Saturday, 31 July 2010

The Child Protection Policy - 11

Going on now to the signs of sexual abuse the policy tells you to look out for
Possible signs of sexual abuse:
  • Depression, suicidal tendencies, self-harming
  • Anorexic or bulimic
  • Acting in a sexually inappropriate manner towards adults/peers
  • Unexplained pregnancies
  • Truanting/running away from home
  • Seeking guidance for a “friend with a problem of abuse”
  • Sexually abusing a younger child/sibling
  • Sudden changes in School or work habits
  • Fear of people
  • Abnormal precociousness or aggression
  • Chronic medical problems (stomach pains/headaches)
  • Withdrawn, isolated, excessively isolated
  • Genital/abdominal or anal injury or pain
Many of these are too vaguely stated and can have a wide variety of causes. The most obvious one "unexplained pregnancies" is evidence that a child has been having sex, but not of itself evidence of sexual abuse.

Again, there is a perfecly good set of indicators in the London Child Protection Procedures,so let's take a look at these, starting with paragraphs 4.3.19 and 4.3.20.

4.3.19 Sexual abuse can be very difficult to recognise and reporting sexual abuse can be an extremely traumatic experience for a child. Therefore both identification and disclosure rates are deceptively low.

4.3.20 Boys and girls of all ages may be sexually abused and are frequently scared to say anything due to guilt and / or fear. According to a recent study three-quarters (72%) of sexually abused children did not tell anyone about the abuse at the time. Twenty-seven percent of the children told someone later, and around a third (31%) still had not told anyone about their experience/s by early adulthood.

So what we have here is the desciption of a situation where, due to guilt or fear, only a quarter of cases will get reported by a child at the time, and a third don't get reported even by early adulthood. What this means is that reporting sexual abuse is difficult for a child. Therefore, everything possible needs to be done by the school in order to encourage an atmosphere of trust so that reporting is made easier. The London Child Protection procedure draws the obvious conclusion in terms of addressing this issue in its next paragraph.

4.3.21 If a child makes an allegation of sexual abuse, it is very important that they are taken seriously. Allegations can often initially be indirect as the child tests the professional’s response. There may be no physical signs and indications are likely to be emotional / behavioural.

From my dealings with the Abbot, from his refusal to meet me and the execrable state of the procedures for reporting abuse described earlier in the school's child protection policy, there is every reason to think that the school finds every possible excuse not to take allegations seriously.

4.3.22 Behavioural indicators which may help professionals identify child sexual abuse include:
Inappropriate sexualised conduct;
  • Sexually explicit behaviour, play or conversation, inappropriate to the child’s age;
  • Contact or non-contact sexually harmful behaviour;
  • Continual and inappropriate or excessive masturbation;
  • Self-harm (including eating disorder), self mutilation and suicide attempts;
  • Involvement in sexual exploitation or indiscriminate choice of sexual partners;
  • An anxious unwillingness to remove clothes for e.g. sports events (but this may be related to cultural norms or physical difficulties).
So, the school's policy has some of these, but the problem is that the adequate context is lacking. Remember that the quote from the school's policy at the start of this article is the repainer of paragraph 13, which started out by making a definition of sexual abuse which mde no mention of any kind of sexual act. Interestingly, the school doesn't include "making an allegation of abuse" amongst its list of possible indicators, though it does include a category of indirect approach 'Seeking guidance for a “friend with a problem of abuse”' as an indicator.

In this context, there's no real reason why the school's policy can't lift the wording directly from the London Child Protection Procedures. For the school to deviate from this wording requires a positive decision to move away from the expert formulation.

The London Child Protection Procedures go on to describe physical indicators of abuse.

4.3.23 Physical indicators associated with child sexual abuse include:
  • Pain or itching of genital area;
  • Blood on underclothes;
  • Pregnancy in a child;
  • Physical symptoms such as injuries to the genital or anal area, bruising to buttocks, abdomen and thighs, sexually transmitted disease, presence of semen on vagina, anus, external genitalia or clothing.
Again, the school's policy has some of this, but not all. The London Child Protection Procedures end this section with a crucial piece of context.

4.3.24 Sex offenders have no common profile, and it is important for professionals to avoid attaching any significance to stereotypes around their background or behaviour. While media interest often focuses on ‘stranger danger’, research indicates that as much as 80 per cent of sexual offending occurs in the context of a known relationship, either family, acquaintance or colleague.

