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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Ampleforth and Downside (English Benedictine Congregation case study) Investigation Report

Allegations

21. There have been a number of accounts of child sexual abuse in relation to Downside between the 1960s and the present day, some of which, like Ampleforth, have also involved allegations of physical abuse. This will be included within the allegations, where appropriate. This section focuses on the key accounts to illustrate Downside’s response to child protection and safeguarding issues across approximately 50 years.

22. The Final Report of the Nolan Review was published in September 2001, and in 2002 Downside Abbey began the process of aligning itself with Clifton diocese. Over the years that followed, several allegations were referred to Clifton diocese CPC.

23. In 2010, following one such referral to Clifton diocese in relation to RC-F80, several multi-agency strategy meetings were held, and the police investigation, Operation February, was begun by Avon and Somerset Constabulary. As enquiries progressed, other external agencies became involved, namely Ofsted, ISI, the Department for Education and the Charity Commission.

24. During this time, Downside commissioned David Moy to conduct and produce a safeguarding audit. They also commissioned Anthony Domaille (who had previously conducted past case reviews on behalf of Clifton diocese) to conduct further past case reviews in accordance with recommendation 70 of the Nolan Report. The Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service (CSAS) also asked Mr Domaille to carry out preliminary enquiry protocol investigations to assess risk[1] in a number of cases. These reports were submitted to Clifton diocese, who subsequently appointed Mr Domaille to act as locum safeguarding coordinator for the diocese.[2]

25. The 2010 investigations and Operation February ultimately led to the conviction of Nicholas White for a number of sexual offences. During and after these investigations, several other allegations of sexual abuse and inappropriate behaviour towards children at the school came to light.

26. Several allegations of sexual abuse are largely recent. The accounts and responses to them significantly overlap, for example in the cases of Anselm Hurt, Nicholas White and F65. Here therefore, we have found it most helpful to approach our summaries of the events by separating the accounts into those that were known before the Nolan Report in 2001 and those that became known after Nolan. Some of the latter abuse took place earlier in time, for example in the cases of RC-F66, RC-F77 and RC-F84. We look then at Downside’s response to allegations before and after the Nolan Report, including Operation February. Finally, we consider what we heard about Downside following these investigations, and the developments in safeguarding procedures.

27. As with Ampleforth, a number of witnesses are now deceased, including Dom Wilfrid Passmore, Dom John Roberts, Dom Aelred Watkin and Dom Philip Jebb.

Accounts of child sexual abuse made before the Nolan Report (1960–2001)

Anselm Hurt (1960s)

28. On 12 February 1969, Fr Aelred Watkin, headmaster of Downside School, wrote to Fr Anselm Hurt, who was at that time based in Liverpool, to reprimand him for taking four Downside pupils to the pub (the Bell Inn).[3] Anselm Hurt sought to justify the incident,[4] but on 24 February 1969 Fr Aelred Watkin wrote to him:

You know as well as I do, it is not simply a question of a visit to the Bell. Surely you cannot imagine that I am unaware of such things as your drinking whisky with the school prefects until the early hours of the morning, and to your room on the first floor of the King’s Arms – though I have no wish to go back into the past, even the recent past.[5]

29. Later that year Anselm Hurt returned to Downside and was appointed to the position of teacher and assistant housemaster during the autumn term of 1969.[6] Shortly after the end of the autumn term, Fr Aelred became aware of an incident between Anselm Hurt and a 16-year-old pupil, RC-A216.[7] Having been alone drinking beer together in Hurt’s room in the school, Hurt had invited RC-A216 to his room in the monastery where mutual masturbation had taken place. Hurt admitted the incident to Abbot Wilfrid and was sent away from Downside immediately. Fr Aelred also discovered that another pupil had said that he and Hurt had slept in the same bed in a private house during the half-term holiday in November 1969. The details are not clear, but Hurt’s behaviour was such that this latter boy, who was 17 at the time, had left the bed and chosen to sleep on the floor instead.[8] We do not know whether Hurt made any admissions about this.

30. Fr Aelred wrote to the Department of Education and Science to report Hurt on 22 January 1970.[9] In his letter Fr Aelred did not detail what he had been told but referred to the ‘particularly gross circumstances’ of the incident involving RC-A216 and to what he described as ‘an inappropriate suggestion’ made to the second boy. In his view Hurt ‘should not do work in a school or youth club or anything of that character in future’. The fact that Fr Aelred involved the Department of Education and Science is notable, not only because it illustrates that reporting was then considered to be appropriate, but also because it contrasts with the approach taken to some allegations in later years when there were blatant attempts to exclude outside authorities.

31. Anselm Hurt was sent away from Downside immediately, although he described this as a ‘holiday’ after which he briefly returned. Abbot Wilfrid Passmore then strongly suggested that Hurt should apply for an exclaustratio qualificata (which Dom Leo Maidlow Davis told us[10] authorised Hurt to live for a limited time as a layman without exercising the priesthood). He agreed and applied on 4 January 1970. He was then sent away again and went to Oxford.[11]

32. The Department of Education and Science (DES) replied to Fr Aelred Watkin on 9 February 1970. They said that a report to the police was expected in all cases in which there appeared to have been a sexual offence against a child and asked if there were any reasons why Fr Aelred thought it inadvisable to inform the police.[12] Fr Aelred wrote to DES on 11 February 1970 and told them that it had not been thought necessary to report the matter to the police because:

  1. RC-A216’s parents ‘were not anxious for this course’
  2. Hurt had been sent away immediately
  3. given RC-A216’s age, ‘a certain element of possible willing participation cannot be excluded’

The DES wrote back, noting the reasons given and stated that they did not want to press the matter of reporting to the police any further.[13]

33. In their submissions the Department for Education (DfE) say that they have been ‘unable to locate anyone currently employed who had any direct involvement with the issues or is qualified to make a judgment on the decision making at that time’. However, the first letter from the DES, written at the relevant time, clearly said Fr Aelred should have reported Anselm Hurt to the police, and the DfE have confirmed that this was the DES’s policy in 1970, but comment that sometimes exceptions would be made where there was good reason. It appears that they simply accepted the reasons given by Fr Aelred. This was a failing on their part, as Fr Aelred’s explanation did not provide any proper justification for not informing the police.[14]

34. The DfE have also said that if this matter were to arise today, it would be referred to the relevant designated officer, notwithstanding any objections from the family. The designated officer would then refer the case to the multi-agency safeguarding hub, and a decision would be taken by that body as to whether police action or another approach was appropriate. The decision-makers would have the best interests of the children as a paramount consideration.[15]

35. On 9 March 1970, the DES wrote to Anselm Hurt saying that it was considering whether or not he was suitable for employment as a teacher and suggesting that he submit a psychiatric report.[16] Downside Abbey paid for Hurt to see Dr Seymour Spencer (who was later used to assess monks at Ampleforth, including Fr Piers Grant-Ferris) and for reports to be prepared for both the abbey and DES.[17]

36. On 1 April 1970, a parent wrote to the abbot, then Wilfrid Passmore, to raise concerns over Anselm Hurt’s behaviour towards her 15-year-old son, a pupil at Downside, including an invitation by Hurt to his rooms in Oxford. She demanded that the abbot take responsibility as Hurt was still a member of the community.[18] Abbot Wilfrid responded on 5 April 1970, saying:

I am indeed grieved that your son should have received such a letter from Fr Anselm. He has been taken out of my jurisdiction for the present and is subject to the Holy See. I have written to him very strictly and I will see him next week … he needs prayers badly and is under psychiatric treatment. I am indeed sorry that this problem should have arisen.

37. On 2 April 1970, Dr Spencer wrote to Abbot Wilfrid. In his letter he explained what he had written to a doctor who had been named by the ministry, saying:

I covered very much the same ground as I covered in my report/letter to you of March 23rd with the suggestion that Father Anselm’s medical needs from their point of view would be well satisfied if he were suspended from teaching for say three years in order that he might get his homosexual tendencies fully treated. I felt that this was the best compromise that I could possibly seek.[19]

38. On 28 June 1970, following a request from Anselm Hurt for a testimonial, Abbot Wilfrid Passmore wrote to Mr GL Macey at the DES. He suggested that Dr Spencer’s report should be given the ‘greatest weight’. He also stated that in his view Hurt had made a mistake in entering a monastery and that despite Abbot Passmore’s views that Hurt should try a different profession: ‘He is keen on teaching. Quite apart from the episode last December, I do not feel he is really suitable.’ Downside Abbey continued to pay for Hurt to see Dr Spencer until July 1970, when he was discharged.[20] In August 1970, Hurt was granted an absolute dispensation from his vows, left the order and went on to marry.[21]

39. In a letter dated 12 August 1970,[22] Hurt informed Abbot Wilfrid that the DES had decided that he was unsuitable for employment as a teacher. He explained that there would be the opportunity of a review in August 1973.

