Sunday, 3 January 2010

Latest news on Ealing Abbey

The Abbey has been in the news again. I've been a bit busy with other things, so haven't had the chance to comment until now.

On 15 December, the Charity Commission published the delayed report of two statutory enquiries into the activities of The Trust of St Benedict's Abbey Ealing. You can see the full report here.

Go there and read the report. It really does make damning reading.

The first statutory enquiry was opened as a result of a complaint made to the Charity Commissioners following the 2006 civil case. They don't say who the complaint was from, (all they say is that the complaint was anonymous) but I guess the complaint was in the form of a letter from 'C's solicitor. ('C' was the name given to the complainant for the purpose of that case.)

The Charity Commissioners don't have a role in investigating abuse of a charity's beneficiaries, so the investigation concerned itself with whether charitable funds have been misused in defending the case and making the payout, and with whether the charity's trustees are acting appropriately in the light of the allegations and taking appropriate steps to protect the Charity’s beneficiaries in the future.

The first enquiry had concluded its investigation and was in the process of writing up its report when Fr Pearce was arrested. This time, the Abbey sent in a Serious Incident Report to the Commission. It is not clear to me why the trustees did not send in a Serious Incident Report following either the civil case or the arrest of Fr Stanislaus Hobbs (called "Individual B" in the report). No mention of any other Serious Incident Reports is made in the Commission report, so I assume that no others were made by the trustees.

The Commission decided to hold back the report, start a second Statutory Enquiry and combine the two reports.

The conclusions of the second enquiry are damning. The commissioners use fairly dry language, but even so, you can tell that they treated this matter very seriously.
Despite assurances from the trustees, they failed to implement the restrictions placed on Individual A whilst on Charity premises and the Commission is extremely critical of the trustees in this regard. One of the terms of Individual A’s continued role in the Charity was that he was to have no access to children and young people on the Charity’s premises – the trustees failed to ensure this was the case.
I've compared the language used with other recent statutory reports into individual charities by the Charity Commission. Even in cases where a charity has been closed as a result of the investigation, there is no other recent report I have been able to find where the Commission says it is "extremely critical of the trustees".

Also, it is clear that the Commission was dubious about the propriety of using the Charity's funds to defend the civil case.
The Commission considered that it was arguable that the decision taken by the trustees to use charitable funds to meet the legal costs of Individual A fell within a reasonable range of decisions open to them. The Commission determined that this decision was open to challenge and that the trustees could have approached the Commission for advice on this issue.
"Individual A" is identified elsewhere in the report as Fr Pearce. According to the report, the legal costs and the award of damages in the civil claim were both covered by an insurance policy held by the abbey, so no funds were directly at risk - except presumably that the premiums may be higher in future as a result of the claim. I get the impression that had the policy not been in place and charitable funds used directly for the defence and payout, the commission would have been somewhat less forgiving.

The Guardian has published a brief article about the Charity Commission report. The Guardian journalist contacted me for a comment.

The Daily Mail copied the Guardian report - including the quotation from me (mis-spelling my name, but I'll forgive them for that), merely changing a few words around.

Andy Slaughter MP has written in the Ealing Gazette.

One thing that strikes me about these various reports is that what the Abbot says seems to change a bit depending on who he is talking to. In the letter from the Abbot read out in court at Fr Pearce's sentencing hearing, it was stated that the restrictions were being placed on Fr Pearce "to protect Father David from unfounded allegations", but no suggestion that the Abbot thought the allegations were unfounded appears to have been made to the Charity Commission, in the assurances by the trustees that Fr Pearce would have no contact with children.

In the newspaper reports, the Abbot replied to questions as to why Fr Pearce had been allowed to remain at the Abbey by saying "Where else is he going to go? If I sent him anywhere else I would have had no idea of what he was up to." This rather suggests that he realised perfectly well the truth of the allegations, but was saying different things to different people in order to tell them what he thought they wanted to hear. I'll leave it to you to decide what to make of that.

Following his Ealing Gazette column I've sent an email to Andy Slaughter asking him if he will ask the Abbot to provide details of the independent review. I've had no reply yet, but I wouldn't expect one over the holiday season.


  1. An excellent update thank you.

    The Charity Commission Report greatly advances our knowledge of what was really going on at Ealing. It is clearly the result of a thorough investigation by the Commission.

    I see they mention Abbot Martin's long-promised Independent Report:

    "58. The Commission has requested a copy of the independent review and will actively monitor the Charity to ensure that this happens."

