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.


  1. .
    And this is mentioned in Carlile's safeguarding lite report at which clause?


  2. Mr. West,

    Please enlighten us. What particular statement or statements would you have put into either the School or Abbey Child Protection Policy which would have prevented Father David's final victim? I am most intrigued as you seem to indicate that you are able to answer this question.

  3. 13.49

    You are assuming that a known perpetrator should have been (accommodated) on the same campus as a school.

    You appear not to be getting it.

  4. 13:49
    It is of course not just words that matter, but rather also that what gets written into the policy is also implemented.

    In the case of Fr David's last victim a combination of two thinks would have absolutely ensured that the assault on Fr David's last victim would not have occurred.

    1. That all allegations or incidents of abuse are immediately reported to social services (specifically the LADO) so that they can be properly investigated.

    2. Any person found on balance of probabilities to form a risk to children shall not be permitted to remain living on the premises.

    Fr David was known to be a risk to children at least since 1992, when he "retired" as junior school headmaster. He should at that time have been required to live elsewhere. But the Abbot of the time who made that decision was Laurence Soper.

  5. Pearce's supervision at the abbey failed and he assaulted a young man. How many others might have he have assaulted if he had been kicked out and left to live on his own with no supervision at all?

  6. I'm not suggesting that he should have no supervision at all, but having him remain on premises shared with a school was foolhardy.

    And having him remain as a priest - a trusted occupation - was also foolhardy. I note that even now, 2 years into his prison sentence, he had not yet been laicised.

  7. Your being obtuse. IF they had sent Pearce away he would have 100% offended again. Where he was as unplatable as it may be at least he was part of a system, though he didn't recognise it, that was capable and did catch him.

  8. 20:41
    You aren't in a position to know that. Supervising him didn't work, we DO know that. And you seem to be suggesting that Lord Carlile, the ISI and the Minister for Schools are all wrong in insisting that the policy of keeping monks who are a danger to children on the premises under restriction be discontinued. If the policy was right for Pearce, then surely you think it is still right now.

  9. 16:15 - Perpetrators are usually Notified (as these instruments were named when Pearce's abuse of children were identified) to the TMS (Teacher Misconduct Section) in Darlington. This has been a statutory requirement since c.1960 and continues today but the Notification (now called a Referral), which has to happen within 30 days of the incident / departure/ or redeployment of the member of staff - did not happen with Pearce or any other St Benedict's perpetrators - EVER. The school broke the law. This fact is contained in the ISI report.

    Had a Notification been returned, Pearce would not have been permitted to stay on campus. A police investigation and a court case may/not have occurred had all the normal and expected procedures been followed.

    Had Pearce been living away from site following his Notification, the police would have known of his whereabouts. His opportunity to abuse would have been reduced to a rather greater extent that the complacent 'guarding' by his fellow monks. Shipperlee has admitted his mistake, so why you continue to promulgate this nonsense I do not understand.

    Perpetrators need three things to be successful, power, secrecy, and opportunity. All three are in plentiful supply at St Benedict's. Private schools generally are nirvana for perpetrators because of trustees desire to keep bad news concealed. Schools are a target rich environment and being a teacher in a clerical costume confers all the power Pearce and the others needed. They would awake every morning with a limitless horizon of opportunity.

    You argument is nonsense, even Shipperlee the arch defender now realises it.

  10. 2107 I was not, at 1615 in any way defending Ealing Abbey but your argument is nonsense. Sex offenders who are meant to be supervised by the police repeatedly re-offend. How can supervision be improved? Police have insufficient resources for effective supervision and with the state of the country it is unlikely that further funding will be forthcoming. I am not excusing the church's failure to prevent Pearce offending - for that there is no excuse.

  11. Leaving a perpetrator in a school is about as stupid as it gets 21.50. Schools are primary targets for those with an unhealthy interest in the young. And it seems to have escaped your notice Pearce did reoffend - on the campus. Shipperlee recognises he got it wrong and has repeatedly said so. For once is correct.

    Pearce was able to reoffend having not been reported to the TMS by the school for the incident in which we was involved - a breach of primary legislation for which we have yet to see a sanction emerge from the DfE.

    Had the Abbot operated as he should have done as the 'registered owner' of the setting he would (i) have reported to the TMS in Darlington at the time of the original compaliant (ii) encouraged the police investigation to whatever outcome this produced (iii) enrolled Pearce onto a 'circles' programme providing he was a suitable candidate.

    Instead we had a paedophile monk being accommodated in a school without any parents being aware of the situation. The useless ISI then appeared once every six years and saw nothing!

  12. From what has been said regarding whether Pearce would have re-offended if he was sent away from the Abbey - I think he would not have.

    Having known the man, if he had been sent away (he probably would have resided at his sisters). Out of the Benedict's and Abbey environment I think the man would have been lost. He would have been unable to communicate with practically anyone in the "Real World" and would have been given time to reflect on his pityful past behaviour.

    I am not saying that this would be the case for most paedo's but in his case, I feel, sending him away would have been the best policy for the school, the Abbey and himself.