Thursday, 15 December 2011

Richard Yeo resigning from the visitation?

The Times yesterday carried a report that Abbot Richard Yeo has offered to resign from his role in the Visitation.
A spokesman for the Diocese of Westminster said yesterday that Father Yeo had offered to resign after a meeting with Lord Carlile. “Father Richard Yeo felt that as he is the Benedictine Congregation’s Abbot he should offer his resignation to the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF). Father Yeo has not yet received a response from Rome,” he said. “It is for the CDF to accept or decline Father Yeo’s offer to resign. Similarly, the CDF would determine if a replacement were to be needed.”

Lord Carlile said yesterday that Bishop Arnold and Father Yeo had met him in private after the publication of his report to discuss the conclusions he had reached.

“I suggested to Father Yeo that there would be at least a perception of a conflict of interest in taking part in any further Visitation,” Lord Carlile said. “Clearly following the discussion he felt that advice was appropriate and he would step down. It is the right and responsible decision.”
Abbot Richard Yeo should never have been appointed to the Apostolic Visitation in the first place. The conflict of interest is clear and obvious.

As the head of the English Benedictine Congregation and a member of the Cumberlege Commission, he should some years ago have been advising the Abbot of Ealing on safeguarding issues and making sure that the advice was taken. If any advice was given, it clearly wasn't taken. If the visitation is to be thorough and complete, he would have to investigate himself.

Bishop John Arnold, the other Visitor, also has a conflict of interest and should never have been appointed either. His immediate superior, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, has known for a number of years that there were significant problems concerning child sex abuse at Ealing Abbey, and he has done nothing as far as I know. He has said in public that he has no formal authority over Ealing Abbey, but he could at any time have requested an Apostolic Visitation. I did that, and my request was granted. A request initiated by Archbishop Vincent Nichols would have had far more authority than a request from a mere layman. So if the Visitation is to be thorough, it also has to review the inaction of the Diocese of Westminster, and John Arnold would therefore have to investagate the inaction of the diocese led by his own archbishop. That would include the appalling pastoral failing involved in Nichols' letter to "C", replying to C's description of the abuses he suffered at the hands of Pearce.
I am grateful to you for telling me something of your background. I was sorry to read of the harmful experiences you have had, and the continuing effects of these for you and your family. I am sorry that you feel that the Roman Catholic Church has failed your family.
So, no apology for the abuse. Just an expression of regret that C feels the church failed his family. Would Arnold have the nerve to criticise his own archbishop for this or any other failings? I very much doubt it.

You don't get a mess like Ealing Abbey without there being serious management failings at multiple levels. Obviously most of the responsibility has to lie with successive Abbots at Ealing itself, but the abuses could never have gone on for so long had there not been serious failings elsewhere as well. While the Apostolic Visitation is being run by Yeo and Arnold, it will always be suspected that its purpose is to find out as little as possible, lest it further embarrass the Catholic Church.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Carlile Report summary

So, now we have been in detail over the Carlile report, it is worth taking a further look at it in the round.

Paragraphs 1 to 8 are background information concerning the school and the circumstances in which the inquiry was commissioned and its report was delayed. Almost all of this information was already in the public domain.

Paragraphs 9 to 14 describe in general terms who he has spoken to, the abuses that have been committed and where the blame for them lies. There general details of the range and extent of abuses at the school is already in the public domain, though many of the individual instances which were disclosed to Carlile no doubt had not been publicly disclosed and Carlile is (quite properly) not disclosing them now. The rather simplistic allocation of blame is obvious, but gives no guidance as to how such abuses can be avoided in future.

Paragraphs 15 to 32 mostly provide information concerning the governance structure of St Benedict's, and for comparison the structures of some other Benedictine schools. The information concerning current structures of governance is already in the public domain, some of it on the school website, some of it in the trust documents and Charity Commission reports. The only significantly new item in this section is Carlile's recommendation in paragraphs 30 and 31 concerning a new structure of governance for the school.

Paragraphs 33 and 34 provide some details concerning who has been convicted of or alleged to have committed abuses. The list is incomplete, Carlile certainly received allegations concerning Father Kevin Horsey in addition to those which he has listed.

Paragraphs 35 and 36 describe a range of failings alleged by the solicitors for a victim, and he says that these would not have occurred under a more modern form of governance. but he isn't specific about how a more modern form of governance would have prevented them.

Paragraphs 37 to 43 largely provide public-domain information concerning the Nolan and Cumberlege reports, and mentions with regret that no governance review of the school was carried out post-Cumberlege.

Paragraphs 44 to 46 talk about reporting arrangements within the school concerning allegations of abuse, but no specific and formal recommendations are made. More importantly, no recommendations are made concerning external reporting of allegations to the statutory authorities.

Paragraphs 47 to 56 describe the recent history of the school in terms of inspections by the ISI, and subsequent correspondence with the DfE and the ISI. In the course of it, Carlile quotes various recommendations made by the ISI (which are already in the public domain in its own reports), but he makes no new recommendations of his own.

Paragraphs 57 to 65 continue to provide details of recommendations from ISI and DfE, particularly concerning the need for monks who have allegedly abused not to remain at the monastery. Carlile endorses the ISI recommendation in this respect but makes no further recommendation.

Paragraphs 66 to 68 summarise briefly diocesan safeguarding arrangements. Carlile approved of the extra layer of protection but considers it to be a desirable addition rather than a replacement for scrutiny by statutory authorities. A mention is also briefly made of the concerns expressed by the Schools Minister concerning the practice of keeping monks under restriction at the monastery.

Paragraphs 69 to 74 summarise the inquiries by the Charity Commission. The report of the two statutory inquiries is already in the public domain, but Carlile does disclose that there was a further compliance review following the allegations against Mr Y.

Paragraphs 75 to 80 again summarise who has been talking to Carlile.and what evidence he has been taking.

Paragraphs 81 to 82 mention a document audit that has been conducted separately to his inquiry, and Carlile endorses the recommendations of the auditor, the ISI et al concerning the importance of proper record keeping.

And paragraphs 83 to 85 are his conclusions, which is basically that all is now well, the school is a wonderful place, safeguarding there is as good as anywhere in the country and that all his recommendations can be implemented by 1st September 2012.

What recommendations? He hasn't made recommendations in the plural, he has made just one recommendation, for a change in the governance structure, and that for reasons I have already described is unlikely by itself to greatly improve safeguarding.

In all the 37 pages and 85 numbered paragraphs of his report (not including the appendices), he has made no other recommendations at all. Most specifically, he has made no recommendations concerning improvements in safeguarding policies and practice. He has made no suggestions for improvements whose purpose is (as he described in the report) "to use the lessons and failures of the past to ensure that such problems are avoided in the future". The vast majority of the report is merely a rehashing of information, including other people's recommendations, which was already in the public domain when he started his work.

Carlile has introduced no new insight which wasn't already known a year ago. If you don't believe me, read the report again carefully for yourself.

The mountain hath groaned and given forth a mouse.

Friday, 9 December 2011

BBC London News

There was an interview with Skelton's victim on the BBC London News this evening. Very powerful. It might  be on again later this evening at 10.25.

He very clearly described the fear he felt - that he might never get out of Skelton's house alive, that he might never be able to escape, and his huge relief when he got to the doorway.

The trailer for it, though not the main part of the interview, mentioned how even after his mother complained to the school, he was put back into Skelton's class for maths until Skelton left.

The BBC have clearly stated that the school gave Skelton a good reference and sent him on his way, and that he was able to go and abuse elsewhere.

Cleugh was interviewed and he said that if this happened today, they would automatically report it. But remember that until I started raising a stink, the school didn't have such a policy. This is what the ISI said when they finally noticed that there was a problem.
At the time of the follow-up inspections, the school did not have a fully established policy for reporting directly to the Department for Education and Skills (later the Department for Children, Schools and Families, and currently the Department for Education) or to the Independent Safeguarding Authority, responsible for such referrals since 20 January 2009.
That state of affairs was in place under the current Abbot and the current headmaster. And they had the effrontery to tell Lord Carlile that the deficiency of the policy that the ISI had found "was a narrow one about wording rather than substance" (para 50 of the Carlile report).

And as I've noted already, the school's policy doesn't commit to automatic reporting. Paragraph 30(c) contains a glaring exception.And even the wording of the relevant part of the overall commitment (para 5(i) of the policy) says it will "deal appropriately" with allegations and will be "consulting with" the LADO. Not good enough. The London Child Protection Procedures (para 15.2.1) are perfectly clear and unequivocal. "The employer must inform the local authority designated officer (LADO) immediately an allegation is made."

UPDATE: This edition of BBC London news is now available on iPlayer.