40. It appears that Hurt was debarred by the DES for applying for certain types of employment.[23] Documents that the Inquiry have seen indicate that Hurt applied for numerous posts in 1970 and 1971, some of which would undoubtedly have involved contact with children, including ‘trainee child care officer’ and ‘probation officer’, which ‘entailed supervision of offenders of all ages as well as of young people’.[24]

41. In a letter dated 7 January 1971,[25] Anselm Hurt wrote to Abbot Passmore and thanked him for what he described as a ‘glowing’ reference for the ‘Birmingham Community Relations job’. The job he was applying for was ‘Assistant Community Relations Officer (Education)’[26] and he was shortlisted but not ultimately selected.[27] In what appears to be a letter of reference from Abbot Wilfrid Passmore for this job, he stated that he was pleased to recommend Anselm Hurt for the post and does not mention the allegations or the ban.[28]

42. In the same letter from Anselm Hurt to Abbot Wilfrid he said that he was applying for a course in ‘Community and Youth work’. He stated that this provided training for a much wider range of posts than those concerning the young and therefore, he said, there should be nothing contrary to the ban, although he would have to wait to see if it was lifted before he could apply for any post that ‘involves first-hand work with youth’. However, he asked if Abbot Wilfrid could refrain from mentioning the ban imposed from the DES as this could complicate things and weigh against him in a competitive selection.[29] It is not clear whether the abbot provided references for other job applications.

43. In October 1973, Hurt informed Abbot Passmore that the DES was reviewing his case and asked that the abbey pay for another assessment by Dr Seymour Spencer.[30] They agreed, and on 11 July 1974, Anselm Hurt wrote to Abbot Wilfrid Passmore informing him that the Secretary of State had lifted the ban entirely. He said that he had obtained a job in adult education but discussed the possibility of being able to move into ‘one of the fields of employment from which [he] had been excluded’. He thanked Abbot Wilfrid Passmore for his ‘part in this’.[31] We have not seen any explanation in the correspondence which clarifies why the ban was lifted, or what the DES’s reasons for lifting it were. The DfE in their submissions say that they no longer have copies of Dr Spencer’s reports. They also say that they are hampered by a lack of records because the general ‘barring’ function for teaching staff passed to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) in 2009. At that time all historical records held by the DfE passed to the (then) Independent Safeguarding Authority, now the DBS.

44. In 1994, around 20 years after the ban had been lifted, Hurt went to Glenstal Abbey. Glenstal Abbey is in Ireland and, although it is a Benedictine Monastery, it is not a member of the English Benedictine Congregation. By this stage the abbot of Downside was Charles Fitzgerald-Lombard, who told us that he understood that Anselm Hurt had applied to go there as a ‘lay brother’, having unsuccessfully made the same request of Downside in 1992. Dom Charles Fitzgerald-Lombard told us that when the abbot of Glenstal, Abbot Christopher Dillon, asked him for information about Hurt, he had sent him a copy of Dom Aelred’s letter from January 1970, which reported Hurt to the DES. He also sent some more recent notes dated 14 March 1994, which referred to the ban on employment imposed by the Ministry of Education, although stated he could not find a copy of the ban itself.[32]

45. On 18 March 1994, Abbot Dillon wrote to Abbot Charles and thanked him for ‘digging in the past’. He said ‘[i]t makes painful reading and I shall destroy what is specifically damaging to Anselm, as some recent document from Rome recommends’.[33] Neither Dom Charles nor Dom Richard could remember seeing such a document from Rome, but Dom Charles told us that he presumed it was advice from the Congregation of Religious in Rome. Dom Charles told us that in his view this was appropriate because the document he had sent to Abbot Dillon was a copy. He accepted that by today’s standards, particularly in relation to an original document, such advice would seem unacceptable.[34] Similarly, Dom Richard Yeo told us that it would not be appropriate to recommend the destruction of documents.[35]

46. Two years later, in 1996, Abbot Dillon informed Abbot Charles that the abbey was likely to receive Hurt as a quasi-novice with a view to full membership of its community. Abbot Charles was asked whether he thought this was appropriate and said that ‘for a sinner to repent is always something that we applaud’.[36]

47. On 9 August 2000, Abbot Richard (as he then was) wrote to Anselm Hurt telling him that he would be very welcome to visit Downside. Given the background, that invitation was plainly ill-advised. Dom Richard told us that he now accepts that this invitation was a ‘mistake’.

48. On 11 April 2001, Abbot Richard wrote to Abbot Dillon of Glenstal Abbey saying that he had no difficulty with Abbot Dillon’s decision to support Anselm Hurt’s request to be allowed to exercise his priestly ministry. In his evidence to us, however, Dom Richard accepted that it was not right to support Anselm Hurt’s return to the priesthood, and told us that he would not write the same letter today. He said that when he had written it he thought that the offence was ‘ancient history’ and, like Dom Charles, felt it was good that a person who had left the monastery should return. He agreed that he did not take account of the ‘safeguarding implications’ of this.[37]

49. Just two weeks later, on 30 April 2001, a motu proprio (an edict personally issued by the Pope to the Roman Catholic Church) was issued by Pope John Paul II. This made the abuse of minors a gravius delictum or ‘more serious delict’ (crime in canon law) and required bishops and religious superiors to report clerics against whom there was probable knowledge that they had committed sexual abuse of minors to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). Dom Richard told us that he did not report Anselm Hurt to the CDF because they ‘variously knew about it’ already and because he did not think that the motu proprio applied retrospectively.[38]

50. Dom Richard was asked about the publication of the Nolan Report in September 2001 and he told us that it had not caused him to reflect on the position of Anselm Hurt. Nor did he think of reporting him to the statutory authorities in 2002, once the association between the Clifton diocese and Downside was underway.[39] Downside accept that it could be said that they fell below the standard required by recommendation 70 but that it is unclear that any obligation arose. This they suggest is in view of (a) Hurt’s absence and (b) the fact that there was no suggestion that at the time it was dealt with (in 1970) it had been dealt with unsatisfactorily.[40]

51. In March 2011, the police investigated RC-A216’s complaint. RC-A216 stated that he had been too drunk to consent to anything.[41] The police interviewed Anselm Hurt. He admitted supplying home-brew to RC-A216 and that mutual masturbation had taken place. He accepted a police caution, which resulted in his being placed on the Sex Offenders Register.[42]

Nicholas [born Richard] White (1985–1989)

52. The case of Fr Nicholas White, born Richard White, spans approximately 20 years. During the mid to late 1980s he committed several child sexual abuse offences. In the 1990s he lived away from Downside, until he returned in the later 1990s.

53. RC-A221 was 11 years old when he arrived at Downside in 1986. He was placed there following a series of family traumas which left him a particularly vulnerable child. He told us that he had been ‘desperately looking forward’ to school until the moment when he walked through the door. He said that then he had ‘cried and cried and cried. It was an utterly horrible experience … I was very much a fish out of water.’[43]

54. White was his geography teacher, and RC-A221 had been warned that he was very strict, so he kept his head down. One afternoon however, White came and was very kind to him. He asked him if he were all right, which RC-A221 told us felt ‘wonderful’, and they went for a walk together. After that they frequently went for walks together. White took him to the monastery gardens, which were out of bounds to pupils, ‘so it felt very special’. White also asked him to pose for some photographs in the garden.[44]

55. One day White took him to the monastery library, also out of bounds to pupils, on the pretext of showing him some maps. While there, as RC-A221 stood looking at a book, White put his hand down RC-A221’s trousers and fondled his penis. RC-A221 could hear rustling going on behind him, which he now realises must have been masturbation, though he did not understand this at the time. He told us:

I remember knowing something profoundly wrong had just happened, and I was quite certain that ‘I am going to go into that monastery building and I am going to tell someone, because these are good, holy people’, and then very quickly I had this sudden wave of terror that I was making a tremendous mistake because it’s possible that I had been given an utterly sacred gift, only given to the special few, and if I went in there, these men would be desperately disappointed and angry with me because I had revealed this secret. That was the logic of my 11-year-old mind, and I think – so I held it in.[45]

56. RC-A221 told us that the abuse continued over a period of time until eventually on a visit to his grandmother he told her about it. She was mortified and told him that he had to tell his father, which he did. The next day RC-A221’s father reported what had happened to the then abbot, John Roberts, who told him: ‘I will sort it out.’[46] When RC-A221 returned to school, White was no longer his geography teacher. He remembers this as being around 1987 and does not recall having any further significant contact with White while he was in the lower school.[47] RC-A221 was never asked to tell anyone at the school what White had done,[48] but one day he was taken out for lunch by Abbot John Roberts. He described this as an awkward experience. Nothing was spoken about what White had done until the journey home, when Abbot John simply said something like: ‘I’m terribly sorry for what happened, and it won’t happen again.’ Unfortunately, this would not turn out to be true.

