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.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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. I will treat your email in strictest confidence for as long as you want it to be so.