This is the first in a series of articles I shall be writing on the Carlile report. As I mentioned before, it is a substantial document and I felt it deserved a measure of reflection before I wrote in detail about it.
Paragraphs 1-4 deal with the background and history of the school and contain nothing contentious.
Paragraph 5 briefly describes the circumstances of Carlile's appointment, but neglects to mention what I at least regard as a significant issue and which I raised at the press conference.
Carlile accepted this appointment as a barrister, and was therefore instructed by a solicitor, this being the normal way of things in the law. His instructing solicitor was the school's solicitor Mr. Anthony Nelson of the firm Haworth and Gallagher.
At the time Carlile took the instruction, Nelson was also acting as the defending solicitor for Father David Pearce, not only for his appeal against sentence (successful in that it was reduced from 8 years to 5), but also for Pearce's second trial this summer along with John Maestri.
At the press conference I asked Lord Carlile how the apparent conflict of interest was managed between Nelson acting on behalf of Pearce while at the same time commissioning an inquiry which would inevitably in part be an investigation into Pearce's criminal activities. Carlile replied to the effect that there was no conflict of interest, in that he had made it clear to Nelson and the Abbey that he would conduct the inquiry in his own way, and would not provide any of the documents he received or the notes he made to Nelson, these would all go into his own personal archive at his chambers and not be made available to the abbey.
I've no criticism of Carlile in the way he has approached the task, but it seems to me that by saying this, he has tacitly accepted that there was a potential conflict of interest on the part of Nelson which needed to be guarded against by the precautions Carlile described.
I'm astonished that, even after he pleaded guilty to multiple crimes against pupils of St Benedict's, Pearce has continued to be represented by the school solicitor. I'm even more astonished that the Abbot thought it appropriate at the same time to use Nelson to instruct Carlile. I realise that Nelson and Carlile have worked together before and that there is nothing at all wrong with that. I accept that provided that everybody concerned is happy that Nelson is able to compartmentalise his mind, he can continue to represent these different clients with potentially conflicting interests.
But politically it stinks. Carlile is perfectly well aware of the need for independence in such matters not only to exist but also to be seen to exist, and in the press conference he criticised the conduct of the Apostolic Visitation, in that he felt in particular that Abbot Richard Yeo ought not to have been appointed to it because he has too close a prior connection with Ealing Abbey and its monks. I agree with him on this point, and I feel that the same issue applies to the involvement of Mr. Nelson in the Carlile inquiry. This doesn't sound like an example of the openness and transparency that the Abbot and Mr. Cleugh have been banging on about recently.
Just how acute those conflicts might turn out to be was demonstrated at the trial of Pearce and Maestri this summer. One of the arguments used by the defence was that the alleged victim had mistakenly identified his abusers and had in fact been abused not by either Pearce or Maestri, but instead had been abused by Father Laurence Soper. While that line of argument was a perfectly valid one for the defence to use, it showed how the interests of Pearce and of the abbey and the other monks are no longer necessarily the same.
Paragraphs 6 & 7 mention the status of Pearce and Hobbs at the time of the inquiry, and paragraph 8 describes his agreement to conduct the inquiry "on the understanding that this report would be published on the School and Abbey websites, and made available in printed form on request to the Abbot or school Headmaster".
That concludes the introductory "Background" section of the report.