Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Outside the Safeguarding meeting

I was outside St Benedict's School last night aiming to hand out cards to parents. I was with a couple of friends, I'll call them S and J. J had a video camera with him.

I briefed the others carefully: we will not set foot in the grounds, we will not attempt to obstruct anybody, we will remain on the public highway, we will stand at the exits and offer a card to anybody willing to take it, but not press the matter. I advised J in particular that his job was to record. Even in the unlikely event that I got roughed up, he was under no circumstances to get involved, but merely to record the entire incident.

The cards had a very simple message.
Is your child really safe at St. Benedict's?
Read the facts about the ISI report
The parents' meeting started at 7.30, and we arrived in the vicinity soon after. We did a bit of a recce and worked out that the only two open exits were the vehicle exit on Marchwood Crescent and the pedestrian exit on Eaton Rise, so we agreed that I would cover Marchwood Crescent, S would cover Eaton Rise, and J would stand on the corner of the two streets with his video camera and would film in either direction as required.

There was very obvious security on the entrances both in Eaton Rise and Marchwood Crescent, and of course they soon realised that we were hanging around. Security came out to talk to S at the Eaton Rise exit. J was accosted at the bus shelter on the corner and replied monosyllabically in a deliberately thick Geordie accent - they quickly left him alone.

A security man came out and recognised me at the entrance on Marchwood Crescent, and said "Good evening Mr West, such a pity you've not been allowed in. Still, you might get a few more hits" I replied that it didn't bother me in the slightest. He went in again, and in due course, no fewer than three of them came back out to confront me. I said "Good evening gentlemen", and they replied "Good evening Mr. West"

They went on to tell me that I was not permitted on the school grounds. I replied that I was surprised that the school was so scared of me that they felt it necessary to send three people out to tell me that. They said (of course) that they weren't scared, but I think the point got made!

I said that I had no intention of entering the grounds, and that I trusted that they would do nothing to stop me from going about my lawful business on the public highway. One of them (who looked like a bruiser of a nightclub bouncer) seemed to be itching for an an opportunity to get physical, but the leader said that in that case there would be no trouble. J had by this time seen that there was a conversation going on with them standing rather close to me, and was walking up towards us to get a better shot. The leader, seeing him, said "And you can send your heavy home as well." I replied "Oh, you needn't worry about him, he just has a camera." They beetled off inside very quickly!

A bit later they came outside again, and one said to another "I want you to come and witness this - there is illegal filming going on, I'm being filmed illegally". But they didn't attempt to call the police, and we ignored them.

At about 9.45pm everyone came trooping out. I offered a card to anybody that was willing to take one. No chance of giving one to anybody coming out in a car, the security people were waving the drivers on very insistently, and I wasn't going to have them accuse me of obstructing the exit, but I managed to hand out cards 15-20 to people coming out on foot. S told me that she managed roughly the same number at Eaton Rise.

There was nobody else outside, just the three of us. No press, no TV cameras, just a parent of a former pupil and two friends. The security people seemed rather disappointed at not having more to do.


  1. And you'd think the protection of Our Good Lord would be enough for an abbey, would ye not? I must say, I wonder how this will appear in the next set of Abbey Trust accounts: "Thugs, 3, intimidation."

    Still, to be fair, you have to look at from their side: if you work for an institution that has, over many years, gone out of its way to protect and support active paedophiles then it's true that you might have, finally, realised that there are folks out there who actually don't like you very much at all...

  2. St Benedict's must be unique in feeling the 'need' to employ three heavies to bounce outside a school parents meeting. The roughest and toughest of clubs only has one or two thugs on the door!

    Going by the treatment you received, it looks like the school employed these big ol' boys just for your 'benefit'. Clearly, they were expecting you. Coming out to you in the street and referring to you by name despite there having been no prior introduction, then attempting to belittle you. Given the size of them, their overbearing proximity to you, the number of them involved and the fact that they were briefed with information about you and used this to try and belittle you speaks volumes.