Carlile Report analysis - 14

The next section is titled "Representations by individuals, and internet activity" and covers paragraphs 75-80. It briefly describes the different categories of input he received. The first was descriptions of abuse from victims, the second was representations from people supportive of the Abbey and the school. The third part of what Carlile took into account was this blog and the comments received on it.
An additional and significant part of the material I have studied has been the energetic online blog organised and studiously run by Mr Jonathan West. I met Mr West and colleagues during my Inquiry. I have not been immune from criticism in the blog. That notwithstanding, I have found its volume and content broadly helpful. A good deal of the information on it is anonymous, much is not to an evidence standard, and some of the language used fairly extravagant. Nevertheless the blog has been most helpful in directing individuals towards me, and enabling me to understand the behaviour complained of, and the cynicism and anger understandably felt by many about the events of the past.
I'm afraid the criticism has had to continue to some degree because I have found the report to be rather disappointing in the lack of any recommendations concerning safeguarding, which was supposed to be the whole point of the exercise.

The penultimate section of the report (not including the appendices) is titled "Document Keeping". In it Carlile states what ought to be obvious, that effective and secure recording of incidents and actions is vitally important. Perfectly true.

The final section of the report describes Carlile's conclusions. Worth repeating in full.
83. I am grateful for the information and co-operation I have been given for the purposes of my Inquiry. Nobody has obstructed me, and most of my interlocutors have striven to provide assistance.

84. I believe that St Benedict’s School, Ealing, is an excellent place for boys and girls to be educated in safety today and for the future. No school is perfect, and ‘never’ is a dangerous word and a hostage to fortune. However, if those responsible for the School adopt the advice offered in this Report, and advice from the agencies referred to above, I consider that St Benedict students will be as well safeguarded as anywhere else in the country, without in any way losing the Benedictine connection and ethos.

85. I believe that all recommendations in this report, especially the crucial advice about governance, can be implemented by the 1st September 2012 at the latest.
I'm not so sure about the truth of paragraph 83. Certainly I have no doubt that Carlile believes it to be true, but if stuff has been hidden from him he would not necessarily be in a position to know at the time of writing the report. I think at the very least the issue of whether Chillman is or chould be living at the Abbey is a debateable point. Given that Chillman merits two lines to himself in the table in paragraph 33, and had to resign as a trustee in 2010, if he is not to be required to live away from the Abbey I would have expected Carlile to say so and say why.

As for paragraph 84, Carlile is even less of an educationalist than he is a safeguarding expert, and he is entirely unqualified to offer such an encomium. Anyway, it is the Benedictine ethos which the ISI criticised as having taken precedence over the safety of the children, a criticism Carlile has quoted in his report.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Stephen Skelton

And now there's another.

Stephen Skelton (Mr. X in the Carlile Report) was convicted today in Isleworth Crown Court of two indecent assaults against boys. He was sentenced to six-months jail suspended for two years. He was required to sign the Sex Offenders’ Register and banned from unsupervised contact with children under 16.

His first victim in 1983 was an 11-year-old boy, a pupil of St Benedict's where Skelton was teaching at the time. The abuse occurred during maths tuition at Skelton's house. The boy's mother reported her concerns to the school and attended a meeting with Abbot Francis Rossiter and Father Stanislaus Hobbs.

Though she was in no position to know it at the time, she could hardly have chosen two worse people to voice her concerns to. Rossiter presided over the abbey and the school at a time when we now know from the Carlile Report and other sources that there was a whole shoal of abusers present at the school - Father David Pearce, Father (later Abbot) Laurence Soper, John Maestri, Father Anthony Gee, Father Gregory Chillman, and of course Father Stanislaus Hobbs, present at the meeting with the mother!

Rossiter and Hobbs promised to sort things out. The way they did this was to send Skelton quietly on his way. He was given a reference and went on to work at three more schools, finishing his career at West Hill Park, Tichfield, Hampshire.

Ten years after this first assault, when Skelton was teaching at West Hill Park, he assaulted another boy, aged 10, again during a private lesson at his home. His victim had been playing on Skelton’s computer and with a train set before being attacked.

When the St Benedict's pupil came forward to the police, they contacted school to make enquiries about Skelton, but found that the school had kept no records of Skelton’s employment.

Let us make something very clear here. St Benedict's School broke the law in giving Skelton a reference which made no mention of the reason he was sacked, and in failing to make a Notification to the Department of Education. Even in 1983, it was a legal requirement to send a notification when a school got rid of a member of staff in circumstances where the school thought him unsuitable to work with children.

Had the school made the report they were legally obliged to at the time, there would not have been the slightest possibility of Skelton ever getting another teaching job elsewhere. The notification almost certainly would have resulted in Skelton being placed on List 99, which would have barred him from any other job working with children, provided other employers actually carried out the List 99 checks they were obliged to. Abbot Francis Rossiter is therefore wholly responsible for Skelton continuing to occupy positions of trust which gave him further opportunities to abuse.

In addition, this shows the police's normal approach to these matters - they do contact the school where an alleged abuser worked at the time as part of their enquiries. It is inconceivable that they did not also do this in the course of the investigations that resulted in John Maestri's three convictions in 2003, 2005 and 2008. And yet Mr Cleugh, the present headmaster, has claimed he was unaware of them and so could not mention them to the inspectors.

Cover-up? What cover-up? I'm afraid that line will no longer wash. There was a cover-up, and it clearly extends to include the current management of the school.

After the hearing, Detective Constable Christine Hobson said “Skelton has worked for many schools in and around Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Berkshire and Hampshire and we would encourage any similar victims of such crimes to make contact with police. They will be treated with respect and their allegations will be taken seriously.”

With two indecent assaults 10 years apart at different schools, each with an identical method, there is every reason to think that there may be other victims of Skelton who haven't yet come forward, either at St Benedict's School or other schools where he taught. If you were abused by him, I would like to reinforce the plea from the police - please go and tell them what happened to you.

Carlile Report analysis - 13

The next section of the report, paragraphs 69-74, is titled "The Charity Commission", and looks into the various enquires that have been carried out by the Charity Commission into the school. Of the first inquiry Carlile reports the following.
The findings were favourable, particularly to the effect that the charity was able to demonstrate that its child protection policies had been reviewed by the appropriate authorities and were accurate.
It's important to understand what this means. The Charity Commission has no brief to investigate safeguarding. In an exchange of correspondence I have had with the Charity Commission, they stated the following in this specific context.
Whilst the Commission will often request trustees to provide copies of child protection policies and evidence that appropriate checks (such as CRB) have been conducted where required, the Commission does not generally comment on the adequacy of these policies as this is more appropriate for other agencies, such as Ofsted.
So, in essence, the Charity Commission checks that there is a document labelled "Child Protection Policy". They don't look inside to see if it is any good, they rely on other agencies to do that for them. In the case of St Benedict's, they were relying on the ISI. All they looked for was evidence that the school had a policy and that it had passed the last ISI inspection.

So, you can't rely on the Charity Commission ensuring that the child protection policy is either well-written or effectively implemented, since they in turn rely on others to police that. That's not wrong, after all, resources are limited and there is every justification for avoiding an overlap of government functions.

The Charity Commission's second inquiry was a different matter. As Carlile states
The Commission found that, despite assurances, the Charity had failed to implement restrictions placed on the individual [Pearce] whilst on its premises. The Commission was ‘extremely critical’ in this regard. One of the terms of the individual’s continued role in the Charity was that he was to have no access to children and young people on the Charity’s premises: the trustees had failed to ensure this was the case. However, they concluded that the trustees had taken positive steps to protect the reputation of the Charity; and had confirmed publicly that an independent review would be carried out to ensure that the situation could not reoccur.
So again, this was not a general review of child protection, but rather the narrow issue of how it was that the charity failed to keep Pearce away from children despite specific assurances on that point. The "positive steps" taken were to ensure that Pearce lived away from the Abbey during the period between his arrest and his trial. No attempt was made by the Charity Commission to conduct a more general review of safeguarding, again this was left to others.

Carlile reports that the Charity Commission completed a further regulatory compliance case into the allegations against "Mr Y". Carlile states that in the opinion of the Charity Commission:
The trustees were held to have complied fully with their obligations under the Commission’s serious Incident Reporting guidance, and had also complied with the recommendations made by the ISI with regard to safeguarding policy. They were satisfied that the trustees fully understood the requirements to have or put in place all the necessary controls to mitigate the risks the Charity’s beneficiaries, assets and reputation.
So, again, the Charity Commission are depending on the ISI. But there is a slightly odd wording here "They were satisfied that the trustees fully understood the requirements..." That doesn't actually say that the Charity Commission was satisfied that the necessary controls were in place, just that the trustees understood the need for them. So has the Charity Commission checked whether the necessary controls have actually been put in place? I will try to find out.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Carlile Report analysis - 12

The next section is titled "Diocesan and other activity" and contains paragraphs 66-68.
66. There are arrangements in place for child protection arrangements to be scrutinised and monitored, on a voluntary basis on both sides, by the Archdiocese of Westminster. The Archdiocese has its own system in place, and I had the advantage of meeting the experienced person currently fulfilling this function.
In the whole of this business, the diocesan safeguarding adviser Peter Turner is the only person associated with the church who in my view emerges with any credit. He advised the Abbot back in 2004 that Pearce should be considered a risk to children and should placed under restrictions. He tried to arrange a meeting last year between me and the Abbot to try and get my concerns addressed, but which the Abbot refused to attend. He's actually tried to do something. Unfortunately, Ealing Abbey's status as an independent Benedictine monastery has meant that the Abbot could and did ignore his advice, and there was nothing that he could do about that.