This "no common profile" point is of absolutely critical importance. It means that if an allegation of abuse is made against a teacher or a priest, it cannot be dismissed on the basis that the adult is not of the abusing type. There is no type. This is why it is critical that the policy must be that every allegation of child sexual abuse by an adult must be passed to the Local Authority Designated Officer for Child Protection (LADO) for review, and that it is then the decision of the LADO, who is not burdened by the assumption that Mr X or Father Y is an excellent chap and wouldn't do such a thing.

So, the situation so far, with regard to the school's policy on child sexual abuse is as follows.
  • The definition of sexual abuse is a vague as not to mention any kinds of sexual acts that might constitute abuse.
  • The indicators of sexual abuse are incomplete and lack context
  • The importance of taking allegations (direct or indirect) from children seriously is not stressed.
  • The approach to reporting allegations or concerns to the LADO is so hedged about by qualifications and caveats as to be useless.
So, we don't have a proper definition of abuse, we have inadequate procedures for recognising it, and it may not get reported to the civil authorities even when it is recognised. Tragic.

In all this, it looks as if the aim of the school is to suppress the reporting rate as far as possible, in order to give the impression that all is well with the school, because there hasn't been anything reported recently.

But this is grossly irresponsible. The mere fact that it is not being reported doesn't mean it isn't happening. If it isn't reported, it can't be stopped. And if it isn't stopped, then an abuser can go on to abuse a great many children. And in the long run, that exposes the schools to more lawsuits from the larger number of victims who have been created.

No matter what has gone on in the past, there is no excuse whatsoever not to leave the school's procedures in such a dire state, because all this does is vastly increase the chance of more victims in the future.

It's not even as if getting the procedures right is all that difficult. There are good procedures around whose wording can easily be adapted. Ealing Safeguarding Children Board runs training courses in this which are appropriate to teachers. The expertise is readily available. But it's not getting used.

Parents of pupils at the school have a right to ask why. In fact, for the safety of your children, you have a duty to ask why.

I have spoken to quite a few victims of abuse by teachers and monks at the school. I assure you that if your child is abused, the psychological problems he or she will suffer may disadvantage your child in later life to an extent which far outweighs any advantage gained from the expensive education you are paying for. As parents you have nothing at all to gain by going along with a school that has inadequate child protection. Better to go to the local comprehensive, become a pushy parent there to ensure that your child is treated well, and save up the money to help your child through university. Within the state system, the school can't choose to kick your child out because you are making too much of a nuisance of yourself.



    17 July 2010 17:28
    Anonymous said...
    Mr West
    Was it not a teacher or a member of staff at St Benedicts school who reported the latest ABUSE of Fr David pearce to the local authoritys?.
    The child protection policy worked and Pearce was arrested.
    And were they sacked?....NO


  2. Mr West, a number of comments have been posted on this blog suggesting that you are in danger of being sued for libel by Abbot Martin, Father Gregory or even Father David.

    I would be curious to know whether you have received any communications from their lawyers so far.

  3. If you're fishing for the answer 'NO', you really must be in a pretty desperate frame of mind, 11:21!!


    Why is it that one can't escape the feeling that a high proportion of 'anonymous' postings come from Mr West, himself? There's a certain sameness about them, stylistic and otherwise, and they almost all stray into his old territory of 'nudge' and 'innuendo'. Territory he's trying his best to rise above in his current 'articles', of course. But old habits die hard, it seems.

  5. Why are the Trustees (Governors) of St Benedict's promulgating a child protection policy which permits the administration of the school the latitude not to report a single incident of alleged abuse to the authorities, contrary to every single principle in the DfE statutory guidance on safeguarding?

    Will someone explain this to me please, as though I am a three year old?

  6. Heroic persistence here. Why, my dear, repetitive 14:07 don't you do the obvious thing? Contact the Trustees and find out? If anyone can 'explain this' to you, they can!

  7. Why be obvious? In any case it’s into the answer that matters, but the opportunity to stir things up a bit!

  8. Correction: 'it's not the answer'

  9. So the noisy unguided defender(s) of the institution has no answer.

    How can he therefore defend it?

    Blindly is the answer!

    Food for thought.

