Sunday, 26 September 2010

Call for Evidence

An advert has appeared in this week's Ealing Gazette, top left quarter of page 17. The wording is as follows:

An enquiry is being undertaken by Queen's Counsel, Lord Carlile of Berriew, in relation to events at St. Benedict's School, and Ealing Abbey, which have given rise to adverse publicity. The terms of reference are:
  • The history of abuse allegations and findings made by and/or at St Benedict’s School.
  • The history of abuse allegations and findings made in connection with Ealing Abbey, and anyone involved in any activities at the Abbey.
  • The action taken in respect of the matters described in paragraphs 1 and 2 above.
  • Past and present policies, written or otherwise, for dealing with such abuse allegations and findings.
  • A future policy for the effective protection of young persons by whom any such allegations are made.
  • An effective complaints system, and the provision of information about such a system.
  • Files and paperwork concerning complaints.
  • Other reassurance for present and prospective students and their parents/guardians.
  • Issues concerning presence at the Abbey or School of persons who have been the subject of findings and/or allegations.
Anybody wishing to provide evidence to the enquiry should do so in writing within 28 days to:

Lord Carlile of Berriew QC
c/o 9-12 Bell Yard
London, WC2A 2JR
Quite frankly, unless anybody already knew about what the publicity has been all about, I doubt very much that this advert would enlighten them. As I've mentioned before, the terms of reference aren't even grammatically stated, and this version is even worse than the one which appears on the school website, in that the numbered list of points has been converted into a bulleted list, making it that much less clear what "paragraphs 1 and 2" are.

But the thing that I think can be discerned from this advert is the true objective of the Trustees. The advert doesn't once mention "sexual abuse" or the harm done to victims, but instead coyly refers to "events" and "allegations", as if these allegations had not already been substantiated in four separate criminal trials and one civil action. Most tellingly, the first paragraph mentions that these events "have given rise to adverse publicity".

That seems to be the primary concern of the Trustees, spelled out in the first paragraph of the advert. The objective is to find a way of damping down the adverse publicity, not to find out the extent to which sexual assaults have been endemic within the school over decades.

I doubt that Lord Carlile saw the wording of this advert before it was approved for publication. But in due course I will be able to find out.

If you are a victim of sexual abuse at the school or the Abbey, then I have the plea for you: Please go to the police and report it. It doesn't matter if the abuse happened last week, last year, 10 or 30 or even 50 years ago. It doesn't matter if the perpetrator is now dead or already in prison. It doesn't matter if you feel that the abuse you suffered is "relatively minor". Any kind of sexual abuse can be thought of as "relatively minor" compared to forcible rape or buggery, but many kinds are nonetheless illegal and can wreck the victims' lives.

You may feel that there is no point - that it would be your word against your abuser's. But if several different victims of the same abuser all come forward, then it is no longer a matter of the unsupported word of one victim. So by coming forward you might not only obtain justice for yourself, but also help others to obtain that justice, and help ensure that pupils at the school today are made more safe.

The police can use every piece of information that is provided to them. The more they have, the more detailed is the picture they can build of those who have been involved, either in actual abuse or as an accessory to crimes by engaging in a cover-up, procuring the silence of victims.

Paedophile abusers depend on obtaining the silence of their victims, through fear, shame or misplaced loyalty. And they are very good at instilling all these. Abusers who are Catholic priests have all the magisterial authority of the Catholic Church to draw on, they can fill you with fear that you will be condemned to hell if you tell, they can threaten you or your family with ruination, they can tell you that nobody would believe you. They can make claims on your loyalty because of other help or assistance they have provided to you or your family, they can say how much harm would be done to the school (and to your education) if you were to have to leave or he were to stop teaching you. Because they have worked themselves into positions of trust and authority, they are especially dangerous, because parents have trusted them with the care of their children.

If you decide you are able to come forward and report crimes to the police, it is worth also considering providing a submission to Lord Carlile's inquiry. Any contribution to that can go wider than merely describing crimes against you. You can describe the overall atmosphere and culture of the school, so he can decide whether that contributed to allowing the sexual abuse to remain hidden for so long.