67. Whilst I favour this additional strand of child protection, and the interest of the Church given past events, in my view this should be considered as a desirable addition to the protection strategy rather than in any way substituting for the scrutiny of the statutory and local authority bodies. The same applies to any formal Visitation ordered by the Church, in which it is essential that there should be no conflicts of interest arising from past contact with St Benedict’s by any Visitor.
The first part of this is entirely sensible. The more checks and balances there are, the less chance there is of a problem spreading unhindered until it becomes a catastrophe on the scale of St Benedict's. Some degree of effective diocesan oversight of the safeguarding arrangements at St. Benedict's and all catholic schools would be a good idea.

There is a very simple and effective mechanism by which this could be done. All faith schools are required by law to undergo what are known as "Section 48" inspections to ensure that religious education and the overall ethos of the school are in accordance with the sponsoring religion. For catholic schools within the diocese, these inspections are carried out by a team of inspectors appointed by the diocese. It would be a straightforward matter for the diocese to establish a policy that effective implementation of good safeguarding procedures shall be considered to be part of the ethos of the church, and accordingly include a review of safeguarding in the Section 48 inspections, and have its inspectors trained accordingly.

If there is some legal difficulty with this in terms of this being considered properly within the scope of a Section 48 inspection, then the safeguarding aspects can be made the subject of an entirely separate and unofficial inspection which happens to be carried out at during the same visit and by the same inspector, but with a separate report being provided. It being a church inspection rather than a statutory inspection, it would be perfectly appropriate for the standards applied to be higher than the statutory minimum.

I also happen to agree with the last part of Carlile's paragraph, about the need for those conducting the Apostolic Visitation to have no prior connection with the abbey. But is a bit rich coming from Carlile, given the prior connections of Tony Nelson who appointed him to this task.

68. The Department for Education, to Ministerial level, has been following carefully the progress of the ISI inspections. I have reviewed the correspondence. The Minister of State for Schools in July 2010 sought reassurance that all the recommendations the ISI had made would be implemented promptly. This has been done. The Minister was particularly concerned about the arrangements whereby monks, after conviction or being placed on List 99, had continued to live at the Abbey, even under restrictions imposed by the Abbey in consultation with the Archdiocese of Westminster. These arrangements were described as ‘ineffective’ (and the practice no longer continues).
But the practice did continue and still does continue! At the time of writing, Father Gregory Chillman is still listed as a monk resident at Ealing Abbey.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Carlile Report analysis - 11

Finishing off the "Convicted and listed Monks " section.
63. The revised Child Protection and Safeguarding Policy determined in November 2011 is contained in Appendix 1 below. It is the result of extensive advice and consideration. It will require amendment to take into account any future changes in the governance of the school in accordance with the recommendations set out above. It should be kept continuously under review by the governing body of the school, and should be a specific agenda item, with adequate time for discussion at least annually at meetings of the governing body, and of the trustees of the Abbey. Every effort, including through external consultation, should be made to ensure that it remains an example of best practice at all times.
But Carlile hasn't in the report made any recommendations at all that would cause the policy to become an example of best practice in the first place! All he has done is quote large chunks of the ISI Supplementary Report. We know what is in the supplementary report, we've known for nearly a year and a half, and we've known since considerably before Carlile took up his commission. The ISI has no authority to insist on anything more than statutory minimums of safeguarding arrangements. If this report was going to achieve what any reasonable person would have expected of it, there would have been specific recommendations for changes in the wording. There would have been reference to models of good practice at other schools, and if appropriate the wholesale importation of the policies of other schools which do form a model of excellence.

And if Carlile felt that he didn't have the knowledge end expertise to make such recommendations on the basis of his own knowledge, then he could and should have consulted with expert organisations such as the NSPCC or the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, or even with expert individuals such as Dr Kevin McCoy, who was offered to him.
64. It will be noted that the headline items in the new Safeguarding Policy are:
1) Commitment to an up to date and effective policy.
2) Ensuring that only appropriate and checked individuals work in the school.
3) A proper referral arrangement with the Independent Safeguarding Authority [ISA].
4) Effective inter-agency procedures under the Ealing Safeguarding Children's Board processes.
5) Understanding the indicators of abuse
6) Acting effectively upon suspicion of abuse.
7) Following relevant guidelines and policies whether statutory or apparent best practice.
8) Dealing correctly with complaints.
9) Training at all levels including governance.
10) Designation of staff in the school to deal with abuse issues.
11) Procedures for the obtaining, retention and use of evidence.
12) Monitoring.
13) Adherence to the matter described in paragraph 59 above.
Where has this list come from? Item 1 is a motherhood and apple pie statement, it tells us nothing about what actually needs to go into the policy.. Item 2 is a statutory requirement anyway. Item 3 is a statutory requirement. But it is noticeable that he only is talking about statutory referrals to the ISI - which is a process which only kicks in when a member of staff or governor leaves or resigns. The far more important issue of referring all allegations immediately to the LADO is not stated!

Item 4 is not within the school's power to ensure. Item 5 is fine, but item 6 is really disappointing. "Acting effectively upon suspicion of abuse" again tells us nothing about what action this should consist of. Item 7 is woolly - which guidelines? Who decides whether they are relevant?

Item 8 - who is to decide the "correct" way of dealing with complaints? What are the criteria for correctness? Item 9 is fine, but doesn't describe what sorts of training is appropriate, to what level of detail. It is obvious that different roles within the school require different levels of training - obviously the designated teacher requires more training than other staff. But we have nothing about this.

Item 10 is fine, though not directly related to safeguarding, item 11 is ok, item 12 is woolly - monitoring of what by whom? And finally item 13 is merely a reference back to the requirements mentioned by the ISI a year and a half ago.

Carlile has talked of these being "headline items". This isn't quite the same as him saying that he has ensured that the necessary changes have been made to implement a policy that is a model of excellence, or even that he has ensured that these items are effectively implemented within the policy itself.
65. The new Safeguarding Policy of course is that of the school, not of the Abbey. The governors of the school will have to exercise the Policy as much in relation to any input to the school from the Abbey as with any external body. In other words, for safeguarding purposes the Abbey community will have no special status. Certainly this can be seen as further evidence of a distinct change of relationship between School and Abbey. This is an inevitable consequence of the wrongs of the past, and of procedures that were less than effective. The three separate bodies the School, the Parish and the monastic community should all have safeguarding policies and procedures that are fit for purpose. This would ensure that any child, not necessary students or parishioners, would be protected if they engaged in any way with those three bodies.
The idea that in safeguarding terms the monks should have no special status is something which should have been obvious all along. The key point about safeguarding is that nobody should be considered to be in a position where they are above suspicion. Whoever are the governors, they have to be regarded as not being above suspicion. Just changing who is in charge doesn't affect that fact that they might just possibly have got themselves into a position of trust so that they can abuse unhindered. It is not just monks who have done that.

As for the idea that the School, the Parish and the monastic community should all have their own safeguarding policies, that was a recommendation of the diocesan safeguarding officer for the diocese of Arundel and Brighton, who carried out another "independent inquiry" the better part of two years ago.

We do seem to be awfully short of specific recommendations from Carlile in terms of the school's safeguarding policy.

Carlile Report analysis - 10

The next section, paragraphs 57 to 65, is titled "Convicted and Listed Monks". I'll take the first two paragraphs together.
57. There remained continuing concerns about what should happen to monks who had been convicted, banned (named in List 99) so that they should not work with children, or otherwise should not have any access to children in the school. This was a concern of mine from the earliest stages of my Inquiry. I have discussed the issue with the Abbot, who was alert to the inevitability of a change from previous practice. I recognise that the sense of responsibility felt by the Community for its Brothers, even those who have strayed and sinned heinously, is considerable.

58. I am pleased to say that the Abbot has accepted that another dwelling has to be found for any member of the monastic community falling within the categories described, and that none is at the Abbey now. This must continue as a permanent policy.
Unfortunately, at the time he wrote the report, the first sentence of paragraph 58 wasn't true. And moreover, the table following paragraph 33 demonstrated that it wasn't true. The table listed Father Gregory Chillman, and gave the outcome of one of the incidents involving him as "Deemed inappropriate behaviour: restrictions imposed". At the time of writing the report, Chillman was still living at the monastery. According to the Clergy page of the parish website, at the time of writing this blog, Chillman is still listed as being resident at the abbey.

It could be argued that Chillman, has not been placed on List 99 as Hobbs has, and has not been convicted of anything (unlike Pearce, who will not be permitted to return to the Abbey on completion of his sentence), and therefore he should not be required to move.

