Monday, 1 November 2010

The original "independent review" at Ealing Abbey and St. Benedict's School

You might remember that the Carlile inquiry is not the first "independent review" that the Abbot has commissioned. The school website already has this document: Ealing Abbey – Independent Review Feb 2010 Summary.

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.
Now, remember that Abbot Martin wrote a letter to all parents on 2nd October 2009, the day Pearce was sentenced for a series of crimes on dates ranging from 1972 to 2007. He started by saying:
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.


  1. I am sure you have told Lord Carlile all he needed to know. If you didn't, why not? What did you discuss with him? the weather and the test match?

  2. Carlile requested that my meeting with him be private, and that I do not blog about it except to say that the meeting happened. So I cannot say what I told him, not what he told me in response. I've already described this in Meeting with Lord Carlile

  3. Is the school contacting former teachers and inviting them to contribute to Lord Carlile's report?

  4. An interesting idea 23:18.

    On the basis of the School's previous behaviour I very much doubt it.

  5. I have little doubt that the trustees will withhold information from Lord Carlile, after all it worked with the poor devil who was commissioned to carry out the previous review.

    Why wouldn't it work again?

  6. Without contacting former teachers, Carlile is worthless.

  7. Other teachers...2 November 2010 at 23:24

    There are two former teachers who have not yet been mentioned on this blog who certainly need to be called to give evidence to Lord Carlile.

    The former Monk and Headmaster of St B's - Antony Gee who was Headmaster during the 1970's until 1985.

    Mr (Lt. Col. Ret'd) Richard Baker who served with Captain The Rev'd David Pearce OSB in the CCF. As Mr Baker is involved in the OP's he should be available.

  8. Excellent suggestions, though unlikely to yield any information. Dom Antony Gee was one of those mysterious disappearances in the mid 80's, like Mr Maestri (though I'm not remotely suggesting the reasons were the same). He was quickly replaced by the alcoholic thug Gregory Chillman for a few terms, at a time when the school was really going into a tailspin, what with pupils committing suicide, teachers having breakdowns, and results plummeting. He left very little impression on me, except as a curiously detached figure - perhaps that was his way of coping - apart from those times when he was able to address assemblies during open days, when he would grow quite passionate in his requests to parents to vote Conservative as the only way of saving the school.

    As for Colonel Robot Baker he was an Establishment toady and one of those poseurs like Mr Maestri who chose to wear a graduate gown so that he could pretend he was living in the 1950's/ 1850's. Life clearly held no prize sweeter for him than to live in Ealing, teach at an independent school, smarm up to priests and regularly play soldiers with children. I therefore doubt Carlile could get anything out of him, particularly as Baker certainly regards priests as being incapable of acting illegally and probably has only the vaguest notions of what sexuality is, never mind child abuse.

    When I think of the trust my late father placed in these people - and a simpler, saintlier Catholic layman never lived - it makes my blood boil. If there is a Hell, it is waiting for Pearce and anyone who abetted him, because their sins of omission are as great as any sin of commission. They had decades to deliberate and chose not to act.

    Repent, Shipperlee, before it is too late. A single moment stands between you and extinction. You taught at the school in the 1980's; give YOUR evidence to Carlile before a Higher Court calls you to bear witness.

  9. 23:24 I think that you should add Basil Nickerson to your list. He was deputy headmaster while Pearce and Maestri were abusing pupils. I find it inconceivable that he was totally unaware of what was going on.

    I feel sure that he could provide some very enlightening answers to Lord Carlile's questions.

  10. Is Nickerson still alive?

  11. 20:46, Alive or dead?

    I'm not really sure.

    There is, however, a picture of him on the Old Priorans website dated June 2010.

    He is certainly standing on his hind legs, but perhaps the School simply paid a taxidermist to have him stuffed and mounted.

  12. Is that an appropriate use of charitable funds?

  13. 12:54, probably depends whether he was alive or dead when they stuffed him.

  14. He looks to have colour in his cheeks - but then maybe that's the work of a good embalmer!

  15. Father Anthony left the priesthood and got married was no mysterious disappearance involved there. Basil Nickerson got married to the school secretary Mrs Cummins and had a child with her somewhere around 25 -30 years ago. I don't know when he left the school he was still there when I left in 1982.

  16. Oh, please!! Come off it!! Your spoiliing the story line!!