Let's tell Lord Carlile what has really been going on. Write to him, ask for a meeting. He may suggest that he meets with you at the school, but if the school holds bad or fearful memories for you, you are under absolutely no obligation to meet him there.

I shall be meeting Lord Carlile, and after the recent unpleasantness outside the school gates, I have told him that it would be entirely inappropriate to meet on school premises. I have made an appointment to meet him at his chambers in Bell Yard. If you want to meet him to go through your account in person, you can make the same request.

Lord Carlile has requested that the meeting be private, in that no account of it (beyond the fact that a meeting has taken place) is published before he issues his report. My guess is that this request is being made as a matter of course to all those he is arranging to meet, and I think that is fair enough, though I've pointed out that it's not reasonable for other accounts to be suppressed in perpetuity should publication of his report be cancelled or unreasonably delayed.

As I understand it, the Call for Evidence advert will also be placed in the national papers as well. If you happen to see one please let me know. I've suggested to Lord Carlile that the call for evidence should also be placed on the Abbey and School websites, included in a letter to all parents, and sent out as an email to everybody on the OPA mailing list. To the best of my knowledge none of this has been done so far.


  1. Abuse at St Benedict's has been going on for decades and we have 28 days to submit our evidence!

  2. -
    Yes, the timeframe hints at the agenda.

    At such an early stage the "indepedent inquiry" contains elements of a Brian Rix farce.

  3. 28 DAYS! Who, in God's name, can think, speak or write at that speed? We need 28 months or 28 years to settle this thing. In fact, as this blog shows, this is a theme that can be held in the spotlight almost indefinitely. No, this is simply not good enough. But, what can we do? There have to be more accusations out there! Please, please, Jonathan, do not let this have it in you, as we all know, to die fighting this good fight. For heaven's sake don't let a bunch of creeps deter you or have the last word. Please, do keep on...and on! We, you, just have to win in the end and we're looking for a bang not a whimper!

  4. I take it that the above is a tongue-in-cheek response to the two blog-supporters above. But it makes an important and telling point: Mr West seems incapable of discerning when enough is enough. In fact, we are now witnessing the unfolding of what can only be described as an unpleasant and thoroughly embarrassing case of obsession. Enough really is enough, Mr West.

  5. I would suggest that the real "thoroughly embarrassing case of obsession" around Ealing Abbey is currently serving five years in prison. If you are tired of reading Mr. West's posts there is a simple solution - stop! Nothing Mr. West might say or write could possibly come close to being as damaging as the actions of those already imprisoned or still at risk of being so.

  6. Good God, 18:35, do you ever sleep at night? Thank goodness you're concerns are, more or less, restricted to a bit of West London! Perhaps, just for safety’s sake, its entire population should retire to a prison cell? This, as you graphically point out, is a very wicked world!

    By the way, some of us read this blog for fun – its confirmed self-righteousness is a real hoot!

  7. PS
    Of course, sadly, one can't say on this blog too long - the humour is a bit too monochrome! Try to introduce a bit more variety. Okay?

  8. The fact that 19:38/19:46 reads this blog for humour tells me all I want or need to know about him.


    I fear your 'wants and needs' are rather limited 20:12, which is I suppose what your critic finds 'humorous' but which I and several others, I suspect, find merely distressing. Apparently you are capable of seeing only what you want to see - a simple world of blacks and whites. Invariably, of course, you are white. But this merely indicates that your negativity is conveniently projected elsewhere - onto others, the blacks. To me, a feeling type, a tragedy. To your critic, a thinking type, a comedy! To you, I imagine, just plain baffling!

  10. 20:40: Talking of "plain baffling"... Have a lie down old chap.

  11. At the parents' meeting, the headmaster promised that requests for the submission of evidence to the Carlile enquiry would be placed in the national press.

    Has anyone seen anything so far?


  12. Seems now we're told that Mr West's record is not quite as whiter-than-white as we thought, he's gone to ground?


    SEE: 28 September 2010 23:34

  13. Just in case anyone is wondering!

    The Ref above to 28th Sep is to a highly enlightening contribution in the '28 DAYS' posting.