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.

1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately "historical abuse" is part of the lexicon. Its wrong, pejorative, prejudicial, dismissive, and applies discount to a serious crime because of the passage of time.

    But it is not only the author of this report that makes the mistake. In the unlikely event that Carlile is ever asked to provide another report on decades of unreported and "unseen" child abuse, I hope he decides to describe these instances as long tail child abuse which is entirely neutral and permits us to comprehend the scope of the report.