Tuesday, 10 January 2012

And then there were five

We now know that the abuse at Downside was far more extensive than just Richard White, or Fr Nicholas as he was known at the school. The Times reported yesterday that the police have cautioned two others.
Detective Constable Mark White, of Avon & Somerset Constabulary, said: “As a result of our inquiries a 79-year-old man living in the Irish Republic received a caution and an 80-year-old man, resident in the South West of England, was also cautioned. The second man was removed from Downside Abbey following our inquiries.”
And BBC Points West reported yesterday that there are in addition a further two monks are still living at the monastery on restricted ministry.

That makes five. It's a bit of a pity Fr Aidan couldn't have come clean about that initially. This is beginning to rival Ealing Abbey in terms of scale - not a competition that Downside should want to win.

Restricted ministry failed at Ealing in the case of Father David Pearce, who was able to abuse a child even after he had been placed on restricted ministry. He was arrested in January 2008 and pleaded guilty in August 2009 to a string of offences spanning 36 years. The ISI, DfE, Charity Commission and Lord Carlile have all condemned the use of restricted ministry as ineffective. The Schools Minister Nick Gibb took a personal interest in ensuring that the practice ended at St Benedict's. That the policy of restricted ministry is still in use at Downside four years after Pearce's arrest is nothing short of a disgrace.

Downside's most recent ISI report is a nightmare. I'm going to describe that in more detail in future articles. The school has published a response on its website.
We have prepared an Action Plan in consultation with the appropriate agencies, and it has been sent by the Department for Education to Ofsted and ISI for their evaluation.

We are working with our Trustees, Governors and outside advisors to ensure that the plan is implemented in a timely and effective manner.

We fully subscribe to the principle that the protection of children is paramount in all that the School undertakes.
Talk is cheap. If a practice known to be ineffective at protecting children is still in use, then they can "subscribe to the principle that the protection of children is paramount", as much as they like but it won't matter in the slightest since the practice doesn't match the principle.


  1. The whole "restricted ministry" thing is frankly sickening in concept. The fact that it doesn't work is, in some respects, just a detail. I cannot grasp in any way, shape or form why any institution thinks that it's entitled to operate *any* policy which supersedes and operates outside of the normal criminal law and/or moral standards of society.

    Let's move this away from religion for a moment... Let's say I operate, oh I don't know... a model railway club. It's run by me and a few adults. And we've a bunch of child members. I am told, with every reasons to suspect it's true, that one of the adults has sexually assaulted one of the children. Can I operate a policy of "restricted modelling"? Can I have a quiet word with the criminal, tell him he can't associate with the kids, totally fail to inform the police, and then let things carry on? You know, I've the reputation of my club to think about, and also the reputation of the adult to consider too...

    How on earth can anyone defend such abject failure to report a crime? Why why WHY is it all OK when it's a religious order who are involved? The normal standards to which we hold members of society seem to get suspended for some bizarre reason.

    I wonder if any legal mind out there could comment on when failure to act when one has knowledge of a crime tips over and becomes instead a conspiracy to commit crime, indirectly by aiding and abetting the criminal...?

  2. I have just read the Independent Schools Inspectorate's report on Downside, it was shocking. The management seem to be completely out of their depth as far as child protection is concerned. It is so bad that it makes the current state of St Benedict's look good.

  3. Well that is an interesting idea 16.50 - but you then need to revisit the ISI follow up report for St Benedict's and remember that the same old management is still in place at St Benedict's.

    To some extent this explains the c%$p safeguarding policy still in place some two years later. This lot do not like change it frightens to them. It's cultural problem, so open the doors and bring shovels.

  4. @ 17:16

    You are right in that one of the biggest problems at St Benedict's is that the old management still remain in place, although I suspect that Shipperlee and Cleugh will not be able to cling onto power for much longer.

    In the case of Downside I was particularly struck by the fact that they failed to address the deficiencies highlighted by the ISI's November 2010 inspection in time for the follow up inspection in June 2011. They had six months to sort things out but failed to do so, I suspect that they are in need of a complete change of management as well.

  5. Yes 16.16 - it is surprising. Was it resistance or something else? There is a culture of 'get lost' in most independent schools. Look at the stroppy Malburian who was expelled and his father spent £250k on legal fees claiming his son's GCSE's would be wrecked etc. - before jacking court proceedings in claiming "I ain't got no rights!"

    He was right - most now have a parent agreement which you have to sign - in doing so you sign away rights.

    These are not even guided democracy's they are one party states, which do not appreciate external interference.

    So it is a cultural issue in part. "We'll do it in our time.........maybe."

  6. It will be a huge shame for Downside to lose control of the school, I don't believe there is anything sinister going on at the school.

    Why so many people who have no knowldege of the school wish to tar its reputation is very sad indeed.

    Have a thought for the pupils, parents and staff at school now who have nothing to do with this 20 year old situation .....

  7. The pupils won't benefit from the chaos of safeguarding arrangements that the Abbey has presided over. The parents will hardly be pleased if it turns out that their children have been abused there.