Tuesday, 13 August 2013

St Bede's college - governors resign over abuse legal action

There's a fascinating little article in The Tablet, an inset to a larger article about calls for an inquiry into the abuse at Fort Augustus.

The inset is about St Bede's college. Paul Malpas has been blogging extensively about sexual abuse there. The article in The Tablet is worth quoting in full.
A Catholic school in Manchester is advertising for new governors after seven of them resigned to avoid liability in an impending abuse action, write Elizabeth Gould and Christopher Lamb.

The governors of St Bede’s College, Whalley Range, are being sued by former pupils who claim they were sexually and physically abused while they were at the school.

The claimants are being represented by AO Advocates, the London legal firm set up by American lawyer Jeffrey Andersen, who has spearheaded numerous legal actions in the United States for clerical sexual abuse.

The governors who resigned are all lay people and include the school's headmaster.

They stood down because they understood that action would be taken against them personally to hold them financially accountable. Since their resignation two priests from the Diocese of Salford have been appointed governors at the school.

Georgina Calvert-Lee, a barrister working for AO Advocates, said the action was being taken against both the governors of the school and the Diocese of Salford. The alleged sexual abuse took place in the 1950s and 1960s by three priests, all deceased.

In 2011 the Bishop of Salford, Terence Brain, apologised for abuse said to have taken place at St Bede's after complaints were made by 57 former pupils.
It is worth noting that the governors of a school, especially the chairman of governors, are personally responsible for ensuring that safeguarding at a school is adequate, and this is a legal obligation which cannot be delegated. And as appears to have been recognised by the resigned governors of St. Bede's, this is a legal obligation which might be translated into personal financial liability in the event that safeguarding arrangements are inadequate and children are harmed as a result.

I know that AO Advocates also keep track of events at St Benedict's (they follow this blog for instance), though of course I have no means of knowing whether any St Benedict's victims have appointed AO Advocates to represent them.


  1. I wonder if the governors of St Benedict's who, from Lord Patten downwards, seem to rely heavily upon the old-fashioned 'wall of silence' strategy when faced with awkward questions about, for instance, the differences between the BBC's handling of 'historical' sexual abuse and that of the Benedictines of Ealing and their accomplices or the cost and effectiveness of the Carlyle Report will sit up and take notice of this interesting development.

  2. Very interesting.

    I wouldn't want to be a governor at St Benedict's for all the tea in China.

  3. If AO Advocates get their teeth into St Benedict's the governors will be lucky if they are left with so much as a pot to piss in.

  4. Hi Jonathan

    Thankyou for this enlightening post. Yes A O Advocates there is no match in the UK to their approach on litigation.

    Rydal Penrhos School will soon find A O Advocates to be a formidable opponent The Methodist Church and The Ecclesiastical Insurance Group will no doubt suffer at the hands of A O Advocates.....