    I am glad to see they state they are actively monitoring the Charity to ensure that Abbot Martin does commission this Independent Report. Don't they trust him?

  2. The above is obviously a rhetorical question. But, I suspect, the non-rhetorical reply from just about everyone is -

    'No one, but no one, can trust the man'!

  3. Exactly! But, could it just be that in dealing with this Abbot we're actually up against what is described, elsewhere, as 'a non-empirical construct'? I can certainly imagine, with reference to that same neck of the woods, that the Quixotic Master Shipperlee sees himself as a remarkable SOLOCONTROTUTTI.

  4. (I sent you a personal email 17 Dec - hope it reached you OK. It does not require any answer, but I was just unsure if it had made it!!)

    Anyway, in that I rambled on about the Shipperlees of this world, and how much I hold them in comtempt. Reading above I find myself shaking my head at how the only apparent path to hold anyone to account (except for the man now in prison) is the Charity Commission! Yes,they seem to be doing a good job in making sure that charitable funds are not being misused - and good for them. While I concede that this may be the only line of "attack", it seems sad that that is all there is. Frankly I do not much care what the church does with money that people have willingly given it, I have to say. Sure, they should not use it to protect the DPs of this world, but then they should not use *any* sort of money to do that!

    As I mentioned in my email, DP was known, or at the very least suspected, by many many people (teachers, previous abbots, etc.) to be a low-level child-abuser. Yet none of them did a damn thing about it.

    I so wish we could shame them. However I admit that it's not obvious just how this could be done...

    Given the length of time he was active, I think it highly likely that a significant number of children must have mentioned him to teachers, either directly or via parents. It would be interesting if such "leads" could be traced and put to the school, with a demand that the lack of action be explained.

    I know - hard to see it happening. But it's just a thought born out of frustration at the fact that, as we all know deep down, this Charity Commission side of things will eventually fizzle out...

  5. Maybe the above contributor is right, but the commission certainly wants to see the Abbey’s promised investigation take place and will, I suspect, make sure the Abbey keeps its promise in this regard.

    Among things that need to be investigated are, not only the accusations made against David Peace, but those made against other members of staff monastic or otherwise. We have read on this blog, for instance, accusations made against Lawrence Soper but how many more such accusations were there? In fact, Abbot Soper was removed not because of offences committed in the school, though clearly there was at least one such offence, but because of accusations made against him elsewhere.

    The worst aspect of this whole saga is the abject willingness of the Abbey to cover up for just about anyone and anything that might affect its own status. It clearly has no moral sense, over and above such considerations, whatsoever!

    Such an institution is, as many contributors have pointed out, simply not fit to run a school of any sort.

  6. "I so wish we could shame them. However I admit that it's not obvious just how this could be done...hard to see it happening. But it's just a thought born out of frustration"

    There's a lot of frustration of one sort or another registered on this blog. But it boils down I think to the fact that people who seem able to get away with almost anything and remain unaccountable to anyone are left unscathed and ruling the roost. This cannot be right. The above contributor is correct - this is neither a fit way to run a school nor a fit example to set before our kids!


    The last contributor makes a very good but, to me, disturbing point. It forces me to ask: do I honestly want to send my boy to a school run by people clearly in it for themselves and who cannot, it seems, be held to account by anyone? Not even the Charity Commission!

    To pose such a question, of course, is to answer it. But, unfortunately, answering it presents one with a load of very nasty practical problems; problems no parent wishes, in the normal run of things, to have to face. So, in the end, the real question becomes: 'To collude or not to collude'? Or, to put it another way, do I become just another ‘Abbot Shipperlee’ or, whatever the personal cost, find the courage of my convictions?

  8. I'm doing what I can. Not everything I do gets blogged here. But it is beyond my power singlehandedly to make sure that the school is safe - for your children or anybody else's. If you want to send your children to the school and ensure that they will be safe, then contact me by email at, and we will see what we can achieve together as a group.

    The dreadful stories coming out of Ireland and elsewhere attest to what can happen if power is allowed to become and remain unaccountable.

    Ultimately it comes down to a question of whether deference to the authority of the church is more important to you than assuring yourself of the safety of your children. I can't decide that for you.

  9. Elephant in abbey/parish/school room. DP's last victim was systematically groomed for the last couple of years of his time at St Bs ..... for going into monastery. He used to say he would become abbot - not his own idea I suspect. There is collusion and cover up wherever you look at St B's.