This is a line of argument that needs to be taken seriously. It is wrong, but the reasons for it are fairly subtle.

At the time Pearce committed his last offence, he had not been placed on List 99, and he had not been convicted of anything. In other words, his status was exactly as Chillman's is now - there had been substantiated allegations but no action by the secular authorities. The Abbot had knowledge concerning the risk that Pearce posed to children which was not known to the secular authorities.

There are two lessons to be learned from this. The first is that terrible mistakes are liable to occur if the secular authorities are not promptly and fully informed of all allegations, because they have the knowledge and training to make a proper evaluation and the school staff do not. The second is that a risk analysis and the decisions flowing from it mustn't depend solely on convictions. A person can have been convicted of no crime, not even have a crime alleged against him, and get have shown behaviour which indicates he is a danger to children.

It is now accepted by the Abbot that keeping Pearce at the abbey was a mistake, one which he has  gone round apologising to all and sundry for.

So why did he repeat the mistake with Hobbs and Chillman?

Why did he fight the DfE when they demanded Hobbs' removal?

Why did Chillman remain at the abbey even after the Abbot gave assurances to Carlile that no monks falling into the categories described in paragraph 57 remained at the Abbey? Chillman clearly did fall into the category and Carlile knew he did. Both Carlile and Cleugh looked extremely embarrassed at the press conference when they were asked where Chillman is presently living.
59. At the time of the inspection visit on 30 April 2010, the school’s safeguarding policy was found to cover most of the requirements which are the duties of governors of independent schools. However, the school’s written policy for dealing with allegations and suspicions of abuse was focused on investigation by the school rather than speedy referral to outside agencies. As a result, under Regulation 3.(2)(b) of the Independent School Standards Regulations, the school was required to word the policy so that it is clear that in the case of a disclosure or suspicion of abuse:

(i) the investigations are to be carried out by the local safeguarding children board or in case of doubt the advice of such an agency is to be sought;
(ii) the child’s interests are paramount;
(iii) referrals are made not only where a case is considered by the school to be serious and criminal;
(iv) no case of substance is investigated and dealt with under the school’s internal procedures.

The school was also advised that it must include in the policy the statutory guidance to be found in Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment in Education; and the recently issued guidance on reporting to be found at (7 September 2011) and any successor guidance.
The version of the policy included in the appendix to the Carlile report does not include the statutory guidance referred to in the last paragraph above. It makes reference to the document from time to time. It does not incorporate the guidance.

Carlile is incorporating another large chunk of the ISI supplementary report as if this was the last word on making the school's child protection policy a model of excellence. The ISI has no power to insist on a model of excellence, all it has is the power to insist that the school meets national minimum standards. And those standards are pretty low. So for Carlile to keep quoting chunks of the ISI report and not go beyond them to describe what needs to be done in addition to ensure that the policy is a model of excellence is a clear abrogation of the responsibility he took on when he agreed to conduct the inquiry, and a failure against the standard he himself set to "use the lessons and failures of the past to ensure that such problems are avoided in the future".
60. Soon after the inspection visits, the school posted on its website a fully compliant version of its safeguarding policy, and it undertook that from September 2010 it would include examples of ways in which staff, volunteers and members of the religious community are guided to help avoid the possibility of allegations in the future.
There is only one place that Carlile could have got this information - from the school itself. It is simply not true, though Cleugh claimed it to be true at the Parental Forum in September 2010. The May 2010 version of the child protection policy was anything but compliant. I provided Carlile with a detailed analysis of its shortcomings. I also provided him with a copy of my correspondence with the DfE in which the DfE assured me that the May 2010 version of the policy was not regarded by them as the final complaint version, and that they were continuing to work with the school in order to ensure that a compliant policy was put in place. Carlile gives every appearance of just not knowing what he is talking about here, and not even being aware of the extent of his ignorance.

In the February 2011 Headmaster's Newsletter, it was claimed that the school has now fully implemented the recommendations of the ISI report. So clearly the school hadn't done that in the May 2010 version, and yet here is Carlile saying they had. This just looks incompetent - it isn't even correct against easily checkable public information, let alone the private conversations he supposedly has had with the DfE and ISI.
61. Under Standard 4C of the Independent School Standards Regulations, the school was required to ensure that the dates of checks are included in the single central register of appointments. This action too has been taken.
This is very basic stuff, it is first level safer recruitment practice. For a school to have a central register of appointments that is incomplete in any way is really gross negligence and in fact a breach of the law. There's not that much safeguarding law which applied to independent schools, but properly maintaining the central register of appointments is one of the few statutory requirements. This is one of the things the ISI insisted on, and it had to be and was done more or less immediately. For Carlile to be mentioning it a year later looks to me to be claiming credit for insisting on something which had been done before he ever started work.
62. The ISI recommended that enhanced emphasis be placed on safeguarding, and that the following precautionary action be taken where possible:

1.Ensure that any staff or members of the religious community live away from the school, if they are subject to allegations of misconduct related to safeguarding or convicted of wrongdoing.
2.Follow the advice given to render the safeguarding policy a model of excellence in its wording, implementation and review.
3.Ensure that referrals are always made to the Independent Safeguarding Authority when appropriate. For historical cases, ensure that all relevant information is passed to the Independent Safeguarding Authority.
4.Give greater emphasis to safeguarding in the school personal, social, health and citizenship (PSHCE) programme and reflect this in the school improvement plan.
5.Emphasise awareness raising and training in safeguarding across the whole community of school, Abbey and parish, with formal contact between the child protection officers.
Again, all Carlile is doing is quoting verbatim yet another paragraph out of the ISI Supplementary Report. This is all he has done with regard to the safeguarding policy - quote bits out of the ISI supplementary report.

Carlile has no recommendations concerning safeguarding policies beyond quoting parts of the ISI report which was published some months before he even started his work, and the implementation of which is being monitored anyway by the ISI and DfE. Goodness only knows how much money Carlile has charged for this report, but if they were expecting an expert view with substantive recommendations for future improvements in safeguarding policy and practice, they didn't get their money's worth. Since the school appears to be pretty happy with the report, perhaps that isn't what they were looking for.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Carlile Report analysis - 9

Now for the other half of the "Events leading to the new Child Protection Policy" section. This is the next paragraph.
52. The ISI described the following points relating to each of the six individuals. These coincide with the cases referred to in the table contained in paragraph 33 above.

(i) Legal action had been initiated in connection with a previous member of the religious community.

(ii) A monk who had taught in the school a long time ago had recently come under investigation by social services. At the time of the follow-up visits he was living in the monastery under a restrictive covenant barring him from contact with children.

(iii) A similar covenant applied to another monk, also currently residing in the monastery. He had been acquitted of child abuse in 2007.

(iv) A monk was in custody following his conviction in October 2009 on charges spanning many years. Following a defeat in an earlier civil case, he was subject to a restrictive covenant, but subsequent to this he engaged in improper conduct with a pupil of the school who was doing work in the monastery. A review of his case was conducted by the safeguarding officer of the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton and an independent social work consultant.

(v) A previous lay teacher, for many years no longer associated with the school, the Abbey and the monastery, was most recently tried and convicted in 2008.

(vi) The case of a monk, now for a long time living abroad, had not been pursued.
This is simply a repeat of what the ISI said in its supplementary report. Since Carlile has said that the cases listed here match those of the table in paragraph 33, we can deduce that case (i) is Anthony Gee, or Father Anthony Gee as he was when he was headmaster of the school. I had long suspected that (i) was Gee, but hadn't until now had sufficient confirmation to be able to say so.

The dates involved here are very interesting. According to the table in paragraph 33, the first civil claim was made against Gee in March 2010. But in July 2011, Gee appeared as a witness for the defence in the trial of Pearce and Maestri. He denied ever having heard any complaints about either of them while he was headmaster, and said that he most certainly would have acted had he received any such complaints. And yet Maestri, according to the evidence he gave during the same trial, left the school in 1984 as a result of complaints about abuses he had committed. Gee remained headmaster until 1985. It really does stretch credulity that Gee didn't know the true reason for Maestri's departure. Neither this discrepancy over dates nor the fact that civil action has been taken against the school concerning alleged abuses by Gee were raised by the prosecution at the trial, possibly because they didn't have any details about Gee until a few minutes before he gave evidence.

Pearce's defending solicitor was the school solicitor, Mr Anthony Nelson, who also commissioned Lord Carlile to conduct this enquiry. I made Carlile aware of the issue concerning Gee's testimony at the trial. He thanked me for it but advised that he would not be able to suggest in his report that the verdict was wrong. However, he seems not to have thought this issue worth including in the report at all.