57. RC-A221 moved up to the senior school in September 1988. As he and his father walked in on his first day, they saw Nicholas White there, greeting the new pupils. RC-A221 has described to us how his father has since said that he was completely shocked to see that this man was to be his custodian and that of roughly 80 boys aged 12 and 13. Then they discovered that White was to be his housemaster:

He was my Housemaster. He was responsible for everything, the day-to-day, right from making sure everyone was getting up in the morning to morning assembly, evening ... he was directly and, to a certain extent, solely responsible for the entire year of 80-odd boys ... [My father] shook his hand, which was puzzling to me. I think I took from that that it’s been sorted out, it won’t happen again. But I think that there was an enormous blindness at play. My father then became part of brushing it under the carpet.[49]

58. The sexual abuse started again a few weeks into the term, eventually becoming a weekly occurrence, with White becoming so reckless that RC-A221 questioned how no one knew what was happening.

I remember very clearly walking down corridors with him on the way to the monastery library and passing monks and other teachers, and just thinking, ‘Does nobody know? Is nobody looking at me and this man and worrying about … does nobody have any idea what’s going on?’[50]

59. RC-A221 explained that he did not report the abuse again because he had done so before, and he felt that to do so again would be ‘completely pointless’. He had become ‘part of the kind of systemic sense of “This can’t be talked about. This isn’t something you speak about”.’

60. RC-A221 told us that suddenly it became public knowledge in the school that White had abused another boy. This had happened in circumstances that were very similar to RC-A221’s experience one year before, but the abuse of this second boy had included anal penetration. RC-A221 told his father about this and also that White had continued to abuse him. RC-A221’s father has since told RC-A221 that he telephoned the headmaster Dom Philip Jebb, who was apparently outraged, and RC-A221’s father’s impression was that Philip Jebb had not known anything of the earlier abuse of RC-A221.[51] Dom Leo told us that as far as he is aware Philip Jebb had been unaware.[52] Dom Richard told us that he thought Philip Jebb had ‘felt betrayed’ by Abbot John Roberts.[53]

61. RC-A221 told us that he understood his own father ‘to be very conflicted. He had to take a choice between his beloved – the beloved framework of the Catholic Church and his son.’ Reflecting back on what had happened to him, RC-A221 said:

I don’t think Father Nicholas was a bad man. I think this was a man desperately struggling with demons, to use a sort of Catholic terminology. I think there was tremendous naivety on the behalf of the authorities, the belief in the power of redemption. I suspect Father Nicholas confessed, was absolved.

If you have an organisation that neatly partitions good and evil, then, you know, you go in as a young child and you believe that stuff; these guys are the representatives of God. But of course, to put it melodramatically, unexpressed sexual tension stalked the corridors of Downside. Some people are able to contain it and find, I guess, a spiritual vessel; other people probably go into those places to try to protect themselves from it. And at the right place – or the wrong place at the wrong time, two individuals meet, something is constellated, and abuse happens.[54]

62. The parents of the boys obtained an injunction to prevent the children’s names being mentioned in the press.[55] RC-A221 told us that his father wanted to protect his son and the family name, in addition to being ‘mindful of protecting the Catholic Church’.[56]

63. The parents of the boys also did not want the matter to be reported to the police. However, it nonetheless became public. An article was published in the News of the World in the summer of 1989, followed by a front page report in the Bath evening paper. Dom Leo told us that it was at this point that Nicholas White was sent away from Downside.[57] After he had left, RC-A221 was called to see Roger Smerdon, who may have been his deputy housemaster at the time. He was very kind and said ‘I’m so sorry that this has happened to you’, but then moved on to ask RC-A221 who he had told.[58] As RC-A221 put it, ‘[t]his was now about damage-limitation’.[59]

64. At some point after the news coverage, the diary of the abbot of Douai, Geoffrey Scott, was stolen. This contained reference to the Nicholas White matter. In a letter that was dated 23 August 1994 to ‘Aidan’, Abbot Geoffrey Scott wrote:

The abbot may have mentioned the story of the diary. I may have told you that I had it stolen about four years ago. When a friend of the thief tried to sell it to the News of the World some weeks ago for £5000(!), the paper tipped the police off, who arrested the young man. The NofW never therefore saw the diary, only three selected pages, which were pretty innocuous, and one of which made a comment about the Downside NW case (which I think I must have seen in the paper at the time) ... the NofW published a dreadful article, but covered itself by not mentioning my name (rather speaking of a middle-aged, unemployed ex-master!) and saying that it was the young man who had made allegations of gay sex between staff and pupils (I knew there was nothing like this in the diary). For once, the police were very helpful. They said immediately that they could find nothing to substantiate the allegations, that the fellow was just after a quick buck, that they would put him on a lengthy bail until September, when they expected the story to die, and then they would recommend caution rather than a court case.[60]

65. Dom Charles Fitzgerald-Lombard said, in relation to the stolen diary, ‘I remember hearing that the police later told [Abbot Geoffrey Scott] that the Bath police were aware but were taking no further action.’[61] He also told us that the school secretary at the time was a retired police officer, Richard Maggs, who retained contacts in the local police force. Dom Charles Fitzgerald-Lombard recalled being assured that the Bath police knew about the allegations but took the view that Downside would deal with the matter appropriately and did not intend to interfere.[62] As we will see, it was not until 2011 that Nicholas White was finally arrested and prosecuted in respect of several offences.

66. White should not have been permitted to continue to teach at Downside School after RC-A221’s disclosure. He should never have been allowed to become RC-A221’s housemaster, or to remain as a teacher in the school. In allowing him to do so, Downside showed complete disregard for safeguarding principles and enabled him to abuse not only RC-A221 again, but also another boy. In RC-A221’s words, ‘had my original declaration … to the Downside authorities been taken seriously, that second boy would never have been abused … I had told them, and it carried on, and he did it to someone else.’[63]

67. Much more recently, in May 2016, another former pupil RC-A28 disclosed to police that he too had been sexually abused by White, and that this had taken place in around 1985, which would have been about a year before RC-A221 had joined the school. He said that he had been subjected to over a dozen acts of sexual abuse, including penetration.[64] It is not known whether this was known to the school at the time.

68. In 2017, a fourth former pupil, RC-A196, came forward and raised concerns about White’s behaviour. According to the case summary prepared by Liam Ring, safeguarding coordinator for Clifton diocese,[65] these related to the 1980s. RC-A196 told Liam Ring that on one occasion White stroked his arm and shoulder. He thought that White might have been naked at the time. He recalled White touching his groin, but he managed to push him away. RC-A196 gave details of other times when White would go into the shower area for no good reason and ask to see him. He also said that he was called to White’s rooms, where he found White naked, sat with nothing but a towel over his lap which he slowly removed while talking to RC-A196, revealing his penis. He said that on another occasion in 1986 or 1987 during an argument in a queue in the refectory, White had ‘cupped him’ and squeezed his scrotum. RC-A196 had reacted by punching White and then running off.

69. RC-A196 told Liam Ring that he had spoken to the then headmaster Dom Philip Jebb about White’s actions, but we have seen no evidence to suggest that any action was taken.[66] In March 2017, RC-A196 met with Mr Hobbs to go through his school notes but there was no record of any such report to Dom Philip Jebb or anyone else.[67]

70. After leaving Downside, Nicholas White was moved first to Buckfast Abbey in Devon, and then to Benet House, Cambridge.[68]

71. Having been bursar since 1975, Charles Fitzgerald-Lombard became abbot in December 1990.[69] In his written statement he said that he had been aware that the fathers of ‘the two boys’ had sought to ensure that the incidents remained confidential. He had spoken to one of the fathers in August 1989.[70] Dom Charles also stated that:

[t]he allegation as it first emerged was that he had put his hand down the boy’s trousers while they were alone together for one-to-one tuition. This was serious enough for his dismissal and exile from the abbey which Abbot John ordered. It was only years later, after I had ceased to be abbot, that I learnt Richard faced a more serious charge following a police investigation. I have never known the detail of these allegations.[71]

72. Having become abbot in December 1990, it appears that Abbot Charles Fitzgerald-Lombard instructed Cambridgeshire Consultancy in Counselling to provide an assessment of White in early 1991. On 19 March 1991, they wrote to Abbot Charles. They said that White was anxious to return to Downside and that ‘[a]s for the particular incident that led to his departure from Downside, I think given friendly support and freedom from undue pressure and temptation that it is most unlikely to recur’.[72]

73. Dom Charles Fitzgerald-Lombard was asked whether he had been trying to bring White back to Downside. He explained that when he had written his statement for the Inquiry he had thought that he had not been involved in any arrangements for White to return to Downside, and that it had been Abbot Richard Yeo who had eventually allowed White back into the abbey. But now, looking at correspondence and at Abbot Richard’s statement, he accepted that White’s return was not only under discussion during his time as abbot, but also that he had been involved in the decision-making process.[73] Abbot Charles Fitzgerald-Lombard was in fact instrumental in arranging White’s eventual return to Downside Abbey.

