Sunday, 31 December 2017

IICSA Benedictine hearings day 3 part 3

In between the testimony given by the various abuse survivors at Ampleforth, excerpts were read from the witness statement of retired Detective Sergeant Nicholas Mark Hartnett of North Yorkshire Police. They concerned his investigation into an offence committed by Fr Bernard Green in 1995. Here he describes his first contact with Fr Leo Chamberlain, headmaster of Ampleforth at the time.
My first contact with the headmaster, Father Chamberlain, will have been on Tuesday, 28 November 1995.  It was during a joint visit to Ampleforth School with Social Services, following a strategy meeting.  As soon as I walked into Ampleforth for the first time in my life, I felt that I was within a powerful institution.

Although Father Chamberlain appeared to be cooperating and assisting the investigation, in my personal view, I felt he wanted the investigation dealt with swiftly and on his terms.  Once I explained what the investigation would entail, I felt Father Chamberlain changed and he was trying to exert his authority over me, for example, he mentioned that he was on good terms with the then Chief Constable.

As part of the investigation, I wished to speak to all the pupils in the dormitory under the control of Green to establish if there were other witnesses or victims perhaps.  There had been an anonymous call into  the Schools Inspectorate, 1 pm on 28 November, stating that others had been involved with Green and wanted it stopped.  My recollection is that when I notified the headmaster of my intention, he was adamant that a member of staff from Ampleforth needed to be present when the pupils were spoken to.  Again, I felt he was trying to exert control over my investigation.
He went on to describe other difficulties in the investigation, which arose as he was about to interview Green.
I arranged to interview Green on Wednesday, 29 November 2005. The victim had left Ampleforth and gone to stay with family in London for a few days, consequently arrangements were made for him to be interviewed upon his return on Thursday, 30 November.  As a result, I was unusually interviewing the suspect ahead of interviewing the victim.  I was utilising the notes made by the victim and his school friend (a witness) the following morning at the school.

Prior to the suspect arriving at Malton Police Station, I recall Superintendent Bowskill informing me of a phone call he had had from Father Leo Chamberlain.  Father Chamberlain informed Mr Bowskill that the victim in my investigation no longer wished to be interviewed by the police and that because of this  Father Chamberlain had took it upon himself to contact the witness's father, who was also now saying that his son did not want to be spoken to by the police.

Mr Bowskill suggested to me that I could no longer interview Green and the investigation was over, to which I promptly replied that I would be continuing the investigation to its conclusion.

Father Green was interviewed under caution later that day and admitted the assault.

I visited Ampleforth School the following day and informed Father Chamberlain that I wished to speak to the victim's father.  I wanted to understand why there had been a change of mind and reassure the victim's father that the investigation was continuing.

I recall Father Chamberlain said that he would contact the victim's father who was working abroad and he telephoned him from his office.  Initially, I was asked to step outside and then invited back into the headmaster's office where I spoke to the victim's father, who reiterated his decision.
The net result was described by DS Hartnett.
At no time did I ever get the opportunity to speak to the victim or the witness in the dormitory.  My conversations were with the victim's father over the phone and likewise by telephone with the other boy's father.

This was probably the first case I had ever submitted to the CPS for a charging decision where I did not have a complainant's statement.  It was so rare.

The CPS authorised the charging of Green and he subsequently pleaded guilty to indecent assault in May 1996.  He was sentenced to two years' probation and 50 hours' community service.
DS Hartnett's tenacity should be commended.

This trick of getting parents to refuse to co-operate with the police & social services is a very old one I've seen before. It's also very easy to do. A headmaster is usually older than the victim's parents, he is by definition in a position of authority and practiced in expressing that authority. He can use that authority (in this case bolstered by the fact that he is a priest and the victim and his parents are presumably Catholics) to suggest that the last thing the victim needs is to have lots of strangers asking him difficult questions about the incident and possibly asking him whether he himself did anything wrong. The whole business will take months to resolve and may interfere with the boy's education. Once the police are involved the matter can hardly be kept secret and so the boy may be subject to bullying from his peers. The boy would be much better off if the matter were quietly dropped, and the school will make sure that no repetition of the incident occurs.

By this means, the victim and his family are detached from the support of those most qualified to help, and left in the hands of the institution which allowed the abuse occur in the first place.

No witness statement from the victim's father was read, so we have no means of knowing whether this actually happened in this case. But it would be entirely consistent with the rest of Fr Leo Chamberlain's behaviour as described by DS Hartnett.

This statement also sheds a light on Leo Chamberlain's comments to RC-A30. Had Chamberlain's concern only been that it's impossible to stop all abuse, then he would hardly have acted in a way as to discourage the the authorities from investigating of abuse that was already known to him.


  1. Thank you for setting this out so clearly, Jonathan. It does appear to my untrained mind like a clear attempt to pervert or at least interfere with the course of justice. How sad that the pupils felt the need to report the incident to the inspectorate rather than the person at that time in charge of child protection (as I believe it was then called) in the school. That such a person was still probably a priest with a double pastoral care for the children makes it more sad and worrying. In those days before the internet, the fact that these children took time to find out how to contact the inspectorate seems to show how little confidence they had in those entrusted with their welfare at school.

    1. I agree with your sentiment but back in 1995 many schools had access to the internet, so maybe it was not so difficult to contact the inspectorate

    2. I'm not sure why you think it was "sad that the pupils felt the need to report the incident to the inspectorate rather than the person. . .in the school." A crime had been committed. Are you in the habit of trying to persuade young people to ignore their obligations as citizens? And, if not, why are you keen that the whole thing should be dealt with in house? The police can investigate independently, something that the alleged offender's colleagues and friends cannot.

  2. When is lord Chris Patton going to explain himself? Covering up abuse at St Benedict's & the BBC at the same time whilst distancing himself from both .
    I can only think of two reasons. Either the man is a full blown cretin who never sees or hears anything or he is lower than a snakes belly .
    It Gauls me to know that all the millions being spent on the inquiry is just to stop his name being tarnished.
    I've met crack heads , beggers , thieves and even killers who afford more respect than him.
    Can he prove paying lord Alex Carlile doesn't mean he has MI5 in his pocket.
    And with it the swing to shut down even a Scotland yard investigation?
    Can he also explain the presence of Jimmy saviles driver on the school grounds, on at least two occasions ( car was full of young girls)

  3. Well the Ampleforth and Downside final report is out. The Downside monk who raped the disabled lady has died and the former Abbot has married his lover.

  4. Just come back from the 10.30 mass at EA it has presided over by bishop john someone or other. I live next door but am not a RC nor did I go to the school but was raped repeatedly when at my boarding school by a teacher who went on to be the headmaster of a RC primary school. anyhoo the service may well have been a pr event to meet the congregation and show everyone that a new broom a new dawn and new ear is now upon us. They spoke for about a minute about the hearings and also announced that Abbott Shipperlee has fallen on his sword and will next week be writing his letter of thanks and farewell to the congregation no mention was make about if he is staying at the abbey or moving on. I left with the feeling that this was all pre arranged . Does anyone know where Soper is encarcerated? Was the abbott ever questioned under caution I imagine the answer is yes does anyone know if there are any investigations on going with regards him or anyone else in the abbey? The abbey has a lot of clout like Lord Patton etc so it was always going to be a stitch up