Saturday, 8 May 2010

Father David Pearce's appeal against sentence

Yesterday, there was a hearing of Father David Pearce's appeal against his 8-year sentence for sexual and indecent assaults against pupils of St. Benedict's School. On appeal, Sir Christopher Holland sitting with Mr Justice David Clarke has reduced Pearce's sentence from 8 years to 5 years in prison. Given that half the sentence is automatically suspended, that means Pearce will probably serve 2 1/2 years, and will therefore leave prison about 2 years from now.

I'm not overly surprised at the reduction in sentence - my own guess at the probable sentence after hearing the barristers' submissions at Pearce's sentencing hearing in October was 5 years, and so I was a little surprised when the judge came back with 8 years. But I figured that he knew more about the sentencing guidelines than I did.

But I am very concerned about Sir Christopher Holland's comments, as reported in The Times today. In particular, I'm incensed about his comment that the sentencing judge was wrong to elevate the breach of trust committed by Pearce because he was a teacher “to the level of a crime”.

The damage done to children by paedophile abusers is caused precisely by this breach of trust, and the damage done is far more dependent on the degree of the breach of trust than it is on the seriousness of the physical assault. Pearce had worked himself into a position where he was greatly trusted by the school and the community, through "the great deal of good work this man has done over a 30-year period" which Sir Christopher has referred to. Pearce was a priest, a teacher, a headmaster, a pillar of the local community, and he used and abused that trust in order to gain access to and assault his victims. It was only because he was trusted that he was able to get away with it for so long. The trust should not be regarded as a mitigating factor if it was this trust that was deliberately built up primarily for the purpose of being able to abuse children.

I've had an email today from one of the former pupils at the school. He expresses his disgust far more eloquently than I could.
"Evil Priest Abused Boys In Care Home" sells tabloids. "Saucy Monks Touched Up Posh Boys" doesn't. This view permeates British society from the bottom upwards, as Judge Holland's disturbing but all too predictable remarks show us. Sorry to be so blunt but my views are based on personal experience of the few occasions in the past when I have tried to talk about what happened to me before St Benedict's and what happened to me at St Benedict's.

The first man who groomed and abused me between the ages of eleven and fourteen (before I came to St. Benedict's) was into photography, which is how the police were able to establish that he had abused more than fifty boys in a four year period. I later heard that he got seven years, reduced on appeal and was out and off to Amsterdam in two years, plus time served on remand. He was a teacher and, like Pearce, a youthful, blond thirtysomething ex-army officer. He was at least more charming than Pearce.

I was not abused at St Benedict's because I refused to be. I also tried to protect two friends of mine from prep school who went there. I failed to protect them and, somewhere deep inside me, I carried that sense of guilt for a long time. Pearce and Soper completely ruined one of them and did the other some serious damage. Neither has been seen by any of our contemporaries to this day. We believed that one of them had killed himself but recent evidence has emerged to the contrary.

I tried to stand up against Pearce, Soper and the whole rotten shower of moral bankrupts in charge of that school in the 1970s. I found myself labelled as a troublemaker and, more seriously, a thief. I believe that Pearce and one of "his boys" set me up for this charge. The only man who defended me was Dom Edmund Flood, a terrifying-looking but deeply good man, who I heard was later exiled to some shithole in Africa for "rocking the boat" at the Abbey.

If anyone knows more about Flood's fate, I'd be grateful for information because I remember him with gratitude for his efforts. But they were futile because I was ultimately expelled or, to be more precise, my parents were informed that I needn't come back for the Lower Sixth in the autumn of 1977.

That was my education down the toilet. I drifted into some fairly heavy duty delinquency before the Parachute Regiment instilled some self-discipline in me. I tried to pick the education up as a mature student at London University, having lied about O and A levels to get in, but only lasted two years because I still had such a problem with educational authorities...plus the head of the course was a defrocked Spanish priest. Still, I learned to read and write again, which was more useful than a degree.

I have a very good life now but it has taken a long time to be able to confront some of the ghosts and the demons. Jonathan's website helped me more than he can possibly imagine and it has also helped others. What went on at St Benedict's under the auspices of Ealing Abbey for decades turns out to have been far, far worse than I think even those of us who encountered it first hand could have imagined.

It is truly, abjectly appalling. However, I have learned that there is nothing shameful about having been a victim. I have also learned to be very angry with the men who did this to me, as opposed to tending to protect them or minimise what they did when I was younger. I am going to write an article, which will be very hard to write, in the hope that The Times, as a first choice, given their support in this case, might run it and that it might help others to free themselves from the past and come forward.

Hopefully, it might also show up the grim absurdity of the sort of views expressed by Judge Holland. It is hard not to be bitter but very important to fight such sentiments because if you let them take over, then you are allowing the Pearces of this world their sordid victories. After all, it was never about sex, as dangerous fools like Holland seem to think, but about power, the power wielded by inadequate men over those least able to defend themselves.
I have just two things to add. First, if the article mentioned just above isn't taken up by the Times or any other paper or magazine, I would consider it an honour to host it here.

My other point is that if you are a victim of abuse by Pearce, and have not yet come forward to the police, it is not too late to do so. I have been assured by the police that they will take seriously any further reports of abuse by Pearce or anybody else at St. Benedict's School, and if the evidence warrants it, they will pass the cases to the CPS for further prosecutions. John Maestri has been before the courts on three occasions relating to his abuses of children at St. Benedict's School, so the fact that Pearce has been convicted once does not mean that no further prosecutions can proceed. But unless you come forward, the police have no evidence to work with.

If you would like help getting in touch with the correct people at the police, email me at jonathanwest22@googlemail.com. I will treat your email in strictest confidence for as long as you want it to be so.