  10. Yes, 15:57...just try to keep calm, the nurse is on her way!

  11. He still has not answered the first post 09.13.......I THINK IT STARTS MR WEST

  12. Regarding the question of libel actions against Mr. West just consider the following

    Do we think that anyone at Ealing wishes to give evidence in a public court. They might well be asked questions they don't wish to answer in a public court.

    Do we imagine that they would be pleased when requests for the disclosure of records arrives from the defence in any libel trial. Cover up has been the order of the day for the last thirty years.

    I would therefore not hold your breath waiting for a response from Ealing Abbey.

  13. I've been out all day. To answer 11:21, no I've had no official contact at all of any kind from the Abbey. I did give Peter Turner a call this week to let him know that I'm reviewing the child protection policy paragraph by paragraph on the blog, and they he might be interested both in the articles and the various comments. He thanked me for the call, and told me he has been "doing some work" on the comments I had earlier emailed him on the child protection policy.

  14. Ah! the great man's been out all day! So, all you nasty people who think Mr West posts anonymously on this blog, there'e your answer! And a very 'neat' one too!

  15. Ah - Evil thinkers evil......!

    And don't we have the evidence in spades that the cliche has merit!

  16. Contact the Trustees and find out? If anyone can 'explain this' to you, they can!

    I think you will find Mr West has repeatedly tried to engage with the schools Trustees, but they seem to think no one has the right to ask them anything on this subject.

    They are mistaken becasue safeguarding is a matter of public interest.

    Shipperlee has indicated his fear of "the safeguarding subject" by insisting on having advance knowledge of all the questions the BBC intended asking him on the "Sunday" interview with Ed Stourton.

    The stink will eventually reach your nostrils 14.24

    "The St Benedict's Way"

  17. The commenter @ 14.24, clearly not the brightest lightbulb in the box, seems not to realise this blog exists solely because of Shipperlee's unwillingness to address important safeguarding issues over which very serious questions remain unanswered.

  18. Mr West....
    Plenty of WORDS here on the blog but no ACTIONS

    The first post asked you a qustion, and yet you still stay quiet DID THE SCHOOL PROTECTION POLICY FAIL THE LAST VICTIM?.....

    tell all the people on here what you truly know about this person...and what led to the local Authoritys investigating Fr Pearce.

    But please be carefull how you word it.

  19. The poster at 09.13 and 08.57 for that matter seem to believe the discovery of a paedophile in a school by a member of staff is evidence that everything is "working."

    Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Paedophiles are clever at concealing their unhealthy interest in the young. Like salmon, if one is discovered in the pool more are present. In the case of salmon the guideline multiple is 1 to 9. Not for one moment am I suggesting this is the perpetrator multiple, just that a multiple exists. This happens because paedophiles work much more effectively and efficiently when they work together. They operate as a network within the setting, reducing the likelihood of discovery because they have eyes and ears throughout the school. And of course schools are the ideal place for perpetrators to operate, and independent schools are nirvana for career paedophiles.


    Every career paedophile understands that it is a conflict of interest for any independent school to report allegations of abuse to the LADO or children’s services. Independent schools are commercial concerns with balance sheets to consider, and the one thing the CEO doesn’t want is damage to his balance sheet. Reporting is made even more of a conflict of interest for independent schools because there is also no statutory obligation to report allegations of abuse or actual physical or sexual abuse to the authorities – the LADO, police or Children’s, or Social Services.

    The matron of a school I know discovered the abuse of boys and mentioned it to a senior master (not the Head for reasons which remain unclear). The senior master surprisingly went to the local vicar and told him. The vicar told the master to report it to the police because it was clear criminal action had taken place, and there was a moral duty to report these matters. Having reported the events to the police the senior teacher then told the Headmaster of the abuse and of the verbal report he had provided to the police.

    The Head told the senior teacher to change the story he had given to the police if “he wanted to continue his career at the school or even in independent education.” So threatened did senior teacher feel that he swore an affidavit in case the charismatic and bullying headmaster delivered his threat. All the head was concerned about was the story reaching the public domain. The only way to guarantee no “leak” is to ensure the authorities are not involved. The head did not care about the abused pupils, who incidentally had been serially raped.

    09.13 and 8.57 would point to this discovery as a success – proof of good – evidence that protocols are working. Except none of the threats made to the senior master by the head, were visible to investigators at the time. Had this become know the Head would have perhaps been exposed.