We already know that case (ii) is Chillman and case (iii) is Hobbs. Case (iv) is Pearce. At the time, the ISI didn't know the circumstances in which the safeguarding officer of the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton conducted his review, but I have since found out. In The original "independent review" at Ealing Abbey and St. Benedict's School, I described how he had been comprehensively misled by the Abbot. This information was also passed to Lord Carlile, but he seems not to have made anything of it, even though, when I met him, I specifically emphasised the point, and he responded by saying "forewarned is forearmed."

Case (v) is Maestri, and case (vi) is Soper. Case (vi) and Soper himself are most definitely being pursued now!
53. The reporting of allegations was subject to criticism by the ISI. Some of the allegations had been referred to social services by the school following disclosure by a pupil. The school’s safeguarding records since 2003 did not mention any other report to social services in connection with concerns related to staff, volunteers, trustees or monks. All had been family or other matters. Safeguarding contacts had also been maintained with the Westminster Diocesan Safeguarding Commission. The Abbot had made statements regarding the monks in 2004 and 2006, and each headmaster wrote accordingly to parents on both occasions.
 This is also factually incorrect. It is untrue to say that "some of the allegations have been referred to social services" That describes a plurality that just doesn't exist in the context. The ISI made is perfectly clear that just one allegation concerning a monk or member of staff had been forwarded to social services, the incident which resulted in Pearce's arrest.

The ISI did not go back further than 2003. Neither in this context has Carlile. Since we know abuses that occurred back into the 1940s, it is rather disappointing that Carlile hasn't troubled to mention in his report how previous allegations were addressed by the school. A description of the procedures followed or not followed would not include any of the salacious physical details of the allegations which Carlile quite rightly decided should not be published.
54. At the time of the follow-up inspections, the school did not have a fully established policy for reporting directly to the Department for Education (as it is now called) or to the Independent Safeguarding Authority, responsible for such referrals since 20 January 2009. Since the follow-up inspections this situation has changed, in that the advisability of making such referrals is now clearly understood even when there may not be a strict legal obligation to do so; and an historical referral was made in May 2010.
This is where the report becomes a bit of a car crash. Carlile is again quoting verbatim a paragraph from the ISI supplementary report. But there is nothing here which indicates that he realises that there are two separate kinds of "referral", which have two different kinds of legal status. The ISI did a very poor job in writing this paragraph in the first place.

Before I get into a description of the two kinds of referral, it's worth noting that this paragraph makes it clear that the deficiency in the school's child protection policy mentioned in paragraph 50 isn't "a narrow one about wording rather than substance". Having no established policy to make referrals the school is legally obliged to make is not a narrow matter of wording.

Let's now address the two kinds of referral, starting with the type for which there is a legal obligation. If a member of staff, volunteer, governor or trustee leaves the school, and the school considers that there is a question as to whether the person is suitable to work with children, then the school must report this (make a referral) to the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) within a month of that person's departure. It doesn't matter whether the person resigns, retires or is sacked. It doesn't matter whether the stated reason for the departure involves the concerns. If the school has concerns, it must refer the matter.

Since 2009, the law has required referrals to be made to the ISA. Before that, they were called "notifications" and they were made instead to the Teacher Misconduct Section of the Department for Education (or whichever other name the department has had down the years).

Until the ISI did their extra visit, the school had repeatedly failed to make these notifications or referrals. The DfE is completely toothless, and seems not to prosecute as a matter of policy. So while the law exists, in practice is is not enforced.

The other kind of referral is to report an allegation or incident of abuse to Social Services (specifically to the Local Authority Designated Officer for child protection, or LADO for short), when the allegation first comes to light. Unbelievably, there is no statutory obligation for a school to make such referrals, the recommendation to make these referrals is only in Statutory guidance. So, a school's child protection policy can be very iffy about reporting abuse, and still it can be "acceptable to the Department for Education and the Independent Schools Inspectorate", as paragraph 47 of the report describes.

By just quoting this paragraph and not offering any commentary, Carlile gives no indication that he has understood the distinction between the two kinds of referral. He might understand it, but we can't tell from what he's included in the report. But as I've described before, automatic reporting of all allegations to the LADO is a vital part of an effective child protection policy for school, particularly a policy which claims to be a model of excellence. But the version of the policy included in the Carlile report does not commit to this.
55. The ISI has also considered the nature of the relationship between the school and the monastic community. In addition to the use of restrictive covenants, the trustees had taken other steps to balance their responsibilities for monks and pupils. A lay person on the Board of School Advisors was appointed as the child protection ‘governor’ for 2009 to 2010, and her responsibility for safeguarding has been assumed subsequently by an advisor who has previously carried out work as a schools inspector. Since June 2009 the Board of Advisors and the trustees have undergone child protection training.
What? The "trustees had taken other steps to balance their responsibilities for monks and pupils"???? Whatever happened to the principle that "the child’s interests are paramount", which was stated as a regulatory requirement in the ISI supplementary report? In the event of there being conflicting responsibilities towards the monks and the pupils, the pupils simply have to come first. There's no "balance" that is appropriate there. And "the use of restrictive covenants" was specifically criticised by the ISI, a criticism which Carlile himself in his report says was echoed in the DfE right up to ministerial level.
56. The ISI added:

On the other hand, the school had not made a necessary referral (re. Father Pearce) directly to the appropriate authorities and the use of restrictive conditions is not altogether convincing, since the restrictions were not adequate in the case of [Father Pearce] and the failure to implement them occasioned serious criticism in the Charity Commission report of 15 December 2009. Shortcomings were also apparent in the school’s safeguarding policy and in the single central register of appointments. An obvious safeguarding emphasis is not included in the school improvement action plan 2009 to 2010 or in the programme for personal, social, health and citizenship education (PSHCE).
Carlile has quoted another paragraph from the ISI supplementary report, but again has provided no commentary. I suppose it's a cheap and easy way of filling out the report and making it look nice and thick and impressive, but there's again no sign that he understand the implications of what the ISI has written. He seems to have subcontracted the key aspect of his report, the procedures necessary to prevent a recurrence of abuse, out to the DfE and the ISI. That's the ISI who found nothing wrong with the school in November 2009, and the DfE who have such confidence in the ISI that they have sponsored legislation that will give the ISI responsibility for carrying out welfare inspections of independent boarding schools. Carlile's confidence would be touching if it weren't so disastrously misplaced.

Many of the shortcomings in the school's child protection policy that existed at the time Carlile first started work in 2010 remain, but he has shown so sign of having been able to identify them. Indeed, in his article in the Catholic Herald last month, he goes so far as to confidently state that the current policy "is as good as any in the country". Piffle. Quite simply he is wrong.

It's a pity, because we know he was offered the services of an expert in the field, and it appears that the decision was made not to use the expert, apparently on grounds of cost. Had Dr Kevin McCoy been involved, the report might have read somewhat differently.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Carlile Report analysis - 8

The next section is quite long (10 paragraphs) and is titled "Events leading to the new Child Protection Policy". It deals with matters that go to the heart of the child abuse issue, and so I'm going break this section up into 2 articles, and in each one I will quote each individual paragraph and comment on it.
47. The comments in the previous paragraph must be set alongside the school’s Child Protection and Safeguarding Policy. This has been through several changes, and four recent drafts. The result is the version, which is now applicable and is reproduced in Annex 1 to this Report. I am informed that this is a version now acceptable to the Department for Education and the Independent Schools Inspectorate [ISI].
The fact that it is "acceptable to the Department for Education and the Independent Schools Inspectorate" means nothing more than that it meets the statutory minimum standards. Since these do not even require automatic reporting of all allegations of abuse, the bar is set pretty low. The reporting of all allegations is a mere recommendation included in the DfE's Statutory Guidance. "Statutory Guidance" of course is an oxymoron. If it's just guidance, it's not statutory, and schools can and do ignore it.
48. There has been repeated contact with the Department for Education, the Charity Commission, and the ISI. The ISI and OFSTED have been taking a close interest in Benedictine schools, and in particular have looked at governance and reporting issues at St Benedict’s sister school Downside. I have held meetings with the ISI and the Department for Education concerning this Report. The ISI inspected St Benedict’s in November 2009, with follow-up visits in April and May 2010, and further reports. Separate reports were prepared for the senior school and the junior school respectively. The November 2009 inspection was by a team of 10 inspectors with 2 reporting inspectors. They judged the School to be fully compliant with statutory requirements.
This is why you can't rely on the ISI or DfE for anything. The problems at St. Benedict's have been going on for years and years. Even if we set aside the question of whether Mr. Cleugh misled the inspectors by withholding key information from them, the inspectors still had the school's child protection policy available to them, and they completely failed to notice that there was anything wrong with it. So any statement from either the DfE or the ISI to the effect that the school's child protection policy meets requirements is not in the least bit impressive in terms of assuring that the school actually has a good policy. Carlile should know this, but it would seem that he doesn't.
49. The context of the follow-up visits was as follows. As a result of information provided by a member of the public, further work was conducted after the inspection of the school in November 2009 and after the publication of the senior and junior school reports. The information referred the inspectorate to public records of a total of six prosecutions or civil actions raised in connection with the Abbey and the school. At the time of the inspection, a number of these cases had not been brought to the attention of the inspectorate either by safeguarding agencies or by the school (at this the time of 2009 Inspection school had failed to make one referral, concerning Father Pearce in 2004). The follow-up report was prepared to update the findings in relation to those and related matters. At the time of the follow-up inspection, there were no allegations against current staff or governors at the school.
There are a number of things wrong with this statement. Factually wrong.