9 comments:

  1. Your courageous correspondent will be sad to know that Fr. Edmund Flood died within the last two years. I believe he was in his late seventies. Sadly for such an intelligent man his obituary indicated that he had suffered from Alzheimer's in his final years. I remember him from my visits to Ealing in the 70's when I think he was indeed regarded as a bit of an odd man out. Now I realise that that was an unintended compliment just as Fr. Stan's reputation as a holy monk would appear from what I have read on this blog to be deeply ironic.

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  2. "The successful paedophiles are the ones that aren’t discovered of course and there are plenty of them around. They are people who have all the social graces that you might expect in someone of normal behaviour. They’re charming, they have good conversation, they’re caring, they’re intelligent, they’re interested, they’re committed to what they’re doing, they earn respect, they appear like any other member of society quite frankly and you just can’t tell. Sorry but you can’t tell."

    Alastair Rolfe - Chosen

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  3. I'm very sorry to hear that Fr Edmund Flood died, and especially so when it seems he had Alzheimer's.

    He taught me English in the mid 1970s and, although very strict, he was very fair and an excellent and rather cerebral teacher.

    I hope his soul rests in peace and I would like any relative to know that he was appreciated.

    I say this as someone who has very strong and mixed feelings about St Bens, as I was interfered with by the odious Fr Soper. Not in as serious a way as others but still very demeaning and grubby, it badly affected me psychologically.

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  4. Another Soper Victim17 June 2010 at 01:07

    Would like to add that it is quite outrageous for this destroyer of young innocents to be treated so leniently. Some of these judges just don't "get" it, do they?.

    A typical individual paedophile does untold harm to many childen. That harm lasts for most of the victims' lives and in turn causes knock-on effects in their kith and kin.

    The sea of misery caused by just one of these monsters is vast.

    These types of crime, despite being described by useless judges as "at the mild end of the spectrum" are still serious and very damaging. All types of paedophile are also more likely to reoffend than most other criminals.

    Therefore, there should be more pressure to increase the prison sentences and also to chemically castrate these evil monsters.

    This will improve society by firstly removing them from harming people and secondly by acting as a deterrent to the undiscovered paedophiles from carrying on.

    I would dearly like to meet Pearce when he gets out and tell him how evil he is. May they all rot in hell.

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  5. I had similar treatment from Soper. I was horrified when I saw him a few years later in his purple.

    Re: Stan - I know he was accused, and I've not read the rest of this blog yet - but he was acquitted, and in my time with him he was by far the most wonderful priest there. Has he come into the limelight again?

    I was visiting a contemporary last weekend, and when we touched on this whole subject, the emphatic belief of both of us was that Stan was a good man - is anyone saying different?

    thanks

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  6. To the last two commenters, if you have accounts of abuse by Soper (or anybody else for that matter) then the police should know about them. If you contact me by email (jonathanwest22@googlemail.com) I can put you in contact with the investigating team who handled the prosecutions of Pearce and Maestri.

    Further arrests have recently been made in connection with St. Benedict's, so I'm sure the police would be most interested to hear your accounts.

    As for Fr Stan, according to the recent report by the Independent Schools Inspectorate, at the time they carried out their inspection two monks were living under restricted ministry at the Abbey and barred from contact with children. They are not named in the report, abut anybody with any familiarity with recent events would easily be able to identify them as Fr Stanislaus Hobbs and Fr Gregory Chillman.

    The ISI took the view that in light of the failures of supervision of Pearce's restricted ministry, this was an inadequate measure, and that monks on restricted ministry for reasons of child protection should no longer reside at the Abbey.

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  7. Robes cover a multitude of sins! If the Catholic church were so concerned about the safety of those in their care, then why did they allow monk martin shipley to share the boys dormitory on a confirmation retreat in 1984,in full knowledge that child sex abuse was already an issue. We didnt have a nun in our dormitory! Was this some kind of initiation to the Bent-edictinemonastry? (This is not a reference to homosexuality, there is no comparison - but deliberate dishonesty) I am absolutely disgusted at the blind acceptance of some of the cretins who have commented. I empathise with the abused at the hands of these perverts as I too of catholic parents was abused as a child by a family member and received no support. I didnt divulge this to anyone until I was forty. My mother, would rather believe that I had made it up despite other family members agreeing this was highly likely. As far as i am concerned those in the catholic church who harbour paedos are as guilty as the perpetrators themselves and i hope they all burn in hell. Once again to those victims my thoughts are with you dont let the dirty fuckers win. Use your energys to make sure they stay in the spotlight and dont continue to make yourself ill as i did. It is blatently obvious that the only people the church were protecting was themselves and they had no regard for the victims and their families. More to the point by moving priests elsewhere to other posts or parishes they actually facilitated them in their disgusting crimes against the most vulnerable in society. It is unbelievable that the Abbot/church has the audacity to suggest that they can deal with matters internally. Anyone with knowledge of what was going on at the time should be arrested and treated as an accessory. To think that they stand on the alter preaching to others about values and morals makes me want to puke.

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  8. Has Pearce been released? Where has he gone and what relationship, if any, exists between himself and Ealing Abbey? Pearce may have been laicised but does he continue to be a solemnly professed monk of Ealing? If he is not at Ealing where is he. I very much hope he has not been sent to a another monastery or religious house.

    Is there any way we can get answers to such questions?

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  9. He would have been released after half of his 5 year sentence. As far as I'm aware he is no longer a monk. Where he is I don't know and have not asked, and I'm sure I would not be told if I had asked, but I would imagine he is under the eye of the probation service wherever he is.

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