    There is a post script. The head of the school was also found to be a paedophile. The man who was caught was supplying pictures of the boys he was contemporaneously abusing to the headmaster who by the time of the discovery had married a former parent who had children of her own. Unknown to anyone, but suspected by several members of staff, a further three abusers were operating in the school. With so many paedophiles holding senior positions it is surprising that even one of their number was caught because although staff might suspect certain people, they are usually unable to speak because they do not have solid evidence. And we have all seen whistleblowers are inevitably shot because they receive no support from the statutory framework. At this school multiple abusers were operating in a ‘sweet shop.’ Pupils were powerless, parents were asleep and the Inspectorates as usual were not inspecting.

    The discovery of one paedophile is positive but it explains nothing.

  20. I certainly will not tell everyone all that I know about the last victim, that would be a gross invasion of his privacy.

    But as for the school protection policy having failed its last victim, well of course it did. Father David was known to be a danger to children at least as far back as the time he retired as headmaster in 1993. (The Abbot lied when interviewed on the BBC R4 "Sunday" programme when he said that Pearce's activities had first "officially" come to his notice in 2004.) It was because he was a danger to children and that there had been complaints about his actions that he ceased to be Junior School Headmaster.

    So for about 14 years, Father David should have been given no access to children at all, and yet he was made Bursar. Even after he was finally placed on a restricted ministry following he civil suit brought by C, he still had access to a child within the monastery itself.

    I don't think you can regard it as a success when a known paedophile assaults again, even though the assault is this time reported to the police.

    Remember that Abbey was already under investigation by the Charity Commission at the time the assaults on the final victim came to light. It is entirely possible that had they not promptly reported it and the matter come to light by other means (for instance by the victim making an independent complaint to the police), the Charity Commission might have revoked the Abbey's charitable status or required the resignation of the Abbot and other Trustees.

  21. This explanation by Mr West, if it is correct, presents a number of interesting questions that need to be answered.

    If Pearce was known to be a danger to children in 1993 which resulted in him being "moved" - did St Benedict's fulfil the requirement to return a Statutory Notification under the Education Acts to the DfS Teacher Misconduct Team?

    Has the existence of a return being made against Pearce in 93 been verified by either the DfE Safeguarding team or the ISI?

    When did the ISI inspect against the issues revelaed in the Pearce Notification?

    If the school did not return a Notification - why not?

    If no Statutory Notification was returned when one should have been, what action did the DfE take or what action will it take against the Trustees of St Benedict's school if the are found to have broken the law by concealing the existence of a known paedophile?

  22. Mr West, thank you for your reply to my question concerning the threats of libel action that have been made in some recent comments.

    It was no surprise to me to learn that you have not been contacted by the Abbey’s lawyers. The simple reason for this is that all of the allegations that you have made are true.

    Personally, I would be delighted if there were to be a civil case as the Abbot would be forced to answer some very embarrassing questions. I would certainly travel down from Glasgow to watch Shipperlee and his fellow weasels squirm as your QC interrogated them.

    I suspect that I might have to wait a long time to see this, so as a previous commenter suggested, I will not hold my breath.


  23. Firstly, it is simply not the case that Mr West's allegations are all true.

    Secondly, he and his supporters seem incapable of taking on board one simple but all important fact: no one at Ealing Abbey will respond to him, Mr West, or to anything posted on his blog.

    Should anyone else wish to contact the Abbey with legitimate questions or concerns they will, of course, receive an answer.

    Perhaps the reason that this simple fact has been ignored is that it would, as one post points out, strip the blog of its supposed raison d'ĂȘtre.

  24. What a mesmerizingly pompous statement @ 11.12, so reminiscent of the patrician Willie Whitelaw commenting on the government’s refusal to speak with Sinn Fein, and look what has since happened. History is littered with similar examples across the planet. But between now and the end of the St Benedict’s debacle, there will likely be a great deal of damage witnessed in one way or another and mostly I suspect to St Benedict’s. Is it necessary?

    As an outsider looking in I reflect on Shipperlee’s non-engagement on the important public interest matters which West has raised. The principle issue for West & Co. is the demonstrably useless child protection policy promulgated by St Benedict’s, and a few other related matters.