"at this the time of 2009 Inspection school had failed to make one referral, concerning Father Pearce in 2004"
Actually, at the time of the 2009 inspection, the following events had occurred at the school which should have been notified:
  1. Maestri's 2003 conviction. It is highly unlikely the school was unaware of it, if if they were aware, it should have been reported.
  2. Maestri's 2005 conviction. The same applies.
  3. Hobbs' arrest in 2005 and his resignation as a Trustee. This is a straightforward notifiable incident, he resigned as a trustee in circumstances where his suitability to work with children was in question. There should have been a notification to the Teacher Misconduct Section of the DfE. There wasn't. The school broke the law. This is not mentioned by Carlile.
  4. The loss of the civil action in 2006, and the subsequent decision to place Pearce on restrictions.
  5. The first Charity Commission Statutory Inquiry.
  6. The 2007 trial and acquittal of Hobbs and the subsequent subsequent decision to place Hobbs on restrictions.
  7. The arrest of Pearce in 2008.
  8. Maestri's 2008 conviction.
  9. The second Charity Commission Statutory Inquiry.
  10. The 2009 conviction of Pearce on a whole range of charges in addition to the one for which he was arrested.
With the possible exception of Maestri's 3 convictions, all these incidents were definitely known to the school. Of these 10 items, only item 7 was reported at the time, and I suspect even that was only reported because the school was already undergoing a Statutory Inspection from the Charity Commission, during which the Abbot had promised that this specific event couldn't possibly happen because of the measures he had put in place to prevent it.

At the time of the follow-up inspection, there were no allegations against current staff or governors at the school. 

The truth of this depends on how you read it. During the inspection period (i.e. since the previous routine ISI inspection in 2003) there certainly were allegations against current staff of trustees. Both Hobbs and Chillman were current trustees at the time the allegations against them came to light. The fact that by the time the ISI visited in April 2010, they were no longer trustees is a bit of sophistry on the part of the ISI, and I'm surprised at Carlile for having been prepared to go along with it.
50. The first follow-up inspection was unannounced, and occurred at the end of April 2010. At that time the School was informed that its Child Protection Policy was deficient, though the issue was a narrow one about wording rather than substance. By the time of the follow-up reports in 2010 no extant allegations against current trustees or teachers existed. The known cases related to past events, concerning six previous teachers or trustees. Two involved monks were still living in the monastery under restrictions established by the Diocese of Westminster.
This is complete and utter twaddle. "the School was informed that its Child Protection Policy was deficient, though the issue was a narrow one about wording rather than substance"?

There's nothing so much wrong with that statement than that Carlile should have fallen for the school's line over it. In From inside the meeting, I described how Cleugh spun that line to the parents in the Parental Forum in September 2009 (the one where he put bouncers on the gates to keep me out so I couldn't ask awkward questions), and how the claim that it was a narrow issue of wording was utterly unfounded.

I also described in that article how in a key point the May 2010 policy was actually worse than the September 2009 version in respect of  ensuring automatic reporting of all allegations.

That the ISI accepted the May 2010 version of the school's child protection policy is further evidence of the ISI's utter incompetence with regard to safeguarding. I suspect that they simply took the school's word for it that they had made the necessary changes. I checked with the DfE, pointing out the severe shortcomings in the school's child protection policy, including the fact that the May 2010 version was worse from a reporting point of view. In a telephone conversation in June, the DfE assured me that this was not the final compliant version. My correspondence with the DfE was passed to Lord Carlile, he had all this information and appears not to have taken it into account. And in their meetings with Carlile, the DfE would appear to have forgotten it all.

The two involved monks were Hobbs and Chillman. Remember these names, they become important later on.
51. In May 2010 the Chief Inspector of the ISI informed the School that the Child Protection Policy was fully compliant. The follow-up report was published on the ISI website on the 30 July 2010. Despite the approval by the ISI in 2010 of the School’s safeguarding procedures, they have been updated since in order to achieve a model of excellence.
This is also twaddle. As I showed in Automatic reporting, the current policy doesn't even implement the automatic reporting of all allegations which is in the DfE's statutory guidance! If it's not even implementing the statutory guidance, it can't even remotely be called a model of excellence. If the ISI informed the school that the May 2010 version of the policy was compliant, then the ISI ought to be relieved of its duties.

Lord Carlile seems to have assumed that if the child protection policy is "acceptable to the Department for Education and the Independent Schools Inspectorate" then it can be regarded as "a model of excellence". Nothing could be further from the truth.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Carlile Report analysis - 7

The next section, paragraphs 44 to 46, is titled "Post Nolan and Cumberlege procedures" contains some of Carlile's most trenchant common sense combined with the most amazing failure to follow that common sense to its logical conclusion.

He starts extremely well.
Of course, the governance of a school or any other institution is no guarantor of good practice. To state the obvious, effective practice depends upon a strong set of written procedures, the management to enforce them, and the commitment to effective enforcement.
Hallelujah! I thought that in all this business about governance he would never actually manage to state this extremely obvious but vitally important point.

In the next paragraph, albeit in the specific context of the reporting arrangements for the school nurse, he goes on to make another very acute comment.
it is possible that, from time to time, allegations will be made against teaching colleagues regarded as of the highest quality and probity, and the danger of the allegations being brushed aside by understandably incredulous colleagues is significant.
Yes! This is the point! Not only is there simply the matter of straightforward incredulity, but this is going to be reinforced by a will to disbelieve caused by the fact that believing and acting on the allegations may damage the reputation of the school. Carlile goes on to say:
At the very least, it should be a given that any person who is or is analogous to a school nurse should be required to report all concerns and allegations about abuse to the Head, Deputy Head and/or designated safeguarding officers. It is also self-evident from these comments that the skills, training and approach of any such employee should be equal to the challenge of abuse allegations, whether such allegations be true or false.
All true and extremely sensible. But the problem is that he stops there, and fails to take the vital next step, which is that particular measures must be taken not to permit this incredulity to determine the subsequent action of the designated safeguarding officer. He must promptly pass on all allegations to the authorities, specifically to the LADO. There must be absolutely no exceptions to this. Only by having a policy of no exceptions can the children be protected from the entirely natural inclination of staff and monks to believe their colleagues incapable of such a thing.

Given that the shortcomings of the school's past practice have been particularly about the school's failure to report allegations to the authorities, this point really needed to be made absolutely explicit in the report. It isn't. Such an opportunity missed.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Carlile Report analysis - 6

The next section covering paragraphs 37 to 43 is titled "Best practice: the Nolan and Cumberlege reviews". Carlile includes the following brief extract from the Nolan report
Recommendation 1. The Catholic Church in England and Wales should become an example of best practice in the prevention of child abuse and in responding to it.

3.1.8 The 1994 Guidelines concentrated on the response to allegations of child abuse. In the present climate, much more emphasis is placed on child protection and it is worthy of note that almost all dioceses have in fact adopted policies and practices that are designed to prevent abuse occurring in the first place. Whilst the proper handling of allegations is important, it is much more important that the opportunity for abuse does not occur because awareness is high and an effective regime of good practice is in place, and is known to be so.
Recommendation 2. The top priority is to have preventative policies and practices operating effectively in parishes, dioceses and religious orders that will minimise the opportunity for abuse.

3.1.9 It is necessary, however, to face the reality that no organisation which has dealings with children can eliminate the risk of child abuse completely. It is therefore important to complement prevention policies with a clear understanding by those in positions of responsibility that abuse of their position in any way will inevitably have the most serious consequences for them.
All very good in principle. The problem with the Nolan report is that the principle isn't followed up with properly effective practice. For instance, this is recommendation 61 of the Nolan report
Recommendation 61. When there is a disclosure, the statutory authorities should be brought in straight away, without any process of filtering, to take the lead in investigating and assessing the situation
If that "should" had been a "shall" then it would have been the basis for an effective policy - if followed. But having "should" there allows people at the local (parish or school) level to subvert the intent of the recommendation by writing exceptions which neuter it. Nolan reported in 2001, but eight years later, the child protection policy for St. Benedict's was so far from implementing the Nolan recommendations that it was essentially one long excuse for never reporting anything. As the ISI stated in its 2010 supplementary report:
The school did not have a fully established policy for reporting directly to the Department for Education and Skills (later the Department for Children, Schools and Families, and currently the Department for Education) or to the Independent Safeguarding Authority, responsible for such referrals since 20 January 2009.
But as Nolan only said "should", the abbey would have been able to claim if asked that they were complying with the Nolan recommendation, even though they didn't have an effective policy for reporting anything to anyone.