74. Dom Aidan Bellenger has said ‘Richard [White] was away for the whole of my time as headmaster and I had no contact with him during his absence. I rather assumed he would not be returning to Downside at all, but [his] management was not considered a school matter so … I was not consulted about it.’[74]

75. In May 1991, Abbot Charles Fitzgerald-Lombard wrote to White, stating that: ‘[b]roadly speaking’ he thought it was in everyone’s interest that he should remain out of sight and out of mind of the school until at least July 1994, and that even then care would need to be taken to avoid ‘scurrilous gossip which might set the clock back’ … ‘I would be inclined to allow an increased presence [of Nicholas White] in the school during holiday time and perhaps even midweek in term time.’ Dom Charles told us that in one sense he was trying to protect the reputation of the school but said he did not think that the letter suggested that was ‘the overriding consideration’. He said that Nicholas White was very keen to return to Downside and he was ‘trying to slow that … to limit that.’ It is clear however that his purpose in setting a date was not to protect the children at the school, but to ensure that those who might remember White’s acts had gone and to avoid any scandal that might arise from his return.

76. In August 1991, Abbot Charles wrote to Abbot Finbar of Douai Abbey in Berkshire asking to place Fr Nicholas at a parish in Cheltenham the following summer. He explained his request, saying that two and a half years earlier Abbot John had had to remove White ‘owing to a scandal involving two boys’, but that as far as he knew ‘the moral lapses were single, isolated incidents of a comparatively minor nature’. He said that it was his ‘feeling Father Nicholas should soon make a move towards eventual return to community life here [at Downside] but this would obviously be inappropriate for several more years’. When questioned about this, Dom Charles told us that he had not been secretly trying to bring White back into Downside, rather his intention was that White should not be seen around Downside while there were boys in the school who knew what he had done ‘because that would just start sort of gossip’.[75]

77. In August 1993, Abbot Charles wrote to the abbot of Fort Augustus in Scotland, Abbot Mark Dilworth asking him to give a temporary place to White. In this letter Abbot Charles explained that five years earlier White had committed a ‘comparatively minor offence of indecency involving a boy at a time that he was under great pressure’. Dom Charles was asked about this in evidence and told us that at that stage ‘we did not know about a more serious offence’.[76] Nevertheless, it is clear from Dom Charles’ witness statement that at the very least he was aware that there were two boys who had made allegations, and that one account had involved Nicholas White putting his hands down a boy’s trousers. Of itself, that was sufficiently serious to send Nicholas White away.

78. Arrangements were then made for White to go to Fort Augustus. Dom Charles told us that by that time the school at Fort Augustus had closed so it was a suitable location for him.[77] There was further correspondence with Abbot Dilworth in August 1993, in which Abbot Charles stated: ‘The nature of his (I hope past) problem is politically very sensitive and I have stressed to him the great importance of avoiding any, even entirely open, situations, which bring him into contact with children.’ This, he said, was because he did not want either himself or Abbot Dilworth to be considered negligent by putting White into unacceptable situations. He concluded that he knew he could leave it to the abbot’s good judgement. When asked in the hearing whether he considered this to be sufficient management of Nicholas White, Dom Charles said that at the time he did, because it was thought that the offences were ‘relatively minor’, albeit that they are ‘never absolutely minor’, and that it was simply part of resolving the ongoing problem. He said that he had not reported the matter to the police because the more serious aspect was not known, and at that point White’s rehabilitation was going well. He felt that with the passage of time his ‘notoriety ... was not particularly active and there seemed to be no particular advantage in stirring the pot and bringing it all up again’.[78]

79. When asked whether he had monitored White at Fort Augustus, Dom Charles said: ‘to a certain extent’. He explained that this meant that he had asked White to write to him from time to time. When asked what steps he took to ensure that White had no contact with children, Dom Charles replied that none of the jobs he was given involved children,[79] though it is not clear how he would have known this.

80. In April 1994, Abbot Charles wrote to Abbot Dilworth again, saying that they should review the position in about a year’s time but there was no possibility that Fr Nicholas could return to Downside until at least July 1996. He said it ‘all depends on the “political temperature” on an issue which is currently very high profile’.[80] Dom Charles told us that he was concerned that White should not return to Downside when there were still people who knew who he was, so that he, White, did not feel gossiped about. Dom Charles told us that he did also consider the families and the old Gregorians who might be in attendance at certain types of gatherings, and said that he asked White to leave when these took place. White, he said, was good at adhering to restrictions.[81]

81. In 1997, Abbot Charles again wrote to Abbot Dilworth about the return of Fr Nicholas in August 1998. In this letter he said: ‘I am hopeful that the climate among our national witch-hunters will be sufficiently muted for him to take up a strictly monastic residence again.’[82] Dom Charles told us that this was a very flippant comment made in a private letter, but that it had seemed at the time as though there was a campaign against the Catholic clergy which involved digging up historic scandals. He expressed regret at making the comment and said that he did not feel the same way now, with the approach to child sexual abuse having revolutionised over the last 10 years or so.[83]

82. In fact, White remained at Fort Augustus until January 1999, when he did return to Downside Abbey. Dom Richard Yeo, who was abbot by this time, has told us that he had known that Nicholas White had abused two pupils in the 1980s. Although he could not recall the exact date when he first heard this, it would have been shortly after it became known by the Downside community. Dom Richard Yeo explained that when he had become abbot of Downside, the outgoing abbot, Charles Fitzgerald-Lombard, had informed him that arrangements had been made for White’s return. Dom Richard Yeo accepted that, once abbot, he could have stopped White from returning, but said that the arrangements made by Abbot Charles were overtaken by events, namely the closure of Fort Augustus.[84] Dom Richard Yeo told us that ‘in response to some careless remark of mine, Dom Phillip Jebb stopped me, and reminded me that the reason Richard White should be at Downside was to keep children safe, not to keep Richard safe’. He said that this ‘dictated’ his decision to accept him back at Downside.[85]

83. Downside accept that White was allowed to return without a proper assessment of the potential risks, however they point to the 1991 assessment (discussed above) that concluded that with support and freedom from temptation White was unlikely to reoffend.[86]

84. A group of Old Gregorians (the name given to former pupils of Downside) commissioned Krystyna Kirkpatrick, a barrister specialising in family law, to advise them on the implications there might be for an independent educational establishment, if the institution should become aware that a member of their wider group was not fit to be in the proximity of children.[87]

85. In her advice, Ms Kirkpatrick concluded that failure by ‘an educational establishment’ to comply with its duty to protect and safeguard children in its care could lead to local authority or Secretary of State intervention, and to ‘scandal with far-reaching consequences’. Dom Richard told us that, after receiving this advice in November 2000, he realised that his actions in respect of restrictions were ‘insufficient’. On 28 November 2000, and in response to concerns raised by the governing body, he wrote to the governors and acknowledged that several had expressed concern about the way in which he had dealt with White. He informed them that he would seek the advice of another barrister, Mr Eldred Tabachnik, and asked the governors to keep the matter confidential to limit damaging publicity.[88]

86. By December 2000, Abbot Richard was considering the issue of whether he had an obligation to report Nicholas White to the police. He told us that at that stage he did not consider that he was obliged to report him, but instead was of the view that he needed to obtain further advice. He therefore went to see Mr Gregg of Gregg Galbraith Quinn, a firm of solicitors in Bristol.[89] On 15 December 2000,[90] Mr Gregg wrote to Abbot Richard Yeo with his initial advice, which was that the abbot could be regarded as ‘the relevant person’ as termed under the Childcare Standards Act 2000, and that he was therefore under a duty to safeguard and protect the welfare of the pupils at Downside. He continued to say that, in his opinion, notwithstanding the date of the offences, there was no doubt that if a formal complaint were made to the police it would result not only in a full investigation but also a prosecution. The letter also gave advice as to the action that Abbot Richard should take, including the commission of an up-to-date psychological report. On 20 December 2000, Mr Gregg wrote a second letter.[91] In this he said that, having canvassed the views of senior colleagues at the Bar, in his view Abbot Richard Yeo was not under a duty to report the matter to the police. However, he said that there was a school of thought which would support the theory that the duty of the relevant person would go so far as to require them to make such a report. Dom Richard told us that while this did cause him some concern, he did not go to the police.[92]

87. Abbot Richard then received the advice from Mr Tabachnik QC in February 2001. In summary, this concluded that:

  1. The abbey could not monitor Fr Nicholas White 24 hours a day.
  2. Downside was not the ideal location for him.
  3. The more precautions taken, the more the risk of anything untoward taking place would be reduced.
  4. Downside would be justified in taking steps to minimise the risk by locating White to another monastery where the prospect of contact with boys was remote.[93]

88. Abbot Richard decided not to move White to another monastery. He told us that it would have been extremely difficult by that stage to have found another monastery which would have been prepared to take him. He said that instead he had decided to ask Fr Leo, Fr Aidan Bellenger and Fr Philip Jebb to conduct an assessment ‘of what we could do’ while he carried out the steps as recommended by the solicitor Mr Gregg. He accepted that he had referred to this as a ‘risk assessment’ in his witness statement. When asked about their qualifications to conduct any form of risk assessment, he responded that they ‘knew Downside very well and they knew what Downside could do and what it couldn’t do. They knew Richard well.’[94]

89. The assessment carried out by Frs Leo, Aidan and Philip was not a recognised form of risk assessment. Both Dom Leo and Dom Aidan have acknowledged that they were not qualified to properly assess any risk that White posed. Dom Leo Maidlow Davis said that the ‘feeling was that the abuse was connected with [Nicholas White’s] position of authority in the school and that, without a position of authority and with surveillance, it was a risk that could be successfully managed’. However, he accepted that he was not qualified to make that assessment and it was ‘largely’ logistics that were being assessed.[95] Dom Aidan Bellenger said that while they did not have formal qualifications in safeguarding, it was ‘more of a managerial approach, that is to say, how could he be kept away entirely from any contact with the school and its pupils?’[96] It should not have been suggested to us that it was a risk assessment and given the seriousness of the matter Abbot Richard should have reported it to the external authorities and the police without delay.