    St Benedict's have made a clear cut attempt to intimidate you. And the bouncers were overstepping their domain treating you this way on the street. I'm very glad you have this on film.

    Their assertion that one of you was filming illegally, as I'm sure you're aware, is not the case. The camera was not concealed and the cameraman was on the public highway. Under these circumstances, even if the captured footage were to be included in a broadcast documentary, no fomalities - not even release forms - are required vis those appearing in the footage.

  3. Did the Abbot hope that the presence of a security team would intimidate parents who might intend to ask awkward questions about the School?

  4. "Abbot hires 'doormen' to keep campaigner out of child protection meeting."

    It says so much about the culture of the dump that they resort to bouncers! They are clearly spooked because their grip on the abuse concealment card has been lost. At such times the culture of an institution surfaces. Last night is an example.

    Now what was it that the non-independent ISI safeguarding inspectors wrote in their follow-up report:

    "The commitment to trust within the community and to St Benedict’s rule of love and forgiveness appears on occasion to have overshadowed responsibility for children’s welfare.......

    well the lurve was replaced by intimidation last night when the abbot decided to deploy bouncers against one former parent!

    I hope all you current parents are getting the message. You are only being tolerated while you say nothing and continue paying the fees.

    You just could not make this up. When the abbot hits rock bottom his default setting is to break out the kango hammer and speed drill to a new low.

  5. What an absolute disgrace they are. I'm glad I am an ex-parishioner.

  6. My wife and I attended this meeting, and left on foot with friends of ours, you gave each of us a card as we walked out and here I am…

    I have not had the time to read all of the pages but I am perplexed on your vision of the security staff! And your comments on the latest post The only people on the gate when we left were the school caretakers. We even said goodnight to them.

    You have stated you have videoed the events so I assume you will post them on you tube for us all too see
    I look forward to the link.

  7. Yes, that is quite correct. There were no hired heavies, just the caretakers.....but calling them hired heavies makes for greater sensationalism.

  8. If these three people were indeed caretakers (which is two more caretakers than back in the day, but then the school must be flush with money since my time) then it's a pretty small "victory" that in fact the abbey only had to pay them overtime, rather than an outside security firm!!

    The fact remains that the abbey felt the need to have three people, however employed, acting as door security. And further, to have them menace someone who holds views at odds with those of their paedophile-protecting abbott.

    One could go on about how sad, crude and undignified is such behaviour. But frankly all that pales into insignificance when set alongside just how very, very stupid it makes the abbey appear. They are rich enough to spend a small fortune on a top QC. They are rich enough to pay off victims of sexual assault. They are rich enough to employ a marketing person to provide a glossy finish to a "revised" protection policy. But despite all that cash, they can't seem to grasp that they cannot spend their way out of this situation: the solution is actually very cheap indeed. But, alas, it would involve an admission of complicity and guilt, by many many people over many many years.

    No chance. They will keep splashing the cash, and threatening, and whining. I spent most of my childhood in that school. There were paedophiles active then. I see nothing to ensure that is still not the case. But so long as the current crop of parents think that the risk of their child being sexually assaulted is worth it - good luck. But I do feel for their kids. By the time they find out, it might be to late.

  9. Very interesting that they knew who you were and what you looked like. Are there photos of you on the net? If not, then perhaps you've been placed under some kind of surveillance. In fact, I would be surprised if they hadn't by now engaged a private detective agency to find out more about you. Last week's news story about Jonathan Djanogly shows how commonplace this is.

    Interesting also that whoever briefed them to keep you out made that comment to them about 'hits' - they never dreamt that up themselves - presumably this is now a well worn phrase among the staff generally accepted as the real motive for your blog.

    Incidentally I find it very easy to spot when people within the abbey and/ or school have posted criticism of you - their shrill, brittle, sardonic, over-cooked eloquence is their authentic voice. Even after thirty years I recognise it. It should tell you that you are going to win. These people are not really that smart - they've come to rest in the abbey because they couldn't cut it anywhere else.

