on the permission of the complainant or his/her parents. Where the safety of other children may be at risk from an abuser this is irresponsible. Carlile was not as expert as all that, since he didn't realise this and warmly endorsed the policy.

At the same time as Carlile was conducting his inquiry, a documentation review was carried out by Kevin McCoy. This in fact uncovered much more than Carlile's report about allegations against various monks and other staff, but was not published.

If the culture of coverup had been dispelled at the time of Carlile, then it would not have taken a public inquiry wielding statutory powers enabling it to force the disclosure of documents from the abbey and school and enabling it to compel witnesses to give evidence under oath to uncover all that has seen the light in the past week.

So I don't accept the suggestion that the Carlile report represents an attempt at fundamental change, that in commissioning it Shipperlee "did the right thing".

There also seems to be an element of "taking one for the team" in Shipperlee's resignation statement. He has apologised for his personal failures, but on the other hand has said he has "confidence in the present structures and procedures". I don't see how his confidence can be justified. Either those procedures are in place as a result of his actions in which case (given his admitted failings) nobody should have any confidence in them at all, or they have been implemented without and despite his views, in which case he ought to have resigned long ago.

However, there is plenty of blame to spread around and not all of it should be dumped on the shoulders of a hapless ex-Abbot. Earlier I described knowledge among the monks going back decades concerning the abuses. From the evidence given to the inquiry, it appears that few attempted to do anything with their knowledge.

Fr Alban Nunn made an attempt to bring abuse allegations to the notice of the police. Fr Peter Burns complained about Pearce taking confession in the Junior school when he was supposed to be under some kind of informal restriction, and Fr Edmund Flood came to the defence of "RC-A8" (the cipher given to a former pupil who gave evidence at the hearing) when Pearce and Soper were holding a kangaroo court over the supposed theft of a raincoat. With these honourable exceptions, I have to say that it seems that almost the entire monastic community appears to have had some degree of knowledge of the abuse, and chose to put the welfare of the abusers and the reputation of the community ahead of safety of the children in their care.

I suspect that those who had knowledge and did nothing are functionally atheists. At least, it would appear that they do not believe in the existence of divine justice. They knowingly and over an extended period allowed serious harm to come to a large number of children when it was in their power to act to prevent it. How do they expect to account to God for this?

But the blame doesn't stop there. Abbot President Richard Yeo, on learning in 2010 of the extent and duration of the knowledge the monks had, sought to support the community and not to disclose this knowledge to the statutory authorities. He doesn't even have the excuse of the knowledge having come to him during Confession, his notes were not taken during confession. Yeo was a member of the Cumberlege Commission, he is supposedly therefore one of the Catholic Church's foremost experts on safeguarding. If Yeo cannot be trusted to follow Cumberlege recommendations on reporting knoweldge or suspicions of abuse, then public confidence that anybody else in the church will do so will inevitably be close to non-existent.

Then there is the grubby situation of Soper's flight to Kosovo. He had opened an account at the Vatican Bank and and placed into it the money he inherited on the death of his parents. By Benedictine rules this money should have been handed over to the order, but Shipperlee did not demand it. The inheritance was of the order of €400,000. The Vatican Bank knew of Soper's address in Kosovo. He made repeated requests for transfers of funds and wrote to them with his address. The Bank ignored all requests from the British police for information as to Soper's whereabouts.

And if that wasn't enough, we have the repeated refusal of the Papal Nuncio to cooperate with the inquiry in providing a voluntary statement. Apparently the Nuncio (who is of course an accredited diplomat of a foreign power) is awaiting instructions from the Holy See, and in the meantime is relying on his diplomatic immunity to refuse to provide any kind of statement. An explanation from the Nuncio as to the reasons for the Vatican Bank's uncooperativeness would be welcome, but I don't ever expect to see it.

A few staff at St Benedict's School also deserve honourable mention for their part in trying to bring matters to light. Among those, there is Kate Ravenscroft who made a report to the police about Pearce. Then there is Harsha Mortemore, a former member of the non-teaching staff who made an attempt to raise concerns, only to be told "If you know what's good for you, keep your head down and do your job." Mr Halsall also attempted to raise concerns about Pearce with Cleugh on the latter's arrival, but this went nowhere. And Dr Carlo Ferrario, the deputy head and designated safeguarding lead at the time immediately passed on the concerns brought to him in 2008 that resulted in Pearce's arrest. I have great respect for all of them. All of them made statements to the police and/or the inquiry. They actually did something, no small feat in what has been described during the hearing as a "mafia-like" and intimidatory culture.

As for the future of the monastic community at Ealing, I have no idea what will happen. Fortunately it's not my problem. They will need to elect a new Abbot, but it is hard to imagine who that might be. Nobody who participated in the cover up would be a fit person for the job, but would anyone not tainted by the cover-up actually want the job?

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

IICSA Ealing hearing day 3

The transcript for today's hearing is here.

Today, the inquiry heard from former diocesan safeguarding adviser Peter Turner and from Abbot Martin Shipperlee.

The inquiry is already running seriously behind time, Shipperlee's evidence should have been completed this morning and evidence from former Abbot President Richard Yeo should have been heard this afternoon.

The delay is no surprise, the inquiry was warned months ago that a week would be insufficient for this hearing. It is not yet clear how all the necessary evidence will be fitted in.

If you want just a brief sense of what was covered today, have a look at the inquiry's Twitter feed for the day.

Shipperlee's evidence continues tomorrow.