     What cost is there to the trust should they communicate with West?
     What does the trust do if this becomes a public protest at the school gates with all the attendant media?
     Should the trust worry about the growing effects of West’s blog and the attendant media coverage this will generate from time to time in future?
     What impact to the GBP £9m per annum income of the trust is going to be tolerated by the trustees (some of whom have questions being asked of them by some of West’s supporters) just to save Shipperlee the task of speaking to a subject literate West and others about the shortcomings of the St Benedict’s child protection policy and related safeguarding concerns?
     What flack will Shipperlee receive from other parts of the Catholic Church for the increasing and adverse media coverage about this ‘community’ in West London?
     What happens when parents become increasingly subject literate as inevitably they will with the passage of time and the increasing visibility of West’s blog

    Which of the parties has most to lose from a long-term dispute – West or St Benedict’s?

    There are clearly many more questions to consider but I just want to look at the big items on the balance sheet.

    I’ve been here before, and I have to tell Shipperlee that silence was not used in any of the four situations in which I was involved. All but one of the four had a positive outcome for all. But so skewed is the Safeguarding policy at St Benedict’s, that it is now clear it has been designed to guarantee that the school administration has no need to report any allegedly abusive event to external authorities. With a policy in place that allows abuse of children without consequence, and with almost all parents unknowingly accepting these conditions when they “sign for that place,” their children are entering a school where the Chairman of the Board of Governors is the cornerstone in the creation of a criminally dangerous environment in which to educate children.

    Abuse without consequence!

    It is an astonishing concept and one I'd never considered faintly possible. It will compound the child sexual abuse problem that is already in the blood of the school.

  25. "Abbeyvista"2 August 2010 at 23:32

    West is subject literate? Really? Just to take one statement which he has made to the effect that ALL abuse involves emotional abuse. This is plainly incorrect and misleading. His motivations for such an incorrect statement may be ignorance or mischief or perhaps he has another reason. It makes you wonder. This is one of many incorrect assertions stated as "facts" by West which are included in this blog which could be pointed to.

    West is far from being an expert in these matters and has yet to provide his background or any evidence of his qualifications which is why he lacks credibility in these matters. In addition, West's anti-religious stance is something which will quite patently affect his judgement on any religious authority.

  26. A policy that allows abuse without consequence.

    That's what exists at St Benedict's. And of course this is for the protection of whom?

    West and those who sympathise with his efforts are most certainly subject literate, more so than many I have come across apart from those who are abused who know more about the subject than any theoretical qualification can provide.

    And does all abuse involve emotional abuse as West asserts? Think about it just for a moment Lightening - the types of abuse are - sexual, physical, and emotional and the give away word is "abuse."

    You are also perhaps in ignorance of a very important issue. It is for every parent or member of the public (on this public interest matter) to hold schools to account for their safeguarding policies and their delivery. Who says so? The Department for Education - Safeguarding Team.

    When a school is promoting A policy that allows abuse without consequence West and others are correct to bring this to the attention of as many as possible, and your only objection Abbeyvista, is that he has found you out.

    Silence from Shipperlee will be an act of self mutilation for St Benedict's.

  27. abbeyvista,

    I'd like you to take a look at para 12 of the school's child protection policy, where it says "It is accepted that all abuse involves emotional abuse".

    My only mention of this concept was in quoting the school's policy, and disagreeing with it. So it would appear that it is the school's child protection policy itself which by your standards is "subject illiterate". I'm so glad you agree with me.

  28. To the commenter at 11:12 yesterday:

    I contacted the Abbot last year following his promise to commission an “independent review” into the case of Father David Pearce. Although I explained my connection to the School and my reason for making enquiries I didn’t receive so much as an acknowledgement let alone any answers to my questions.

    I am led to believe that the Abbot has refused to give interviews to journalists wishing to report on the problems at St Benedict’s. I understand that he was given an opportunity to reply to the stories published in The Times in April of this year but that he chose to say nothing. It seems reasonable to suppose that his lawyers have advised him to remain silent in view of the possibility that victims of Father David and others may take further legal action.

    I am afraid that you are mistaken when you suggest that anyone wishing to contact the Abbey with legitimate questions or concerns will receive an answer.


  29. Unlike you Michael, I speculate it is unlikely to be lawyers who have recommended Shipperlee remains silent, but a media adviser.

    They mistakenly tend to believe that silence on this subject is the best policy.


    This subject is unlike any other, but media advisers who have no understanding of CSA and its dynamics continue to apply adult logic to the subject.

    RULE 1

    Suspend all adult logic when dealing with CSA and you will progress further and more effectively.