    And Jonathan - well done! I don't feel able to post as anything other than 'anonymous' but you are really playing a significant part in helping me to unravel the knots into which those bastards twisted my childhood. 21:23 shows that there are more people like me; we're watching and we support you.

  10. When I was at the School (1975 - 1982), an Irishman called Tom Malone was the Upper School's caretaker. He was a thoroughly decent man and as far as I recall, he did the job all by himself.

    Why were three people required last night?

  11. Me of 21:23 comment. Yes indeed: Tom Malone. I remember him - I often (with permission!) was dropped at school very early, and during winter was allowed to sit inside. He used to unlock the "back door" (playground-facing, small door) and let me in. As you say, nice fellow. But also as you say, only one of him, and I doubt he was required, as part of his job, to go on the streets around the school and menace parents of ex-pupils.

  12. 15th September 17.43

    I think this parent has made a good comment,

    "You have stated you have videoed the events so I assume you will post them on you tube for us all too see
    I look forward to the link."

    its over to you Mr West
    after all they may be called..TOM..DICK and HARRY.

  13. Inside the meeting - Q to Mr Cleugh - have any teachers been suspended in last 12 months for child protection matters? pause shuffle. Answer Yes!!

    I' m getting my boy out. Have had enough

  14. I've been told that the atmosphere in the room was electric as everybody watched Cleugh work out how he was going to answer that one.

  15. How many times throughout the evening was the word "historic" applied to abuse?

    Historic child abuse.....hmmm ....anybody heard murder described as historic?

    And the most offensive part of this description to abusees is that the word histroric is used to dismiss crimes of child abuse. The parental audience last evening does not understand that any abuse happening now - which is known only to the abuser and the abusee - will unlikely be discovered for decades if ever. When it is discovered, say in twenty years, does this make it an historic crime or a current crime?

    Of course it is current abuse until it is fully investigated. There is no time stamp applied to child abuse - only by those desperate that you believe it is all in the past

  16. All abuse is current abuse for the victim. The term 'historic' abuse can only be used by someone who doesn't understand this. Cleugh clearly doesn't.

  17. Well the alleged parents at 15.34 and 17.43 are remarkably forgetful.

    At the top of the meeting I recall Mr Cleugh thanking parents for coping with the "extra security" which the school had decided to employ to "keep press out of a private meeting."

    Would press have crossed a boundary into a private meeting? I've never known it, and it would have served no purpose.

    So the deployment of heavies was all a bit odd, unreal, and lacked any credibility which was completely in keeping with the school's presentation.

  18. There were people on the gate and they were not the caretaker, who was also there. The school now employ a site manager and security who seem to be mostly eastern european. Interestingly this evening at prize giving there was mention of you and your blog and we were told not to believe anything that you said and even that you were part of an anti-catholic campaign! I think you are touching on a raw nerve or two. Yes there is a teacher currently suspended and social services have been called in.. and of course there is the lower 6th pupil who was interfered with by DP whist he was supposed to be under the abbot's watchful eyes. So current parents need to be very watchful and suspicious of everything that the Abbot and the school say. The have a history of lying.

  19. So...whose name has recently disappeared from the list of teachers on the school website?

  20. To answer 23:18, almost certainly the teacher under investigation is still listed. I understand he is suspended pending the outcome of the investigation. Such a suspension should not be regarded as a disciplinary sanction, but merely a precautionary and administrative measure, and shouldn't be taken as an indication of guilt.

    Now the case is known about the school can hardly refuse to say anything more on this once the investigation is complete. We can wait a while.