Carlile mentioned that the Cumberlege commission reviewed the situation after 5 years, their report being published in 2007. In paragraph 39, Carlile notes that
One of the members of the Cumberlege Commission was the Abbot President then and now of the English Benedictine Congregation. To objective observers it will be a disappointment that the governance of Ealing Abbey, St Benedict’s School and other related schools were not subjected to a governance review within a short time.
The Abbot President is Richard Yeo. At the press conference, Carlile criticised the appointment of Yeo to conduct the Apostolic Visitation, arguing that he had too close a connection with Ealing Abbey for any review by him both to be independent and to be seen to be independent.

All of Carlile's criticisms are entirely valid, and yet he has still missed the key point. It's not the governance that had to be reviewed, it was the existence sand implementation of appropriate and effective child protection policies. The school's was useless, and the parish in fact had no policy at all.

In fact, as far as I can tell, the parish still doesn't have a child protection policy. The Ealing abbey website has a child protection statement, and a link to the CSAS procedures, without actually stating that the CSAS procedures are being implemented in the parish. I have my criticism of the CSAS procedures and its extremely unfriendly website, but that's a story for another day. For now, it is sufficient to say that even after all the publicity, the Ealing Abbey website still doesn't have an unequivocal statement declaring what (if any) child protection procedures it is following. I would have hoped Carlile might have noticed that, but there is no mention of it in the report.

Carlile ends this section of his report with the following.
43. The above comments should not be seen in any way as implying that the Abbey Community should now, in 2011, be seen as a failure. My meetings with them suggest that is not the case. The vitality, academic success, community reach and diversity of the school are evidence of the positive aspects of the Abbey and St Benedict’s School. As one of my interlocutors put it:

“Any community of Christian men and women who take their Christian vocation seriously is going to be grappling all the time with the consequences of human sinfulness and our natural backsliding tendency.”

This very realistic person recognised that there are ‘backsliding tendencies’ so unacceptable that there can be almost no limit to the level of vigilance required. The outcome of the events under consideration, and of this Report, should be to provide assurance that the lessons have been learned.
It may well be true that the school is awash with "vitality, academic success, community reach and diversity. That doesn't for a minute excuse it for its shortcomings in safeguarding. In any case, Carlile is no more an expert in education that he is an expert on safeguarding procedures, and he's completely unqualified to make that statement.You can give it whatever weight you think it deserves.

In this section, Carlile has noticed that Abbot Richard Yeo (who was a participant in the Cumberlege Commission) failed to ensure that governance of the school was reviewed post-Cumberlege, but hasn't noticed the far more important point, that safeguarding at the school and parish were also not reviewed, because it is those policies which provide the primary protection against the backsliding tendency which Carlile's correspondent so correctly identifies.

You don't get a mess like Ealing without there having been management failures at multiple levels. Three such failures are now clearly visible. The headmaster should have been implementing an effective policy and proposing improvements in it for the Trustees' agreement and approval. The Abbot should have been taking note of the Nolan and Cumberlege recommendations and taking action to see to it that they were effectively implemented. And the Abbot President should have been conducting a review of all the English Benedictine houses to ensure as far as possible that Nolan and especially Cumberlege were getting implemented.

But none of this happened. This isn't a mere historical tragedy, this a serious failure of the duty of care on the part of the current management. Had even one of these three levels of management been doing their job properly, then the school's and probably the abbey's child protection procedures would have been in a fit state. And we know that at least one child suffered as a result of that failure.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

More on Soper

The Mail on Sunday has more revelations about Abbot Laurence Soper.
The Mail on Sunday has been told that after hiding in Montenegro on the Adriatic coast – where the European Arrest Warrant is not valid – he secretly returned to the Vatican to empty his account.

Fr Laurence, 68, who worked at Barclays Bank between 1960 and 1964 before becoming a monk, is said to have several thousand pounds in investment portfolios and also a ‘large inheritance’ from his parents.
I see that the reports of his age have been changed. The police originally stated that he was 81, and this was reported in various papers at the time. The Mail is now reporting that he is 68. I've independently been told that the original statement concerning his age was wrong. I wonder who could have told the police that he was 80 at the time he was interviewed by them in September last year? And I wonder why?

Friday, 25 November 2011

Carlile Report analysis - 5

The next section, including paragraphs 35 and 36 is titled "Creating necessary safeguards".

Paragraph 35 quotes the text of a solicitor's letter to the school in respect of a civil claim, which alleges a wide range of failings in the school's duty of care towards pupils.

Let me quote paragraph 36 in full.
Allowing for the customary tautology in the content of legal pleadings, the allegations set out in the previous paragraph are a formidable menu of complaints. All have been repeated by correspondents to my Inquiry. Many would be avoided or at least made far less likely by a form of governance that removed conflicts of interest, and separated sometimes irreconcilable functions.
And that's it. That's all Carlile has to say in terms of creating necessary safeguards. Get the governance right and everything drops into place with no apparent additional effort.

As far as can be judged from the content of the report, Carlile seems to have entirely failed to notice that the "irreconcilable functions" of protecting the children from harm from paedophile abuse and protecting the school's reputation in the event of a paedophile abuse case are permanently irreconcilable, no matter who the governors are.

Because the two duties are permanently irreconcilable, a decision has to be made to give one duty priority over the other.

It is obvious that the duty of protecting the children from harm must come first, but this requires that governors and staff to some degree act against their own interests and the interest of the school. There is a terrible temptation to find some way of squaring this circle, and the way often found by independent schools is to handle any allegations internally. This can involve any one or more of the following approaches.
  • Believing that the allegation is probably unfounded or mistaken, so there is no danger to the child and therefore no need to report anything.
  • Believing that the child's best interests are served not by having lots of strangers (i.e. police or social services) compound an already bad experience for the child by asking him or her lots of questions about it. As a result, it is decided that a report to the authorities is not in the best interests of the child.
  • Believing that a staff member, if he abused, is unlikely to do so again now that the first incident is known.
  • Believing that the problem is specific to that particular combination of child and staff member, and that the problem will not recur if they are separated. The separation can be achieved by ensuring the staff member doesn't teach that particular pupil's class, moving the staff member to non-teaching duties, asking the staff member to leave or asking the parents to move the child.
These aren't hypothetical, all these approaches have been used and justified in other (non-catholic) independent schools. And all these approaches have the extremely convenient effect of not needing any kind of report to the authorities, and so they don't risk any kind of bad publicity for the school. The first time an abuse case happens, the headteacher might genuinely believe he is acting for the best. But in fact he is grossly deluding himself, persuading himself that what is in the interest of himself and the school is also in the interest of the pupils. It isn't.

Then another case occurs, and having not reported the first one, the management find it necessary not to report the second. And so by slow degrees a culture of denial and non-reporting gradually builds up until you have a disaster on the scale of St Benedict's in the 70s and 80s, where there were multiple abusers all active at the same time,  quite probably covering for each other, and all taking advantage of the opportunities available from the knowledge that they wouldn't be reported. I shudder to think how many children in total were abused at the school over the years.

By the time of Pearce's conviction, the St Benedict's safeguarding policy was 11 pages of excuses never to have to report anything. This is not specifically a catholic school problem, even though St. Benedict's happens to be a catholic school. This can happen at any independent school, because the temptations exist for all independent schools. It may be that catholic schools are more prone to this than others, because they feel they have the reputation of the catholic church as a whole to protect and not merely the reputation of the school, but it seems to me this is a difference of degree rather than of principle.

This is why I think Carlile's magic bullet of a change in governance is profoundly wrong-headed. It simply doesn't address the institutional and psychological factors that cause a culture of non-reporting to come into existence and to develop. It is not all about the monks. The change in governance is a good idea, but for reasons quite unrelated to safeguarding.

The only way to be sure of preventing abuse from building up is to make a firm decision from the outset to automatically report everything, withstanding all temptations to the contrary. Everything means everything, even if it seems trivial at the time, and even if publicity will result in short-term damage to the school's reputation. All allegations and incidents. No exceptions.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Carlile Report analysis - 4

Now that Lord Carlile has made his major recommendation, he finally gets down to what his report is supposed to be about, an analysis of the abuse itself. The next section is titled "A summary of historical abuse cases" and covers paragraphs 33 and 34, with a table placed between them..

The title irritates me to start with. Of all serious crime, only child sex abuse ever gets the label "historical". If somebody is arrested for a murder that took place 30 years ago it isn't called an "historical murder". Similarly we don't have historical rapes or historical robberies. Only child sex abuse gains the dubious distinction of being labelled "historical".

For those still trying to obtain justice or to come to terms with what they suffered, the abuse is anything but historical. The phrase I suspect has been coined and is promoted by those who would minimise the importance and effect of the abuse. It doesn't matter any more, it's "historical". The use of this phrase is a significant insult to victims. As somebody who has prosecuted child sex abuse cases, Carlile ought to know better.

