Thursday, 7 March 2019

Mr Cleugh's mysterierious memory

My lawyers have been having an exchange of emails with the Ealing Abbey/St. Benedict's lawyers over Cleugh's comments in IICSA hearing. Richard Scorer wrote to Tony Nelson the same day
From: Richard Scorer
Sent: 08 February 2019 11:44
To: Anthony Nelson
Subject: IICSA Catholic - Cleugh evidence urgent

Dear Anthony

I understand you represent Mr Cleugh.

This morning Mr Cleugh said in evidence in relation to our client Mr West: "I was very concerned at the content of not what he was trying to do in terms of the blog, I understand subsequently -- I do -- that the voice of the abuser must be heard and that was a useful channel for doing it. But I did strongly object to the personal and often libellous statements that were written on it. Now, in fairness to him, he eventually put something on the website which said if anything was posted that he considered -- he would remove it."

Can you clarify:

(1) Whether Mr Cleugh is alleging that Mr West made libellous statements on his blog;
(2) If so, what those allegedly libellous statements were
(3) If not, whether the allegation is that the libellous statements were made by other individuals posting on Mr West’s blog

Given this is the last day of the hearing I would be obliged if you would respond promptly

Richard Scorer
And he also wrote urgently to Ruth Henke, the barrister representing Ealing Abbey/St Benedict's, who gave the closing submission on their behalf. He attached the Nelson email to thhis.
From: Richard Scorer
Date: Fri, 8 Feb 2019 at 12:28
Subject: FW: IICSA Catholic - Cleugh evidence urgent
To: Ruth Henke

Dear Ruth

See below.

If it is not being alleged that Mr West has made a libellous statement on his blog, can you make this clear in your closing submission please

Richard Scorer
There was no reply that day from either of them, And Ruth Henke's closing submission made no reference to Cleugh's comments. So Richard wrote again to Nelson on 12 February.
From: Richard Scorer
Sent: 12 February 2019 08:57
To: Anthony Nelson
Subject: RE: IICSA Catholic - Cleugh evidence urgent

Dear Mr Nelson

I refer to my email below and would be obliged to receive a response as soon as possible please.

Kind regards
Richard Scorer
Still no reply. Several attempts were made to contact nelson by phone. Richard Scorer had the definite impression that Nelson was avoiding him. Eventually they spoke on 19th February, and this is Scorer's note of the conversation.

RS reaching Tony Nelson (TN) by phone. I said we needed a written response to our questions.

He said that this is difficult for him as he “doesn’t want to become the target for blogging”.

I said there is no reason why anyone would target him for blogging in respect of the questions we have put to him. The questions are directed at Mr Cleugh. We have sent them to him because we understand him to be representing Mr Cleugh. So as far we are concerned he is the messenger for Mr Cleugh, and we are asking him to obtain Mr Cleugh’s instructions and respond.

He said he thought Ruth Hencke had already responded to me. I said I hadn’t received anything from her. I spoke to her on the day, and she said that she had “more immediate priorities” than responding to me. This was presumably a reference to preparing her closing statement. I have not received anything from her since.

TN said he understood otherwise. I assured him I had not received anything.

He said he would speak to Ruth but that I would receive a full reply to my email by close of play tomorrow.
It had so far taken eleven days just to get a promise of a response the following day. To nobody's surprise, the promised response did not appear on time. on 22nd February, Nelson finally replied as follows.
From: Anthony Nelson
Sent: 22 February 2019 09:15
To: Richard Scorer
Subject: Re: IICSA Catholic - Ealing Abbey and St Benedict's

Dear Richard,

I thank you for your recent communications.

I regret to say that I am unable to assist you in this matter.

I was however pleased to receive your suggestion for lunch together and would welcome hearing from you so that we can make arrangements.

With kind regards,
Anthony J. Nelson
I don't imagine for a moment that he thought he would get away with such a non-response.
From: Richard Scorer
Sent: 22 February 2019 09:36
To: Anthony Nelson
Subject: Re: IICSA Catholic - Ealing Abbey and St Benedict's

Dear Tony

When we spoke earlier this week you assured me that I would receive a “full response” to the questions put. You also informed me that Ruth Hencke had responded to me, which she hadn’t.

Can you therefore please clarify your email below.

Are you saying that you are not instructed to respond to us (in which case we will direct our questions to Mr Cleugh directly), or that you are instructed to refuse to answer the questions we have put to you?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Richard Scorer
A further deafening silence. Scorer wrote again.
From: Richard Scorer
Sent: 25 February 2019 11:30
To: Tony Nelson
Subject: RE: IICSA Catholic - Ealing Abbey and St Benedict's

Dear Tony

I haven’t heard further from you, so I’m just emailing to make our position clear in the light  of the various exchanges.

I asked you below to state whether you are not instructed to respond to us (in which case we will direct our questions to Mr Cleugh directly), or whether you are instructed to refuse to answer the questions we have put to you. No response has yet been forthcoming.

In the absence of a response from you on this by 4pm today, given that you have never suggested in correspondence that you are not instructed by Mr Cleugh, we will proceed on the basis that you are instructed on his behalf and that of the school, but that your instructions  are not to respond to our questions, and our clients will  comment publicly on that basis.