  21. I have to say that I find some of the comments posted here - utterly bizarre. If the anonymous above have had such a bad time at st benedict's, why didn't they go to the police about their experiences with Father David? He was sentenced on 5 separate counts yet there were many more boys who were abused by him. Without the statements from those affected the police were unable to take any further action. It is not just the Abbey who are to blame here - so too are the many ex pupils and parents who knew and yet did nothing. Going to the Abbot to complain is not enough. It was a criminal offence and so they should have gone straight to the police with their child.
    I am not sure what it is that the vidictive voice wants from this blog, other than to vent his spleen! Father David is in Prison - with a reduced sentence I understand. If you want him to pay for all of his crimes then those of you who had it happen to you, no matter how many years ago, need to inform the police (see Jonathan's address info for this on a previous page). There is an independent review being under taken by Lord Carlile into the case and the school is now doing everything it can to protect the children who are currently in its care. I feel the staff are fully committed to the welfare and development of each pupil and most of all my child is happy.
    To the parent above who says he is going to take his child away right now - good luck to him. I doubt he will find a better place elsewhere.

  22. To 09:33, so sorry some of our comments are "utterly bizarre" to you. And thanks for blaming the abused children for this all too. Right. Spot on. "They should have gone straight to the police." Yeah, when Pearce had his hand down my trousers all I thought about was where the nearest phone was to dial 999.

    You imply you have a child at St Benedict's. I do, most sincerely, hope they are happy and suffer no harm there. But if they do, it sounds like you'll take it in your stride just fine. Pop down to the cops, make a report, and then carry on as normal.

    Numerous paedophiles. Years of abuse. Years of cover up. Ongoing cover up. Abbott who wants to ignore it. And a protection policy which is still inadequate. And here's some of us "venting spleen" as you put it. Gosh. I wonder why.

    I'm glad your blinkers are comfortable. And I wish your child the very best of luck, for all sorts of reasons.

  23. 09.33

    The review to be undertaken by Carlile is not independent - it is a fatuous to suggest it is.

    It has been commissioned by St Benedict's and will be paid for by the Trust. St Benedict's has chosen the person to undertake the review and written the terms of reference.

    Can you explain how that makes it independent?

    Sadly "independent" is a much misused word and this is but one example.

  24. 09.33 says: "To the parent above who says he is going to take his child away right now - good luck to him. I doubt he will find a better place elsewhere."

    I strongly disagree, we removed our son from St Benedicts to a place that has been much better for him. Much higher academic standards and outcomes, vastly better behavioural standards, aq real sense of direction from the school and most importantly our son prefers his current school for all these reasons.

    Parents at St Benedicts always astonished me with their complacency and willingness to stick with the 'status quo' rather than question the standards as well as what was happening at the school.

    Your child only gets one childhood and one shot at aducation.

  25. Just to clarify, odds are that the so called 'heavies' were the maintainence crew from the school. These are the same guys who man the entrances and exits of the school in the mornings and evenings.

  26. Well Well Well,so they were the staff does not make good reading now Mr West?..thats why he never put the video tape on you tube like he was asked not once but TWICE because there was nothing to see.

  27. I don't see that their being permanent employees of the school gives me any reason to think better of their behaviour.

    On the contrary, that permanent employees in contact with the children every day would behave that way is more cause for concern than if they had been hired just for that night.

  28. ok Mr West....prove it show your video....

  29. WHAT A SAD SAD MAN, anonymous 22 September 2010 must be referring to the Abbot and Chris Cleugh, sad sad men, actually.

    Not to mention the others in the paedophile ring. How sad they are.

    But did you know that bullying of staff is rife in the place. Staff are 'put down', not allowed to have opinions, not allowed to speak up, and are criticized for being professional.

  30. So you have said Mr Chris Cleugh and the Abbot are in this paedophile ring.why do you say this?

  31. And the best film goes to....................................................................................................................................................not you Mr West

  32. They are complicit in this. Of course they are.They cover up and allow it to happen.

  33. Mr West you clearly have too much time on your hands. To imply the School is using nightclub bouncers is pathetic and incorrect. What do you expect a hard working, strong bodied caretaker to look like? Mary Poppins?

    A job at the Sun newspaper awaits you!