I analysed the document in a previous article. But I've now learned a bit more about how that review was conducted. The original publication did not identify who the review was conducted by. However, the ISI Supplementary Report stated that the review was carried out by the safeguarding officer of the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton.
A friend of mine phoned him up, and the conversation was most illuminating. The safeguarding officer told him that:
- He had only been on the premises for a morning.
- He had only examined paperwork and had not carried out any interviews.
- He inferred that Pearce had committed more than one crime but was not aware of the extent of his offending.
- He believed that he had done what the Trustees had asked him to do.
- The report looked at how to move forward rather than thoroughly investigating past allegations.
- He believed that the summary published on the school website was a fair reflection of his original report.
Fr David Pearce, who taught at St Benedict’s from 1976-1992, pleaded guilty on 10th August to serious criminal offences against children and has now been sentenced to 8 years imprisonment.And later in the letter he said:
I am instructing an independent review into this matter to examine what there is to be learned in order to ensure that there can never be a recurrence of this situation."This matter" can only reasonably be read as meaning all of Pearce's crimes, as referred to in the first sentence of his letter. And "a recurrence of this situation" can only reasonably be read as meaning the failure to prevent Pearce from continuing to offend over such a long period of time. But when the Abbot commissioned the review from the safeguarding officer of the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton, he didn't actually tell him what crimes Pearce had been convicted of. Apart from the one Pearce committed while on restricted ministry this was left to him to infer!
About the only defence the Abbot has is that he didn't explicitly say what he meant by "this matter" and "this situation", so he was free to define them in whatever way he wanted, irrespective of the impression a reasonable reader would have received from the letter. He is free to ignore most of Pearce's 35-year paedophile career even though any reasonable person would expect an inquiry to look at why he operated within the Abbey unhindered for so long, even being placed in a senior position at the school.
And of course the Abbot did choose to ignore all this, and the "independent review" addressed only the procedures of the Abbey, not of the school, and addressed only the failure to supervise Pearce adequately once he was on a restricted ministry, not the failure to ascertain earlier the danger he posed to children and take action to protect them.
And the summary of the report (carefully stripped of any information that might identify those who had conducted the review) was put up on the school website as a reassurance to parents that all is now well with the school, even though the school was not included in the terms of reference and the school's procedures were not examined. If the ISI and the DfE hadn't got involved after I raised the issue with them, then this would have been an end to the matter, Lord Carlile would not have been asked to conduct another review, and there wouldn't have been even the minimal improvements to the school's child protection policy that have been made this year.
In the circumstances, with regard to this most recent "independent review" being conducted by Lord Carlile it is fair to wonder whether the Trustees have again deliberately withheld information, so that the inquiry can find out as little as possible and its conclusions can be as reassuring as possible. Obviously, they can't be quite as blatant about it as they were last time round, and obviously Lord Carlile is now in possession of far more information that the poor old safeguarding officer of the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton was ever allowed access to. I have no doubt that they have told Lord Carlile that he can ask anybody about anything related to the matter, but if he doesn't know the right questions to ask because the Trustees haven't told him all he ought to know, he's not in a position to issue a comprehensive report.