90. Instead Richard White attended Our Lady of Victory Trust, Brownshill, for a fuller course of treatment between April and October 2001.[97]

91. As already mentioned above, Pope John Paul II issued a motu proprio (papal edict)[98] on 30 April 2001 which made the abuse of minors a serious delict and required offenders to be reported. As with Anselm Hurt, Abbot Richard did not report White to the CDF because the offences had occurred before the edict had been issued, and he did not consider that it might apply retrospectively.[99]

92. Abbot Richard did not report White to the statutory authorities, despite the Nolan recommendations made that September. Nor did Abbot Richard think of reporting White to the statutory authorities in 2002 once the association between Clifton diocese and Downside was underway.[100] Downside accept that they fell below the standard required by recommendation 70.[101]

93. A meeting between Richard White, Dom Philip Jebb, Dom Lawrence Kelly,[102] Mr John L van der Waals (director of continuing care at Our Lady of Victory) and Abbot Richard was held on 23 November 2001.[103] The meeting concluded that White was ‘committed to maintaining the changes he has made’.[104] Dom Richard told us that he ‘remained alive however to the role I needed to play in ensuring that the wider community – lay and monastic – were protected from Richard’. Therefore, in February 2002, he sought further advice from Gregg Galbraith Quinn solicitors on the wording of the strengthened guidelines to be provided to Richard White.[105] On 8 July 2002, Brownshill wrote to Downside enclosing a copy of a risk assessment report by Royston Williams in June 2002. According to the letter, Royston Williams had stated that he believed any risk of re-offending was ‘low’. In 2003, Abbot Richard appointed Nicholas White as his own secretary, taking the place of RC-F123 who had replaced O’Keeffe.[106] Dom Richard told us that the guidelines were reviewed periodically, and a revised version was agreed in February 2006. He said that Nicholas White engaged with continuing care throughout his time at Downside up to the end of Dom Richard’s term as abbot.[107]

94. Fr Aidan Bellenger told us that after Nicholas White had returned he did think that there had been instances when White had come across children in the gardens.[108] Fr Aidan Bellenger became abbot in 2006. He told us that the reason he had not considered reporting Nicholas White to the statutory authorities was because he had inherited the matter from Richard Yeo, and there was in some sense ‘continuity’.[109]

95. As a result of the multi-agency strategy meetings which commenced on 24 June 2010, an audit of school records was undertaken by the Clifton diocese and the police. This uncovered the original complaints made against Richard White. Richard White was arrested and subsequently charged with 10 offences – six of indecent assault against a boy under 14, and four of gross indecency against a boy under 14, with a further four offences of indecent assault against a boy under 14 taken into consideration, despite his not having made a statement. Richard White pleaded guilty to seven out of 10 counts, accepted by the prosecution. The three remaining matters were left to lie on the court file. On 3 January 2012, White was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment and made subject to a Sexual Offences Prevention Order. He was placed on the Sex Offenders Register and was indefinitely disqualified from working with children. He was released on licence in March 2015.[110] White died on 18 May 2016.

RC-F65 (1996 and 1991)

96. On 28 January 1996, Carol Redmond-Lyon, a senior tutor at Downside,[111] wrote to Abbot Charles Fitzgerald-Lombard to inform him that a 16-year-old pupil, RC-A95, had come to her in distress with a ‘very disturbing and detailed account’ of a recent ‘sexual experience’ with RC-F65, who was at that time in a senior leadership position at the school. The boy had told her, during private counselling, that he had had homosexual feelings for some time.[112] Dom Charles Fitzgerald-Lombard told us that at the time he had not felt it appropriate to enquire any further into the details of what had happened because of the nature of the relationship between the boy and Carol Redmond-Lyon. He was not informed of RC-A95’s name, apparently because the information was considered to have been given to Ms Redmond-Lyon in confidence, rather than as a formal complaint, and it was therefore not thought necessary to give further details to Abbot Charles.[113]

97. Anthony Domaille carried out a number of preliminary enquiry protocol investigations for Clifton diocese. In a later interview with Mr Anthony Domaille for a report dated 19 June 2011, RC-A95 recalled that he and RC-F65 had spent some time kissing before RC-F65 had performed oral sex on him. In those interviews, Ms Redmond-Lyon (referred to in the document as Mrs Matthews) said that she remembered being told about an inappropriate encounter by RC-A95, but that she could not recall him describing any sexual contact in detail. In contrast to this, Mr Martin Fisher, the deputy headmaster at the time of the incident, recalled there being a reference to oral sex in the written record that Ms Redmond-Lyon had made at the time (which appears to have since been destroyed). Dom Charles Fitzgerald-Lombard told Mr Domaille that he did not know RC-A95’s name or the details of what had happened.[114]

98. Abbot Charles called a meeting with Carol Redmond-Lyon, Martin Fisher and Dom Philip Jebb, the prior and former headmaster. In a private memorandum dated 29 January 1996, Abbot Charles recorded that at this meeting he explained that although they had not yet formally adopted a set of procedures for such situations, all procedures placed great emphasis on the Paramountcy Principle.[115] He wrote that RC-A95 was ‘over the age for ordinary sexual consent but under the age for consenting to specific homosexual acts. There being no witnesses and both parties being drunk it is not entirely clear what happened and possibly never would be.’ Ms Redmond-Lyon’s opinion, as set out in his memo, was that the Paramountcy Principle made it essential that the matter be dealt with quietly, since RC-A95 had told her of the incident in confidence and had not made a formal complaint. She also was said to feel that that there was no short-term risk, rendering immediate removal of RC-F65 unnecessary. Abbot Charles concluded that since RC-A95’s own interest was paramount, taking account of his age, circumstances and opinion, and the fact that he was not making a formal complaint, he could accept the recommendation for a low-key response on an interim basis. He would consider the matter further and would speak to RC-F65.[116]

99. Abbot Charles had a meeting with RC-F65. In a second private memorandum dated 29 January 1996 he recorded that RC-F65 had told him that the incident had been initiated by RC-A95, and was essentially a problem of alcohol rather than sexual urge. Abbot Charles was of the view that there was ‘a conflict between the application of the principle of paramountcy of the young man’s interest as indicated by the unanimous opinion of the committee [he] had set up and the normal routine of calling in external investigators as a matter of course’. Abbot Charles continued to say that given his understanding of the Paramountcy Principle, the lack of formal complaint and the committee’s view of future risk, he decided to await a further report from Ms Redmond-Lyon before considering what action to take.[117]

100. A further meeting took place on 7 February 1996. In preparation for this, Abbot Charles put together a document summarising the issues. In this he expressed the opinion that:

The main problem in the case of RC-F65 would seem to be one of drink (which is now being taken in hand) while the sexual problem rests mainly with the young man (who acknowledges his own homosexuality). This does not exonerate RC-F65 from responsibility for his conduct, even when drunk, but it focuses attention on the best interests of the young man and suggests that RC-F65 is not, as is usual in such cases, a sexual deviant who is a danger to youths.

