This is an issue relevant to all independent schools, not just Catholic schools. St Benedict's is part of the Catholic abuse scandal, but it is also part of the independent schools abuse scandal. There have been abuse cases at many independent schools reported recently, and in almost all cases there have been failures to properly report the abuse, either at the time, or when a teacher is removed.
The Times (behind paywall) for instance yesterday reported the resignation of Peter Crook as headmaster of the Purcell School, following the way he handled incidents of sexual bullying at the school. There are quite a few other cases that could be mentioned.
Private schools may claim status as charities, but it must be understood that they compete with each other as businesses. The problem is that an abuse scandal is very bad for business - it unsettles the parents something terrible. So when an allegation of abuse comes to light, there is a huge temptation to find some way of handling it quietly and internally with no publicity. The teacher is moved to another post to put him out of the way of the victim, or is quietly kicked out and sent on his way with a good reference.
Both these techniques have been used at St. Benedict's, but the school if far from the only one which has been caught at it.
Make no mistake, kicking a teacher out because of abuse and not telling the authorities about it is against the law. The school by law must send a report to the Independent Safeguarding Authority describing the circumstances, so that they can in turn decide whether the teacher ought to be put on "List 99", the government's list of people not considered suitable to work with children.
St Benedict's has undoubtedly broken the law in this respect, not once but several times. But so have other schools. In any of these cases, if you ask the Department for Education what they are going to do about it, they say something wishy-washy like "we are working with the setting to improve matters". So, while there is a law against non-reporting, there aren't any really effective sanctions. To the best of my knowledge, no independent school has ever been de-registered by the DfE because it has broken the law on reporting abuse.
In the absence of effective legal sanctions which at the moment just don't exist, the only way to ensure that St. Benedict's doesn't gradually slip back into its old bad habits is for there to be a major change in attitude there. There has to a firm determination that nothing like this will ever be permitted to happen again.
That has to be backed with actions, the first of which must be a well-written safeguarding policy that is a model of best practice: unambiguous, thorough, and which commits absolutely to automatic reporting, both of allegations of abuse and of allegations of misconduct related to safeguarding. Misconduct covers things such as making inappropriately sexual remarks to children, or having or viewing child pornography. These can be the precursors of more serious abuse, and so must also be reported so that a stop can be put to it before anybody is harmed, even though inappropriate remarks aren't a crime.
In addition, a culture of awareness needs to be fostered, so that inappropriate touching is not a taboo subject, the parents have to be made aware of the issues so that they know to respond appropriately in the hopefully unlikely event that their child tells them of something untoward which has happened. The teachers have to be trained in child protection, including how to prevent themselves from being placed in situations where allegations could arise. There has to be an open-door policy to ensure that teachers are not unavoidably alone in a closed room with a single pupil.
And because of the risk that there will be backsliding and a reversion to old habits, the school needs to accept that it doesn't trust itself for the time being, and voluntarily submit to increased external monitoring for the time being, by an organisation expert in child protection in independent schools. The Lucy Faithfull Foundation could do an excellent job of this.
I doubt that the existing management can pull through such a radical programme, especially when they are so identified with the culture of denial that has existed up to now. That means that the abbot and the headmaster at the very least have to go. If you are going to clean up this mess, you have to have a new broom.
That is what I hope Lord Carlile will recommend and what I hope the school will implement, because the children at St. Benedict's deserve to be safe there, and future generations of children going there deserve also to be safe.