If that is really the case, I have a few questions for the Abbot.
In a statement, Abbot Martin Shipperlee blamed Pearce for the failure of the child protection measures.
"We accept the report in full," he said. "The trustees considered that adequate measures were put in place. However, David Pearce circumvented these measures and it's a matter of sincere regret. The trustees are determined to ensure that nothing like this can happen again. The Charity Commission report confirms we have in place the appropriate safeguarding policies and procedures."
- When are you going to make some public announcement about this "independent review" you keep claiming to be conducting but about which nobody seems to know anything?
- When are you going to respond to the Open Letter citing a large number of shortcomings in St. Benedict's School's child protection policies.
And it isn't sufficient to say that Father David hoodwinked you. You're the Abbot and the chairman of the trust, and if you can be hoodwinked by one paedophile, then you can be hoodwinked by another. So your word isn't good enough any more on this subject. We need to see the procedures being changed and we need to see this independent review actually happening.
Tom Perry of www.questions4schools.org.uk has pointed me to the guidance issued by the Department of Education for Northern Ireland (DENI) Pastoral care in schools - Child protection
Sections 36-58 have a very comprehensive set of procedures for what a school must do in the event of a complaint against a member of staff. It covers cases ranging from where the complaint is without foundation to where a criminal conviction is ultimately obtained, and the school's role in each of these cases. Critically, it describes what should happen in the event that a case warranting a criminal investigation does not result in a conviction, but where the evidence is sufficiently strong to justify a genuine concern for the safety of pupils. The St. Benedict's procedures are entirely silent on this issue.
Of course, not all aspects of the DENI guidance are applicable to a single school. But Tom Perry has told me (and I have confirmed for myself by reading the document) that these guidelines are exceptionally thorough, and can be used as a model on which to base child protection procedures for any school in the UK. Anybody interested in the Child Protection procedures at St. Benedict's should read the DENI guidelines and compare them with what the school has as its present policy.