I hope that makes our position clear.

Richard Scorer
Finally we get a reply of sorts that makes some passing attempt to address the subject.
From: Tony Nelson
Sent: 25 February 2019 12:19
To: Richard Scorer
Subject: RE: IICSA Catholic - Ealing Abbey and St Benedict's

Dear Richard,

Thank you for your email.

I believe that Mr Cleugh was referring to the comments on the Blog, made by unknown individuals and not attributable to your client. Mr Cleugh was not criticising your client nor the existence of his blog, but simply an anonymous entry that was distressing.

Please acknowledge safe receipt.

Yours sincerely,
Anthony J. Nelson 
Scorer wrote back.
From: Richard Scorer
Sent: 25 February 2019 12:25
To: Tony Nelson
Subject: RE: IICSA Catholic - Ealing Abbey and St Benedict's

Dear Tony

Can you clarify which entry this was please.

Richard Scorer
And for once Nelson replied reasonably promptly.
From: Tony Nelson
Sent: 25 February 2019 12:41
To: Richard Scorer
Subject: RE: IICSA Catholic - Ealing Abbey and St Benedict's

Dear Richard,

My understanding is that the entry was an anonymous entry which was subsequently deleted.

Kind regards,
Anthony J. Nelson
Scorer acknowledged.
From: Richard Scorer
Sent: 25 February 2019 13:02
To: Tony Nelson
Subject: RE: IICSA Catholic - Ealing Abbey and St Benedict's

Dear Tony

I note the position and the confirmation that Mr Cleugh’s reference to “personal and often libellous statements on Mr West’s blog” relates to a single anonymous entry which was subsequently deleted.

I will let you know if we have any further questions

Richard Scorer
We had a bit of a think about this and decided it really wasn't good enough. Cleugh had said of the blog in evidence under oath "I did strongly object to the personal and often libellous statements that were written on it." Note "statements" in plural, and there was no suggestion in his evidence that the statements he was objecting to weren't written by me.

So Scorer wrote again.
From: Richard Scorer
Sent: 27 February 2019 10:17
To: Tony Nelson
Subject: RE: IICSA Catholic - Ealing Abbey and St Benedict's

Dear Tony

I write further on this matter, having obtained further instructions from my client Mr West.

You will be aware that Mr Cleugh gave evidence on oath, and therefore any false statement given in evidence, inadvertently or otherwise, will needed to be corrected without delay.

Mr West has undertaken an extensive search of both the published and unpublished/deleted comments, and can find no record of anything along the lines described by Mr Cleugh.

If the comment was as upsetting at the time as Mr Cleugh stated in evidence, then it would have been reasonable to have made a copy, and also to have complained about it to Mr West.

Therefore, please clarify:

1. Did Mr Cleugh make a copy (e.g. a screenshot)? If so please provide it to us and to IICSA.
2. Why did he not complain at the time?

If Mr Cleugh provides clear evidence that the alleged comment was at some point posted on the blog, then Mr West would be glad to apologise in public for any distress this caused him. However it is Mr West’s position that no such comment was ever published on the blog. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, a public apology is due to Mr West for making a false statement about him, and it would be appropriate for you to write to IICSA with a copy to us stating that Mr Cleugh was mistaken and wishes to withdraw that part of his evidence.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Richard Scorer
The final reply came from Nelson the following day.
From: Tony Nelson
Sent: 28 February 2019 15:44
To: Richard Scorer
Subject: IICSA Catholic - Ealing Abbey and St Benedict's

Dear Richard

Thank you for your email of yesterday.  Mr Cleugh has a clear recollection of that about which he gave evidence at the Inquiry.

There is no direct nor intended criticism of Mr West and we have made it clear that the subject matter was from an anonymous source.  Mr Cleugh has not retained material and we trust that this can now be the end of the matter.

Anthony J. Nelson
The most interesting thing about this last email was the statement that "Mr Cleugh has a clear recollection of that about which he gave evidence at the Inquiry."

