Friday, 23 April 2010

Requesting an enquiry at Ealing Abbey

Here is an abridged version of an email I sent yesterday to Archbishop Vincent Nichols.


Dear Archbishop

I welcome in particular the following part of today's Statement by the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales

"In our dioceses we will continue to make every effort, working with our safeguarding commissions, to identify any further steps we can take, especially concerning the care of those who have suffered abuse, including anyone yet to come forward with their account of their painful and wounded past. We are committed to continuing the work of safeguarding, and are determined to maintain openness and transparency, in close co-operation with the statutory authorities in our countries."

In pursuit of that specific aim, I request that you institute as soon as possible a wide-ranging enquiry into child sex abuse at Ealing Abbey and St. Benedict's School. There is strong evidence that there has been abuse at the school, involving several monks, priests and lay teachers, extending over decades.

Such reviews as have taken place at Ealing Abbey so far appear to have concentrated solely upon the failure to effectively supervise Father David Pearce once it had been determined that he was a danger to children and had been placed on a restricted ministry. However, as you are aware, Pearce was convicted of sexual and indecent assaults over a 36 year period, and John Maestri, a lay teacher, has been convicted three times of sexual crimes against pupils of St. Benedict's School during his time as teacher there in the 1970s and 1980s. As far as I am aware, no enquiries have yet addressed this longer timescale, why Pearce and others were not detected and stopped sooner, what is the full extent of the abuse that went on there, and who else may have been involved.

My son attended St Benedicts Junior School for two years, when Pearce was Junior School Headteacher. Fortunately for both my son and for me, he was not among Pearce's victims. But as a result I have taken a close interest in the case. Through my blog, a large number of victims have come forward with accounts of abuse by a number of monks and teachers.

Several victims have contacted me privately. I am treating their correspondence as confidential so I shall provide no individual details. But they all tell a very similar story of lives blighted, a loss of respect for adult authority, confusion about their sexuality, destructive and even psychotic behaviour, broken families and difficulty in forming adult relationships. I am doing what I can to offer support to them, by assuring them that they were in no way responsible for the abuses committed against them, and encouraging them to seek the help they need to rebuild their shattered lives and to contact the police to report the crimes against them.

The scandal of St. Benedict's School is not limited to those priests and teachers who actually committed sexual assaults on children. It appears that there was an active effort to silence victims and cover up abuse.

The victims of abuse at St. Benedict's School quite probably number hundreds, only a small proportion of whom have ever come forward. Those who have the strength to report their abuse deserve to have their story heard by a properly run enquiry, which will establish the truth of the matter as far as possible and make recommendations for improvements at the Abbey and the School.

Even after the Pearce and Maestri cases, the school's published child protection policies still fall far below best practice and do not conform to the CSAS guidelines. They are so bad that even the definition of "sexual abuse" depends on a subjective assessment of the extent to which the child involved has an understanding of the activities he is being subjected to. I have raised this matter both the Abbot and the Headmaster, to no effect.

In my opinion there is an imminent, continuing and serious risk of further sexual abuses committed against children at St. Benedict's School. An enquiry is urgently needed in order to prevent future abuse.


  1. If you have strong evidence that several monks have been involved in abuse, you should pass this to police without delay. Also, if you have received allegations, you must encourage those concerned to go to police. You are in danger of prejudicing prosecution if you carry out an unofficial investigation.

    If you have evidence that there are 'hundreds of abuse victims' at St Benedicts' you should contact the police immediately.

  2. "imminent, continuing and serious risk"- why so?

  3. I have proof that a memeber of my family who went to St Benedicts fro about 3 years has been abused not by the priests but by the students themsleves. Suprisingly the Headmaster Mr.Simmons did nothing about it so therefore we had to get the poilice involved. Then we pulled him out of that school.So if this happens to your son, brother or anyone you know you should report it to the police immediately.

  4. thank you for posting this as it may serve as a warning to prospective/current students and parents. too often abuse of this kind is covered up not only by the school but law enforcement as well. this is a matter of public concern for the safety of children.

  5. " a minimus incipe"- a bum a day keeps the doctor away!

  6. Is there really (and I quote)an 'imminent, continuing and serious risk of further sexual abuses committed against children at St. Benedict's School'? All of the accused have no longer got contact with the school's pupils. Whilst those who did abuse children should be brought to justice, I feel we need to be cautious in branding an entire community as paedophiles. There is no evidence of abuse in the recent past, and as someone with three generations of family having gone through that school (without experiencing any abuse or hearing of any abuse for that matter), I feel that the word Ealing Abbey has become synonymous with paedophile priests. Which it most certainly is not.

  7. 13:01
    Unless and until there are effective child protection procedures at the school, diligently followed and implemented, then there could still be abuse going on at the school unreported.

    If I knew for certain that there was abuse actually happening now at the school, and knew who was doing it, I wouldn't be blogging about it, I would be talking to the police.

    Good procedures are there to ensure that any abuse that happens is detected quickly and acted on immediately and effectively. Unless those good procedures are place, then there is a real risk that abuse can carry on for a significant time without being detected.

    I think it is reasonable to ask why the procedures were so bad that last year the ISI declared them not up to legal standards. I think it is also worth noting that the changes since have been grudging and minimal.

    If they really wanted to show the world that they have learned from this, they should have been enthusiastic about showing how much they have learned and how much they have changed. But it hasn't happened. Why?

  8. My brother was at the school until he was 16 which was in about 1976. A few years ago,before his untimely death ,he told me that sexual abuse was common practice there. I was subject to this in a small way too when I agreed to explore the geneology of one of the monks there who frequently visited our home .I was one of the first female intakes at St Benedicts and must have been about 17 yaers old then. On one occasion in my own home he tried to grope me whilst we were on our own;I firmly told him to stop and that I would not see him again if it continued . I never told anyone at the time because I felt so embarassed.
    As a Psychiatrist for all of my career I am only too well aware of the emotional damage sexual abuse causes . The catholic church in general has been too complacent and arrogant.