Abbot Charles acknowledged that the usual response would have been to call for external investigators and suspend RC-F65 but stated that this had to be tested against the paramountcy principle. He concluded that it would not be in the best interests of RC-A95 were the incident to be exposed.[118]

101. The meeting was again attended by Abbot Charles, Dom Philip Jebb, Mr Fisher and Ms Redmond-Lyon. The note of this meeting recorded that Ms Redmond-Lyon agreed with Abbot Charles’ document and its conclusions. It also stated that Dom Philip, who had taken RC-F65 ‘under his special care’, thought that what was needed was monitoring and confidence-building. Abbot Charles in his note recorded that: ‘It was an odd case. Sometimes when I thought about it I felt it was the most appalling imaginable situation and then on reflection I would think that it was really a silly passing incident between two males who had had too much to drink.’ All agreed to continue monitoring and offering support to both parties, and to review the situation at a later date.[119] On 4 July 1996, Ms Redmond-Lyon wrote to Abbot Charles saying that she was satisfied that the action taken had been appropriate.[120]

102. In his report dated 19 June 2011, when reviewing this case, Anthony Domaille said that all parties accepted that Abbot Charles never knew the identity of RC-A95 nor the exact nature of the alleged sexual activity. However, it was clear that Abbot Charles had known he was dealing with a serious matter. Mr Domaille said that Abbot Charles, Dom Philip, Mr Fisher and Ms Redmond-Lyon were wrong not to inform the statutory authorities. He stated they should have considered the best interests of the other young people with whom RC-F65 may have had contact. He concluded that had he been conducting the investigation in 1996, he would have found that RC-F65 potentially posed a grave risk to young people.[121]

103. Dom Charles has told us that the committee would almost certainly have acted differently today and removed RC-F65 from his post immediately.[122] But RC-F65 was allowed to remain in his post. This was plainly wrong, and Downside have accepted that.[123] RC-F65 should have been removed from his post and the matter reported to the authorities immediately. While RC-A95’s wishes were a factor to take into consideration, it should have been reported. The issue was one of how to report it, not whether to do so, and the matter should have been reported.

104. Shortly after this incident, because of his position in the school, RC-F65 was involved in the investigation of an allegation of inappropriate behaviour by a lay master. Jane Dziadulewicz felt that the matter had not been investigated appropriately[124] and, referring to RC-F65’s part in that investigation, told us that it was a recurrent problem at Downside that ‘complaints’ were investigated by individuals who themselves had been accused of child sexual abuse. She said that ‘it was no wonder that there would be times when they would find those children at fault rather than their colleagues’.

105. Richard Yeo became abbot in 1998. RC-F65 remained in the school. Dom Richard Yeo has said that when he became abbot, his predecessor Charles Fitzgerald-Lombard had told him that the 1996 incident had been indecent exposure, which Dom Richard Yeo agreed would not be accurate, though he could not say whether it was his memory that was at fault. He said that Mr Fisher told him that the allegation was not substantiated because both parties had been drunk and it was unclear what had happened. Dom Richard did not recall seeing Abbot Charles’ notes about the incident.[125] Dom Charles did not remember any such handover conversation but was happy to accept Dom Richard Yeo’s evidence.[126]

106. Again, as with Anselm Hurt and Nicholas White, despite the papal edict on 30 April 2001, Abbot Richard Yeo did not report RC-F65 to the CDF because the incident had taken place before 2001, and he did not think it applied retrospectively.[127] Dom Richard also told us that again recommendations 69 and 70 of the final Nolan Report in September 2001 did not cause him to reflect on the position of RC-F65. Nor did he think of reporting RC-F65 to the statutory authorities in 2002, once the association between the Clifton diocese and Downside was underway.[128] Downside accept that they also fell below the standard required by recommendation 70 of the Nolan Report[129] in respect of RC-F65.[130]

107. Dom Leo Maidlow Davis became headmaster in 2003. He told us that he was not aware of the allegation against RC-F65 until 2010.[131] Downside state that the initial errors in the handling of the case were compounded by a failure to ensure that Dom Leo Maidlow Davis was informed about the matter.[132]

108. In 2003, RC-F65 was appointed a parish priest in East Anglia.[133] Despite having apparently been told the allegation against him was unreliable, Dom Richard told us that he became ‘a bit uneasy about this as time went on because [he] worried about some of the assumptions made in coming to th[at] conclusion’.[134] As a result, Abbot Richard went to speak to the priest who was the child protection officer of the diocese (presumably the diocese of East Anglia) about the 1996 allegation, who said he would pass it on to the bishop.[135] Downside have accepted that the matter ‘ought more properly’ to have been referred to the Clifton diocesan safeguarding office, which plainly it was not.[136]

109. In 2006, RC-F65 became a school governor[137] of a school in East Anglia.[138] Aidan Bellenger succeeded Richard Yeo as abbot that same year. Dom Aidan told us that when he became abbot, Dom Richard had informed him of the allegation against RC-F65. He was surprised that Dom Richard had not told him during his time as prior, and ‘looked at from today’s perspective’ thought that he should have done. He accepted that there was potential for a safeguarding issue.[139] Dom Aidan could not recall whether it was he or Abbot Richard who had allowed RC-F65’s appointment as a school governor.[140] Regardless of who was responsible, allowing such an appointment was plainly inappropriate, something that Dom Richard has accepted in his evidence.[141] Downside have accepted that the appointment was a serious error.[142]

110. It appears that no further action was taken in respect of RC-F65. As a result of the strategy meetings and investigations, the statutory authorities became aware of RC-A95’s complaint. At the fourth review strategy meeting on 17 November 2010, it was agreed that RC-F65 should be suspended from active public ministry.[143] Claire Winter, local authority designated officer (LADO) for Somerset County Council told us that around that time she received two telephone calls from the Secretary of State for Education’s office, asking for information about when the decision was going to be made. Ms Winter replied by explaining that it was a child protection matter, and she was not prepared to discuss it. She then received a further telephone call from someone who described himself as the Secretary of State for Education and pressed her for the same information. She declined to give it.[144]

111. The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, who was then Secretary of State for Education, has responded to Ms Winter’s evidence and provided us with a statement.[145] He has said that there was no attempt at intervention by the DES, nor did he personally make any such telephone calls. He has said that there is no record of any such calls being made from his offices, and that he would have no reason to make such calls as he did not know RC-F65 and would have had no interest in the matter. Claire Winter has now provided a further statement making it clear that her evidence reflected her recollection of the events and telephone calls.[146] We take the view that there is insufficient evidence on this point from which to draw any conclusions.

112. The police interviewed RC-F65 on 11 January 2011. He stated that, without warning or encouragement, RC-A95 touched his testicles and that when he left his study to go to his bedroom, RC-A95 followed him and undressed himself. RC-F65 claimed that he did not see RC-A95 naked and there was no physical contact between them. The police then spoke on the telephone to RC-A95. He stated that after drinking, he and RC-F65 had kissed and touched each other. The police considered that, as this had happened before the Sexual Offences Act 2003, the potential offence would have been sexual assault under the Sexual Offences Act 1956.[147] They concluded that under the 1956 Act, RC-A95 was over the legal age (16 years) and therefore no offence had been disclosed.[148]

113. On 18 March 2011, Anthony Domaille conducted a preliminary enquiry protocol investigation in order to assess whether or not RC-F65 presented a risk to children and/or vulnerable adults.[149] In his report dated 19 June 2011, Mr Domaille stated that he interviewed all the people involved in the 1996 matter, excluding Dom Philip Jebb.[150] As we have already seen, RC-A95 told him that RC-F65 had performed oral sex on him. RC-F65 denied that any sexual activity had taken place. Mr Domaille stated that on balance he preferred RC-A95’s account to that of RC-F65. Having concluded that RC-F65 had potentially posed a grave risk to young people back in 1995, he said that 15 years on, and in the absence of any suggestion of any other inappropriate conduct, any risk was smaller, although he was not qualified to conduct a risk assessment.[151]

114. A panel was convened to consider Mr Domaille’s report. A handwritten note from Abbot Aidan on a message from RC-F65 dated 6 July 2011 said that he was sorry to hear of the ‘glum report’ and hoped that the panel ‘took it lightly’. Dom Aidan told us that when he wrote this he was trying to encourage RC-F65 to keep going as he was in quite a volatile state.[152] On 9 August 2011, the panel hearing took place. The panel understood that RC-F65 did not intend to attend the hearing, and so he was not present. The panel endorsed Mr Domaille’s report and said that it would have come to the same conclusion. The panel was concerned that RC-F65 denied an allegation which they considered to be upheld on the balance of probabilities. They recommended that an independent risk assessment be commissioned as soon as possible.[153]

115. On 26 October 2011, the panel reconvened as there had apparently been a misunderstanding about RC-F65’s desire to be at the previous hearing. On this occasion RC-F65 did attend. He maintained his position that he had not sexually assaulted RC-A95 but that RC-A95 had made advances to him, which he had rejected. As a result, the panel modified their previous conclusions, saying that given the length of time since the incident, and the fact that no action had been taken then, it would be unfair to prefer RC-A95’s version to that of RC-F65. The panel recommended a risk assessment to determine whether RC-F65 was a risk to children or young people.[154]

116. The risk assessment was carried out around December 2011 by Dave Tregaskis, who worked as independent practitioner specialising in risk assessments for the diocesan clergy and members of religious organisations.[155] An email from Mr Domaille to Abbot Aidan on 4 January 2012 summarised that the report’s conclusion was that a return to public ministry would not represent a risk in terms of public protection. The report apparently also said that although the same might be said of a return to the abbey, the recommendations made in Lord Carlile’s report into Ealing Abbey might be interpreted as making such a return inappropriate. Mr Domaille advised that if RC-F65 were to return to his ministry, Abbot Aidan should require him to enter into a written agreement preventing him from seeing young people alone.[156]

117. On 9 January 2012, Abbot Aidan Bellenger informed RC-F65 that, following the risk assessment, his options were either (i) to return to East Anglia or (ii) to decide to stay or to leave the active ministry. Abbot Aidan said that ‘[g]iven the fall-out I do not think that a return to Downside (at least at the moment) is on’. RC-F65 responded that he would like to continue in East Anglia.[157] Dom Aidan told us that he ‘did not expect him to return to Downside, nor did [I] hope for it’. He said that he was concerned that RC-F65 was ‘very keen on remaining in some sense a monk, but [I] thought of him more as a distant member of the community rather than a resident one’.[158]

118. In April 2012, a further allegation came to light when RC-A103, a former Downside pupil, said that around 1991, following discussion with RC-F65 in his private rooms in the school, RC-F65 had put his hand down his trousers. They had both been drinking. RC-A103 was then 18 years old. He said that he had raised it with Aidan Bellenger and Dom Leo Maidlow Davis at the time.[159] We have not seen any records or further details about this disclosure.

