Saturday, 9 July 2011

Pearce and Maestri trial - day 3

As a precaution, this article was removed after reference was made to it by the defence at the trial. I decided that although the judge took no action, I didn't want there to be be any possibility of a mistrial being caused by the blog, even though the jurors had been specifically enjoined not to look for details of the case on the Internet. It is now being restored in its original form.

For most of the day the victim fielded questions from Maestri's counsel, Pearce's counsel and the prosecution barrister. The defence lawyers attempted to undermine his credibility and pick holes in his story. The victim presented himself well and remained calm throughout in spite of the way he was treated by the defence.

It was again suggested that the victim was simply after money and that he was on the "compensation wagon". He replied that he was not, and that if he had wanted money he would have taken his case to a civil court and not a criminal court.

The defence pointed out that since leaving the School, the victim had attended a funeral at the Abbey and a party at the School for a history master who was retiring. It was suggested that someone who had experienced abuse at the School would not have returned for these events. The victim said that the funeral was that of a friend and that he had a high opinion of the retiring history master.

A great deal of attention was paid to the rooms in which the abuse took place and the victim was asked to describe them in detail. In his original statement he had told police that the playground was visible from one of the rooms. In court one of the defence lawyers asked him if the playing fields could be seen from the window. The victim pointed out that the playing fields were in Perivale, about one and a half miles away.

Pearce's lawyer made great attempts to stampede the victim into giving specific dates for the abuse. It was claimed that Pearce had moved office at some point and the lawyer's strategy was clearly to try to get the victim to specify the wrong room. He went too far in his attempts and at this point the judge put him in his place very firmly.

Pearce's lawyer pointed out that the victim was fourteen when some of the abuse took place and asked, "why didn't you stand up for yourself?" He said that the victim claimed to have been abused by Pearce seven or eight times and found it strange that he returned to his office if he knew what was going to do be done to him. The victim talked about the controlling culture of the School and explained that in those days the boys were trained to be obedient to authority. He said that the abuse had petered out when Pearce lost interest in him and presumably turned his attention elsewhere.

Some of the issues raised on day two of the trial were revisited. There was further discussion of the interview with Fr Anthony Gee, and of this blog.

An email which the victim had sent to a friend was read in court, in it he described the abuse that he had been subjected to. One of the defence lawyers asked if it was true that he had been in trouble with the police as the result of a fight with another boy on a bus while he was a pupil at the School. The victim admitted that it was true, said that he wasn't proud of it, that he had had to pay for damage to the other boy's clothes and that his own father had been very angry with him.

The next witness to be called was DC Christine Hobson who had carried out the recorded interview of the victim, which was shown to the jury on day two of the trial. She was asked about the interview and in particular she was questioned as to why it was so short (about one hour) and why the victim made claims in later statements that he did not make at the time. She said that this was the way that things were usually done, that it was an initial interview and that the victim could not be expected to remember everything. The purpose of the interview was to establish an outline of the allegations any to determine lines of questioning for later interviews.

The case resumes at 10.15 a.m. on Tuesday.


  1. The defence pointed out that since leaving the School, the victim had attended a funeral at the Abbey and a party at the School for a history master who was retiring. It was suggested that someone who had experienced abuse at the School would not have returned for these events.

    I returned twice to the school at which I had been abused and on both occasions I saw the man who had abused me. That was the worst part of each visit, the good part was seeing some of my contemporaries in whom I had never confided my biggest secret.

    As I now know, many of those former pupils attending the two events had also been abused and they unsurprisingly had never confided in me. Now why for one moment do these two barristers think that the biggest secret any child can have is transferrable? Here is a clue for both - only 10% of child abuse is ever reported (Lancet November 2008).

    I know the answer, but the questioners should watch Chosen in order to get a grounding in the subject of child sexual abuse in education. It may take the quality of their questions from borderline red top cliché’s, to a more intelligent place.

    We would all appreciate this direction of travel.

