There have been failures here in the past and quite rightly those involved have been or are being exposed and punished. The School continues to co-operate with all the relevant authorities. I absolutely refute that anyone associated with St Benedict’s School has misled the Inspectors or protected offenders - such allegations are at best misguided and at worst deliberately malicious.
I asked Mr. Cleugh about this at Lord Carlile's press conference. He said that there had been two points he knew about in November and had told the Inspectors about both, and the remaining issues came to light between the November 2009 and April 2010 visits.
But this is very odd. The only safeguarding incident mentioned in the November 2009 ISI reports is the "serious recent incident involving a member of the monastic community" described in Section 4.4 of the Senior school report, with the same text in section 4.5 of the Junior School report. We know that this serious recent incident is the abuse of Pearce's final victim and Pearce's subsequent arrest. We know that because the Charity Commission report mentions that a report was made to the authorities about that incident, and we know from the ISI Supplementary Report that the school has reported it, and that there are no records of any other incidents having been reported.
But it seems to me that at the time of the November inspection, Cleugh couldn't possibly not be aware of the following other matters, relevant to safeguarding at the school and which as an ISI inspector himself he knew were relevant to the inspection.
- The arrest, trial and placing on restricted ministry and on List 99 of Father Stanislaus Hobbs, which involved Hobbs resigning as a Trustee in 2005. His resignation as a Trustee is an event which the school had a statutory duty to report to the Teacher Misconduct Section of the DfE.
- The civil action against the school successfully brought by "C" in 2006, in which the judgement was against the school to the tune of £43,000.
- The resulting placement of Father David Pearce on restricted ministry
- The first Charity Commission Statutory Inquiry.
- Father David Pearce's conviction and sentencing for a whole range of other offences to which he pleaded guilty, in addition to the offence for which he was originally arrested.
- The second Charity Commission Statutory Inquiry.
In addition, I think it very likely that the police contacted the school in the course of their inquiries which led to Maestri's three convictions in 2003, 2005 and 2008. It would be very normal for them to do so, even though Maestri left the school in 1984.
But lets leave aside the Maestri issue and concentrate on the other points. All these were very much of interest to the inspectors and were mentioned in the Supplementary Report, though not with the names of the individuals attached. Lets go though the issues listed in the Supplementary Report
(i) Legal action has been initiated in connection with a previous member of the religious community.I had wondered for a long time who this is. Based on the information in the Carlile Report, I now think this is Anthony Gee, or Father Anthony Gee as he was when headmaster of the school. According to Carlile, the school first heard of this in March 2010. I have no reason to disbelieve this.
(ii) A monk who had taught in the school a long time ago has 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.This is Father Gregory Chillman. The allegations concerning him appear to have first come to light in March 2010. So we can't say that Cleugh knew about this one in November 2009.
(iii) A similar covenant applies to another monk, also currently residing in the monastery. He had been acquitted of child abuse in 2007.This is Father Stanislaus Hobbs. It would seem to me that Cleugh definitely did know the situation with regard to Hobbs, and the fact that he had resigned as a Trustee. And equally clearly, the ISI did not know. in November 2009, or they would have mentioned it then.
(iv) A monk, Fr DP, is in custody following his conviction in October 2009 on charges spanning many years. Following a defeat in an earlier civil case, Fr DP 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. The review findings were not available at the time of the ISI inspection in November 2009.This is Pearce, obviously. Note here that the civil case is mentioned, and the full range of his convictions is alluded to. Quite different from the "recent serious incident" (singular) mentioned in November 2009.
(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.This is Maestri. As mentioned above, we can set him to one side for the moment.
(vi) The case of a monk, now for a long time living abroad, has not been pursued.This is Soper, and clearly the case has been taken up again since. According to Carlile, the first allegations against Soper became known by the school in November 2009, i.e. at around the time of the inspection visit, though whether before or after isn't clear. But it can reasonably be argued that even if the allegation came in after, Cleugh had a duty to ring up the inspectors and mention it, since they hadn't yet produced their report.
The ISI also made mention of the Charity Commission in its supplementary report. Cleugh knew that the Statutory Inquiries had taken place, although the report wasn't issued until December 2009. but this was still well before the ISI issued its reports, and again a phone call to the inspectors to say it was now available would have been a good idea, and I have no doubt it is what Cleugh himself would have expected of another school had he been inspecting it.
And the ISI definitely wasn't aware of all these events, as you can see from the my correspondence with Durell Barnes of the ISI.
So, we have Mr. Cleugh's assurance that he didn't mislead the inspectors, that the school "continues to co-operate with all the relevant authorities", which he made at his prizegiving day speech and repeated in front of Lord Carlile, 5 TV cameras and about 40 journalists, and yet we seem to have all these relevant pieces of information which Cleugh obviously knew about but for which there is no evidence that he shared with the inspectors.
What are we to make of it?