119. As a result of RC-A103’s complaint, Mr Tregaskis was asked to prepare an addendum risk assessment. In his report, dated 2 July 2012, Mr Tregaskis said that his previous conclusion (in 2011) that the incident in 1996 was an isolated one could no longer be sustained. In addition to RC-A103’s recent allegation, he referred to a further matter that had been raised by a former pupil. The latter did not amount to an allegation, although the individual concerned indicated that he might make further contact with the safeguarding office. Mr Tregaskis also referred to the fact that RC-F65 would not be returning to East Anglia and that consideration was being given to him acting on a supply basis in parishes in Northampton, where he was then living. Mr Tregaskis felt that the developments made it necessary to review the issue of risk, and the question of whether there should be restrictions attached if he returned to the ministry. Mr Tregaskis found the 1991 and 1996 allegations credible on the balance of probabilities, and concluded that restriction should be placed on interaction with post-pubescent males under 18 years of age.[160]

120. On 2 August 2012, a meeting was held with RC-F65, Abbot Aidan Bellenger, Bishop Peter Doyle and Kay Taylor-Duke (safeguarding coordinator from Northampton diocese) and Ms Jane Dziadulewicz (from Clifton diocese). The decision was reached that RC-F65 would remain in Northampton under restrictions and a Covenant of Care. Day-to-day management would rest with Northampton, but the management plan would be shared with Clifton diocese. It was also agreed that Abbot Aidan and Ms Dziadulewicz would discuss the issue of visits to Downside.[161] In October 2012, Abbot Aidan wrote to RC-F65 to inform him that he could return to Downside in very limited circumstances, and ‘definitely not at Easter, Christmas or during term time’.[162]

121. In November 2012 concerns were raised by Clifton diocese in relation to the lack of restrictions in RC-F65’s Covenant of Care, which had been created by the Northampton diocese. This was reviewed toward the end of 2013.[163]

122. Ms Dziadulewicz told us that information was not shared with Clifton diocese, which had caused problems. She said that she had attempted to raise the matter with Ms Taylor-Duke but she had not been receptive. In Ms Dziadulewicz’s opinion, Ms Taylor-Duke was conflicted by her dual role as safeguarding coordinator and clergy welfare adviser, and her support for RC-F65 prevented her from properly addressing the safeguarding concerns.[164]

123. Ms Dziadulewicz expressed the view that this was an example of the difficulties that abbots and bishops have in exerting their authority. She said that RC-F65 was:

running rings around people and that to have two safeguarding officers, two dioceses, having difficulty information sharing could have been resolved by the abbot actually being more directive with this individual. It felt like we were being left, as safeguarding officers, to try and resolve this, and I do believe this has been an ongoing problem since … I left the diocese.[165]

124. On 12 March 2014, at the request of Northampton, Mr Tregaskis provided yet another risk assessment, in which he concluded that at that time RC-F65 represented a low risk of further sexually abusive behaviour. In his opinion allowing RC-F65 to return to limited pastoral work would be a defensible decision, provided that any safeguarding coordinator was given sufficient relevant information.[166]

125. On 3 April 2014, Ms Dziadulewicz emailed Abbot Aidan expressing concern that RC-F65 had been doing supply work in the Clifton diocese for a second time without her having been given prior notification. She also said that Ms Taylor-Duke was considering a request from East Anglia for him to do supply work there without having asked for her view.[167]

126. A case chronology prepared by Mr Liam Ring shows that there were ongoing concerns about the communication between Clifton diocese and Northampton diocese.[168] These were raised at a Downside meeting on 18 December 2014, where it was said that matters appeared to be exacerbated by the safeguarding officer, Ms Taylor-Duke, acting not only in her formal role, but also as RC-F65’s ‘advocate’. On 2 February 2015, there was reference to Dom Leo expressing disquiet about a plan for RC-F65 to be placed in a parish in Northampton without consulting him. Like Ms Dziadulewicz, Mr Ring told us that Ms Taylor-Duke had potentially put more of an emphasis on her pastoral support of RC-F65 than on the safeguarding concerns.[169]

127. On 25 February 2015, there was a meeting between Downside and Clifton diocese at which further concerns were raised about issues involving RC-F65 and adult males. On 27 March 2015 there was a meeting between Downside, Clifton diocese and Northampton diocese where the potential impact of the new information on RC-F65’s management was discussed. It was decided that another risk assessment process should be considered once Mr Ring had concluded his review, and agreed that there would be ‘no ministry’, and that RC-F65 would remain in Northampton and not go to East Anglia.[170]

128. On 1 April 2015, Dom Leo Maidlow Davis wrote to Bishop Peter Doyle to inform him that he could not agree to the supply arrangement that had been suggested by Bishop Peter in a letter dated 30 March 2015. Dom Leo referred to a safeguarding meeting held on 30 March 2015, the same date as Bishop Peter’s letter, in which Ms Taylor-Duke had said that RC-F65 would be ‘grounded’ while further historical concerns were looked into by Clifton diocese.[171] On 16 April 2015, a meeting was held with amongst others, Bishop Peter Doyle (Northampton), Kay Taylor-Duke, Liam Ring, Dom Leo Maidlow Davis and RC-F65. Particular concern was expressed about Bishop Peter’s proposal for RC-F65 to do long-term supply work.[172]

129. On 3 August 2015, there was a further meeting between Clifton diocese and Northampton diocese, on this occasion to discuss a request by RC-F65 to return to some degree of active ministry.[173] In October 2015, Dom Leo was still trying to assess whether or not it was safe or prudent for RC-F65 to return to ministry.[174] Mr Ring advised Dom Leo to formalise the ‘no ministry’ for RC-F65.[175] Thereafter meetings and discussions continued between Clifton diocese, Northampton diocese and Downside about the appropriate management of RC-F65 and his ability to undertake active ministry. A risk assessment was carried out by the Lucy Faithfull Foundation (LFF) in October 2017,[176] but the results of this assessment are not known to the Inquiry.

130. Several witnesses have described to us the challenges involved in the management of RC-F65. Mr Ring told us that this was one of the current cases where there was an ‘element of inertia’ in trying to resolve ongoing issues, but he explained that the difficulty in finding an appropriate place for RC-F65 ‘mirror[ed] secular society’ in terms of when ‘nobody wants to deal with ... an offender or perpetrator’. Steve Livings, the current chair of the Clifton diocese safeguarding commission, has said that RC-F65 has been the main safeguarding challenge during his time at the commission. Dom Leo also told us that RC-F65 has been ‘difficult to manage’.[177]

Dunstan (born Desmond) O’Keeffe (1997, 1999, 2003 and 2004)

131. Dunstan (born Desmond) O’Keeffe was a monk and teacher. In 1997 Malcolm Daniels, the head of information and communication technology (ICT) at the school, discovered that a member of staff, subsequently identified as Dunstan O’Keeffe, had been accessing indecent images on the school’s computer equipment.[178]

132. Following our public hearings in November and December 2017, Mr Daniels approached the Inquiry and has provided a statement and several documents from his personal files that were not previously available to us. These include letters that he wrote to Martin Fisher, who was deputy headmaster at the time of the school’s investigation into Dunstan O’Keeffe. It is surprising that the school did not seem to have copies of these documents. We would expect them to have been retained in the school records.