  2. no doubt a great disappointment to all you all. not guilty.....

  3. No longer quite so quick off the mark, Mr West, now your protégé has been dismissed with his tail between his legs. I wonder what he’s feeling about you right now? Probably that he's been set up only to be set upon by the court. Pity the 'News of the World' has packed in, it was rapidly heading down to your level, Mr West. But, truth to tell, your style of 'journalism' is distinctly out of favour, at least for the foreseeable future and we understand only too well why you’re watching your step just as keenly as you possibly can.

  4. Mr West do find more victims for us. You're so good at the job, you must be able to find a few more somewhere in the woodwork! And as you've so much dirt on your hands already, a little more won't matter, will it?

  5. Jonathan, hope you don't mind me contacting you in this way, but I do so admire your work.
    - Rupert

  6. an interested observer, why hasn't anyone posted anything about's from last Friday's Ealing Gazette?

    A CATHOLIC priest and a maths teacher have been cleared of sexually assaulting a boy at St Benedict's School back in the 1970s.

    Father David Pearce, 69, formerly of Ealing Abbey in Charlbury Grove, who is already serving a sentence for indecent assaults had insisted he was not guilty of the latest allegations.

    Both he and former master of discipline John Maestri, 73, of Chatham, Kent, were acquitted by an Isleworth Crown Court jury on Friday of three counts of indecent assault on a child under the age of 16.

    It was alleged the boy was groped after being caned by Maestri, and again after he went to Father Pearce for help.

    Mr Maestri denied caning anyone and denied abusing the boy which he maintained either never happened or it was something carried out by a colleague.

    The former pupil had only decided to come forward last year after reading in the Times newspaper about another case involving the pair dating back to the 70s, the jury was told.

    It was revealed that both men had been found guilty of a string of other offences at the school, in Eaton Rise, Ealing.

    Father Pearce was jailed for five years in 2009 for sex abuse and indecent assaults on youngsters.

    Maestri was jailed for 30 months in 2003 for indecent assaults, and barred from working with children and ordered to sign on the sex offender register for life.

    In June 2005 he was given a community rehabilitation order for indecently assaulting a boy under 14 between 1982 and 1983.

    And in January 2009, more victims emerged and he was convicted of indecently assaulting a boy under 14 between 1979 and 1981.

    On that occasion he was given a two-year prison term suspended for two years.

    Father Pearce's offences were committed against five pupils between 1972 and 2008 and Maestri indecently assaulted three boys under 16 between 1980 and 1984.

    It also emerged during the trial that allegations against another priest, Father Laurence Soper, 80, were not followed up by the school.

    Maestri told the court that when a parent told him that Father Soper had touched a boy inappropriately, he thought "it seemed common knowledge” and said he didn’t do anything about it.

    Both men were school masters at the private fee paying Roman Catholic school, Mr Maestri taught maths and other subjects.

  7. You seem to have lost interest, but I thought your readers might like to know that Pearce and Maestri were acquitted.

  8. As both Maestri and Pearce were found not guilty, should you not refer to the complainant as such - not as the 'victim'?

  9. Well both Pearce and Maestri have been convicted of child abuse on previous occasions. On this occasion they were acquitted. They could not be found guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

    Nothing more,nothing less.

    The conviction rate for child abuse is very low.

  10. As one who sat in Court for the recent trial of John Maestri and Fr David Pearce and heard almost all of the evidence that the Jury heard apart from the closing speeches I must confess I was somewhat surprised by the verdict.

    We will never know how the Jury deliberations arrived at a Not Guilty verdict. But we should understand that one juror who has a reasonable doubt can force the other eleven to return a Not Guilty verdict.

    We therefore have to respect the Jurors' decision but Not Guilty is not the same as "being cleared". It does not mean they are Innocent; it means there was at the least a "reasonable doubt" in the mind of at least one of the Jurors. That's about all one can say.

    Bryan Dunne
    OP 1990