The thing is, if you study the 7th February transcript, his memory of several key events seems not at all clear. For instance this:
Q. Just looking at what some of the other staff in the school said, can we look at MPS002946_003. This is Mr Halsall's witness statement. You will have read it. About a third of the way through the big paragraph in the middle, he says: "When Cleugh became head, I attempted to make him aware of past issues with Pearce and others. He did not welcome this."
A. Well, I can honestly say I do not remember that. That gentleman was a member of my senior team, so he would have had access to the discussions that were going on but I have no recollection of that.
Or this concerning the restrictions on Pearce.
Q. What did you know about restrictions on Pearce and how he was monitored?
A. Well, I was -- once the restrictions were put on him, I was fully aware that he was not allowed into the school and I conveyed that to the staff.
Q. How were you aware of that?
A. I would have been informed by the abbot.
Q. Did you see what the restrictions were?
A. I can't remember that.
Q. So it was through a conversation?
A. Yes. I mean, I'm not saying I didn't see it, but I have no recollection of it.
Or this, concerning the discussions with ISI prior to the November 2009 inspection.
Q. There are certainly two things that you say, aren't there: you tell Fox that Pearce has been accused and convicted of an offence which took place off the school premises, in the monastery; and you say that the abbot has commissioned a review. But what you don't say is that he's been under a restrictive covenant since 2005 because of previous behaviour; you don't refer to the fact that there's been a High Court judgment against Pearce and the Trust in 2006 when substantial damages were awarded to the victim?
A. Well --
Q. Do you agree with that?
A. No, I don't.
Q. You did say those things, did you?
A. Sorry?
Q. You did say those things?
A. I can't actually remember an interview that I had with the reporting inspector that actually happened 10 years ago, but in actual fact, from the word go, I tried to be open and honest with Rodney Fox about David Pearce and about [redacted] -- sorry, David Pearce and RC41.
And also this about conversations with ISI in 2009
Q. The point is that on that page that we have just looked at, where do you say that there was a restrictive covenant in place?
A. Oh, I'm sorry. Well, it doesn't say, but, in actual fact -- I can't remember the exact conversation I had, but inspectors do not write down everything that's said between two people.
Q. So perhaps he failed to write that down?
A. Well, I don't know.
Q. What about the scale of the offending of which Pearce was convicted: four boys plus A621 over a 30-year period?
A. Well, he was told of all those in his October visit.
Q. Was he told on this visit?
A. I honestly can't remember, but it wasn't a deliberate act on my part.
Q. And you're not suggesting, are you, that he has deliberately left it out of his notes?
A. I am not suggesting he deliberately left it out of his notes, because I -- and I can't remember the exact conversation, but there was nothing for me to be gained by trying to infer it was one offence.
Q. Well, you didn't mention that all victims had been pupils of the school, did you?
A. Well, once again, after the case had come to court, yes, I did. It was all in the letter.
Q. You did not mention that David Pearce had been head of the junior school and that some of his offending had been committed whilst he'd held that position?
A. I honestly can't remember. But, I mean, I -- if that's what the notes are saying, maybe we didn't. But it's not something I ever tried to hide.
The interesting thing about the passage above is that his memory of events is distinctly ropey but his memory of his intentions (which of course nobody can cross-check) is crystal-clear. His memory of comments on the blog appears to be completely clear, much clearer than the events involving his responsibility as headmaster of the school.
Q. On prize giving day, in 2010, you gave a speech?
A. I did.
Q. It is INQ002991_005. It was in the News letter?
A. No, it's the Priory magazine.
Q. In that speech -- on the left-hand side of the page - you said:
 "I absolutely refute that anyone associated with the Benedictine school has misled the inspectors or protected offenders -- such allegations are, at best, misguided and, at worst, deliberately malicious. Recent media and blog coverage seem hell-bent on trying to discredit the school and at the same time destroy the excellent relationship between the school and the monastery. Is this part of an anti-Catholic movement linked to the papal visit? I do not know, but it feels very much as if we are being targeted."
A. I mean, I would stress that before I said that, I actually had said, "There is no excuse for abuse of anyone, and particularly children. There have been failures here in the past and, quite rightly, those involved have been or are being exposed and punished". That was the surmise to it. Now, to put it into context, if I -- should I have said those words?
 Probably not. But you have to understand that the -- at the time, there was -- particularly on the blog, there was very sort of personal and offensive comments being made, both about the school and my personal -- and me personally, which caused great distress, and it really did feel as if we were being targeted.
 I felt, in terms -- of course everything that came out subsequently, everything to do with -- that came out as a consequence of the Carlile Report showed there was a really major issue in St Benedict's in the '70s, '80s and '90s -- into the '90s.
But in the correspondence between Nelson and Scorer this now appears to be just one distressing comment subsequently deleted which I can find no trace of.

Cleugh's memory of events for which he was responsible didn't seem to improve the following day. Here he is on the subject of my attempt to get the governors to improve the safeguarding policy in 2013.
Q. Jonathan West has made a statement, and you have seen that statement?
A. I have.
Q. It's at INQ003040, and I am going to ask us to turn to this section. Just by way of background, we have paragraph 197 there. The paragraph before establishes that Jonathan West, in 2013, after the new board of governors for St Benedict's had been appointed, decided to make a further attempt at persuading the governors to reform the school's child protection policy.
 In paragraph 197, he says:
 "I received no reply to this letter for some months, so on 4 September I sent copies of the letter and enclosures by recorded delivery to the home addresses of all the governors", and so on.
 At 198, he says:
 "I received a reply from one of the other governors saying that he would be taking up the matter at the next meeting of the governors."
 Was the child protection policy subsequently amended in 2013 in response to, and as a result of, Mr West's concerns?
A. I honestly can't remember, but I repeat what I said yesterday, that we were continually reviewing and updating our safeguarding policy, and that we were engaged with lots of different people helping us in that.
 But, I mean, this has moved on three years from your previous question, and of course by then we were into a new board of governors. But the new governors did take safeguarding extremely seriously.
I'll leave you to decide what to make of all this. I've provided links to the full transcript for both days of Cleugh's evidence, so you're welcome to take a look in case you think I might have quoted him out of context.