The news has mentioned 21 cases by 8 different people. And indeed the table following paragraph 33 has 21 rows in it, and mentions 8 different people.
  • Father Gregory Chillman (2 cases)
  • Father Anthony Gee (2 cases)
  • Father Stanislaus Hobbs (1 case)
  • John Maestri (4 cases)
  • Father David Pearce (6 cases)
  • Mr X (prosecution pending) (1 case)
  • Mr Y (teacher) (1 case)
  • Father Laurence Soper (4 cases)
The table is somewhat unclear, but it doesn't seem to be the number of allegations brought to Carlile's attention, it appears to be the number of cases which have been brought to the attention of the school in some fashion or other, most generally by means of a civil action initiated by the alleged victim. For instance Pearce merits 5 rows in the table, but the 11 charges he pleaded guilty to in 2009 are all contained within a single row of the table.

Moreover Carlile was well aware of allegations against Father Kevin Horsey (now deceased). His name came up at the press conference and Carlile acknowledged he had received accounts of abuse by him, but he does not appear on the list. Moreover this seems also to have been acknowledged by the Abbey, and a decision has been made to rename the Horsey building at the school.

So the table is not an accurate description either of the number of probable perpetrators nor of the probable number of victims or cases. Carlile has made no attempt to provide any kind of estimate of the probable total number of victims.

The information in the table is extremely minimal. I wouldn't expect Carlile to provide details of the abuse allegations, but I would have expected some attempt at describing the actions taken by the school in response to allegations and where those actions fell short, at least in a representative sample of cases.

Let's take just one row from the table as an example.

Accusation against: Fr. Pearce
Victim: Male pupil
Date: 1992
Allegation received date: 1992
Social Services: Informed
Charity Commission: No
DfE aware: No
Outcome: CPS decided not to proceed

This is very thin. From the dates, we can infer that this was the allegation which led Pearce to "retire" as Junior School headmaster. We are informed that social services were informed, but not who by or when. We could reasonably have expected Carlile to provide some details of the case, not in terms of the details of the allegation itself, but in terms of the procedures which led to the decision to move Pearce from his post and appoint him Bursar instead. The fact that the CPS did not proceed with a prosecution might have any number of reasons which would not affect a balance-of-probabilities assessment that Pearce was a danger to children. And clearly that assessment was made, otherwise Pearce would not have been moved from his post.

These are the details that the abuse victims deserve to have in the report. These are the details which need to be disclosed so that the errors of the past can be clearly identified and therefore be avoided in future. And these are the details which are entirely absent from  the report.

Without knowing past events in sufficient detail to identify the institutional failings of the school and the abbey, we have no means of knowing whether Carlile's recommendations are sufficient to prevent the same failings from recurring in future.

Again, Carlile seems to be going at this as a lawyer, concentrating on cases which have or may come to court, either civil court in respect of claims against the school, or criminal court to determine the guilt or otherwise of the alleged perpetrators.

But good safeguarding practice requires that you should take action to protect children hopefully long before matters get sufficiently serious as to justify a criminal prosecution or a civil claim against the school. I have little doubt that Pearce for instance exhibited a steadily escalating sequence of behaviour until he got to the point of committing criminal offences. But the report is silent on the subject. It is silent on the measures taken or not taken, it is silent on the reasons for this. All Carlile says in the last part of paragraph 34 is the following.
I have concluded that a more modern form of governance, in which the senior teaching management of the school were not effectively under the total control of the Abbey, and with effective procedures for dealing with possible abuse, would have rendered it more likely that abuse would have been suspected, detected, rejected, and the future secured.
That is his conclusion. It might even be true to an extent - a more modern form of governance quite possibly would have "rendered it more likely that abuse would have been suspected, detected, rejected". But he doesn't describe the line of reasoning by which he gets from the rather minimal facts provided to that conclusion.

And it is a pretty dubious conclusion anyway. Secular independent schools have had abuse crises without there being a monk in sight. So his proposed form of governance isn't a magic bullet. He hasn't explained why he thinks the new form of governance will achieve what he claims for it.

He seems to have worked on the basis that since the majority of (known and currently alleged) abusers have been monks, then what is needed is to take governance of the school away from the monks and hey presto all will be well.

But three of the 8 people listed in his table are or were lay teachers, not monks. Teaching attracts paedophiles, because it is an occupation which (like the priesthood) involves trusted contact with children. So, under the old form of governance it wasn't merely monks refusing to shop other monks who were abusing, it was monks not shopping anybody who was abusing, in order to protect the reputation of the school. Protecting a school's reputation is not an action which monks are uniquely inclined to take. Lay governors are prone to it as well.

Carlile Report analysis - 3

I find the next section of the report "Governance of school and abbey" is really very odd. Carlile goes straight into governance issues without even having yet described the extent, nature and duration of the abuse or the institutional failings which allowed it to go on for so long.

Paragraphs 15-19 briefly describe the current governance arrangements, paragraph 20 points out that the arrangements leave all decision-making power in the hands of the monks, paragraph 21 describes the academic staff and the (lack of) support they have from the governance structures.

Paragraphs 22-24 compare the structure with the governance structures of other English Benedictine schools.

In paragraph 25 Carlile describes the school's existing governance arrangements as "wholly outdated and demonstrably unacceptable".

In paragraphs 26 to 32 he makes his proposals for a new governance structure for the school.

There seems to be a good deal of jumping to conclusions here. First of all, the review was supposed to be about abuse and safeguarding against it, and Carlile hasn't even got to the point yet of providing any details about the abuse and who did it, what institutional failings allowed it to continue and how they could be prevented in future. Instead he steps straight in with recommendations about governance.

Those recommendations are basically for there to be a separate charitable trust to run the school, while the existing trust continues to run the abbey, monastery and parish. the new trust for the school will have a relatively large governing body, drawn from a wide range of experience and interests, including monks, staff, parents and pupils. There will always be a lay majority on the board and the chairman will always be a layman.

If Carlile had been requested primarily to conduct a review of governance this would have been fair enough, but he wasn't. He was asked to review the abuse and make recommendations about putting a stop to child sex abuse at the school and making sure it can't start up again

In his governance proposals, Carlile seems to be proceeding from two principles. One is that the present arrangements are outdated (which is true but irrelevant to safeguarding), and the other is described at the start of para 26.
In a school where there has been abuse, mostly (but not exclusively) as a result of the activities of members of the monastic community, any semblance of a conflict of interest or lack of independent scrutiny must be removed.
Those of you who have been thinking of me as being some sort of rabid anti-catholic may be surprised by the next bit: These shortcomings are not limited to monks. Paedophiles will be paedophiles, and the clever ones who can do the most damage will always be attracted to occupations which involve the supervision of children. That includes teaching as well as the priesthood.

In being aware that the Ealing Abbey scandal is part of the wider catholic abuse scandal, and also that in this particular case the majority of the abuses were committed by monks, Lord Carlile seems to have forgotten that abuse can and does happen in non-catholic independent schools as well. So the principles of independent scrutiny have to be applied whoever is given the job of governing the school.

If abuse is to be prevented, or where it can't be prevented, if it is to be quickly detected and stopped, then it is vital that those tasked with governing the school are aware of their responsibilities in this area, and also aware of the inherent conflict of interest involved in running an independent school.

That conflict is simply stated. The publicity of a paedophile abuse case at a school is very bad for business. Independent schools compete with each other for pupils, they are businesses, even though they are usually constituted as charities. So the short-term interests of the school demand that publicity is avoided, and this is best achieved by making sure that nobody outside the school is aware of it, and so there is a great temptation to find ways of not reporting it to the authorities. This temptation isn't unique to monks. So, whether a school is Catholic, Anglican, Muslim or secular, this conflict of interest remains and must be openly acknowledged so that effective measures to combat it can be devised, whoever is running the school.

Having a board of governors with a secular majority doesn't by itself achieve this. It's a good idea in its own right for the general welfare of the school, which quite frankly needs governors with a wider range of expertise and backgrounds. It will even help safeguarding a bit, but the effect will be minor. A school with a secular board can still fall prey to bad safeguarding practices and end up covering up abuses.

It seems to me that Carlile has been going at this as a criminal lawyer rather than as an expert on the dynamics of child abuse in institutional settings. He has of course both prosecuted and defended child abuse cases and that has no doubt been useful to him, but it is no substitute for knowledge of the institutional failings which allow abuse to flourish, and how those institutional failings are permitted to occur. In my view it has also led him to place too much emphasis on those who committed the abuses (which is what he has to concentrate on for the purpose of criminal trials) rather than on those whose job it was to prevent them.

It is a pity that Lord Carlile did not request the participation of an expert in this field as an equal partner in the conduct of the inquiry. I suspect that if he had, a rather different report would have been produced.

That the monks are being removed from control of governance is what grabbed all the headlines in the papers. An anachronistic governance structure is a nice easy target and a recommendation to reform it is obviously sensible.

But it doesn't address safeguarding.