133. One of the documents is a report entitled ‘The investigation of irregularities in the unauthorised use of the internet in the IT centre’. The first page states that it ‘involves the use of shocking, depraved and probably paedophilic material’ and appeals for the matter to be treated ‘thoroughly, quickly and very sensitively’. This page was prepared on 21 September 1997, and the rest of the report on 30 September 1997. There are also two appendices to the report.[179]

134. Mr Daniels also provided a note outlining the allegations against Fr Dunstan O’Keeffe, dated Friday 26 September 1997, which he told us was written by Martin Fisher. This indicates that the images accessed related to ‘homosexual activity between adults and minors, and at least one of which originates from a paedophile organisation’.[180]

135. On 28 September 1997, Abbot Charles wrote to Mr Fisher to tell him that the prior, then Dom Philip Jebb, had informed him of ‘very serious suspicions regarding the misuse of a credit card and the internet’. Abbot Charles asked Mr Fisher to set up a committee of enquiry, suggesting that this should consist of Mr Fisher as Chair, Dom Philip Jebb and Ms Redmond-Lyon (provided that she agreed). Abbot Charles said that although there was no suggestion of ‘physical abuse’, the committee should consider at its first meeting whether immediate suspension was called for. He went on, ‘[h]owever the greatest sensitivity is called for bearing in mind the suicide which occurred recently in a similar situation’.[181]

136. The remainder of Malcolm Daniels’ report followed on 30 September 1997 and was sent to senior management. He set out the history of his suspicions, including how his own Switch debit card had been used to purchase the material in August, and his discovery of a hidden directory on a school computer on 19 September 1997. He made a copy of the directory to preserve its contents. He stated that ‘[v]ery soon I realised from the words that I saw in the files that someone … at best was looking at pictures of boys and teenage young men, possibly much worse’.[182]

137. Malcolm Daniels found that the programme had been installed on 3 May 1997. From the date and time of the files, it was possible to deduce when the programme was in use and therefore when the person using it was in Malcolm Daniels’ office.[183] Appendix B to the report showed that the material was accessed across a two-month period, always late at night or in the early hours of the morning. A gap of about 18 days corresponded with a holiday taken by Dunstan O’Keeffe.[184] Malcolm Daniels also set out instances where he had found Dunstan O’Keeffe in the IT office. On one occasion Mr Daniels had found O’Keeffe using his [Daniels’] own Apple computer. On another, at the end of the summer term, he returned late at night to retrieve something he had forgotten and found Dunstan O’Keeffe sitting at the IBM computer.[185]

138. In terms of the material accessed, Malcolm Daniels’ report stated that there were 1,540 files in the cache directory and therefore it was not possible to print them all. However, he stated that a selection had been provided in Appendix C (no longer available) and ‘this instantly gives a flavour of the type of material being accessed. I find it shocking and disgusting with a full range of gay sexual, deviant and paedophilic practices.’ The names of the jpeg files included ‘15boy.jpg’ and ‘16boy.suk’ and ‘boysex()1.jpg’.

139. According to Martin Fisher, Malcolm Daniels concluded that there had been no criminal activity, other than the fraudulent use of his own debit card, and that there was no suggestion that the material downloaded related to children. Martin Fisher told us that report ‘was for the eyes of the abbot’ and that he saw one sample photograph, which was of young men. Martin Fisher told us that Abbot Charles told the committee that he had reviewed the file and had only found adult gay pornography.[186]

140. In his written statement, Dom Charles stated ‘I believe that Malcolm’s report referred to him having discovered two or three images of naked young men and one of a child in trousers. I summoned Desmond and when I confronted him with the findings he immediately admitted to me that he was responsible and that most of them were of children.’[187]

141. During the hearings, Dom Charles corrected this. He told us that he had forgotten that there were two separate offences regarding Dunstan O’Keeffe’s misuse of computers, the first being in 1997 and the second in 2004 (see below). He stated that it was in relation to the second incident that police found indecent images of children. He now recalls that some time after the second incident became known, but when he was no longer abbot (although he remained at Downside until 2006),[188] he had a conversation with Dunstan O’Keeffe in which O’Keeffe ‘explicitly acknowledged that young children were involved’. He also said that it remained possible that Dunstan O’Keeffe acknowledged that there were photographs of children in the first case in 1997 but that he had no specific memory of this.[189]

142. On 15 October 1997, Abbot Charles wrote to Mr Fisher thanking him for the committee of enquiry’s work. He told him that having attended a meeting with the committee he was ‘on the one hand profoundly depressed but on the other hand reasonably hopeful that something can be salvaged from the wreckage’. Abbot Charles said that he thought that they had broadly agreed that while the overriding concern must always be the welfare of the pupils, there was no suggestion or evidence of ‘any impropriety in that area’. In his view the greatest risk to the boys was the potential for trauma, distress and disruption to their education if unnecessarily dramatic action were to be taken in the middle of term, particularly if it might lead to a suicide. Abbot Charles went on to say that assuming the allegations were accepted by ‘the accused’, it was inevitable that he would be relieved of his senior pastoral post and almost certain that he would also have to be relieved of all teaching duties. The abbot concluded that it would therefore be best to delay the ‘day of confrontation’ until the end of term to prevent excessive scandal and shock.[190]

143. Dom Charles was asked about this letter, and whether he had given any thought to the potential for risk to pupils. He told us that a ‘risk assessment of sorts’ was carried out by the committee and that Martin Fisher had been asked to keep a close eye on the situation. He said that there was no accusation relating to the assault of a young person or child.[191]

144. On 23 November 1997, Malcolm Daniels wrote to Mr Fisher expressing his deep concern about how the matter was being handled. He pointed to reports that had been in the press that very week, which dealt with the arrest of Gary Glitter in similar circumstances, raids at 17 schools where computers had been seized, a raid of the home of a Church of England priest and the arrest of another priest for sexual abuse in the 1980s. He quoted the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, who said: ‘We have to be assured that internal checks in school are increased’, and the head of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers who said: ‘the protection of pupils is paramount. It’s absolutely crucial there are checks that work’. Mr Daniels said that he was very concerned about the delay that there had been in dealing with the matter, particularly in light of the events of the previous week, saying ‘the papers would really have a field day now’. He commented that he had presented the evidence, which he described as ‘overwhelming’ to Mr Fisher, and called for the computer to be investigated, which he said he had been advocating since the beginning. He said ‘I would like it to go on record that I am totally opposed to the delay that has been decided upon. I feel that the protection of the pupils should have been the paramount consideration … .’ He concluded by commenting that his wife Frances, who also worked at the school, felt so strongly that if the matter were not resolved by Christmas she would seek a position elsewhere.[192]

145. On 28 November 1997, Mr Daniels wrote again to Martin Fisher, asking him to bring his letter to the attention of all the members of the committee and the abbot ‘as it does not seem that they want to interview me, or indeed Frances’. He also asked for confirmation that his previous letter had been considered. He went on to say that he had had conversations with Mr Fisher and each of the committee members at the end of September, and all had agreed that Fr Dunstan O’Keeffe should be removed from any contact with boys in the school. He said: ‘I am now getting the strong impression that this will no longer be the case. I find this quite unbelievable. The evidence is there for all to see. I have presented the evidence from three computers and from telephone records, with probably more to come over the weekend.’ He went on to address a suggestion that although the title pages were looked at, no actual material was in fact thereafter downloaded, which he described as ‘preposterous’, saying that there was definite evidence that files were downloaded, and referred to the names of some of the files, including ‘boysex()1.jpg’ and ‘fingerhim.jpg’.[193]

146. He went on to say:

I feel as though I am being backed into a corner, against my will where I have two options. One, go along with the thought that he will be allowed to deal with young people and keep my mouth shut, or the other is to take advice from my union representative as to whether I should go to the police … if it had been me doing these things, I would have been shown the door in September and would have been put on a list such that I would never be able to deal with children again. I feel in a state of despair … . My conscience is telling me that, above all, I have to protect the pupils in my care. But it seems to me that all anyone is worried about is him – he who has done these dreadful things … I have not even been invited to put the case to the abbot.

147. In an addendum report dated 30 November 1997, Mr Daniels outlined that there seemed to be two doubts in the minds of the committee: (i) whether Dunstan O’Keeffe had stumbled on the material and did not mean to access it – the consideration of which seemed to Mr Daniels ‘almost unbelievable’ – and (ii) that O’Keeffe had just looked at cover pages and not actually at pictures, which Mr Daniels considered unrealistic given the many hours that the records revealed had been spent on the laptop, all late at night and early in the morning. He then described some of the warnings that appeared on files when they were opened. These included ‘if you proceed you will see Cock Sucking, Rim Licking, Ass Fucking, Sperm Spurting Gay Teenage Boys’ and ‘WARNING This site contains sexually explicit images of teenage boys’. Another warned that the site contained pictures of boys as young as 16 engaged in acts of gay sex so may be illegal in ‘your country’. The investigation of the computer showed that O’Keeffe had entered these sites. Mr Daniels also referred to there being additional information which could still extend the investigation.[194] Mr Daniels told us that copies of this report were made available for each of the senior management, abbot and prior.[195]

148. On 1 December 1997, Martin Fisher wrote to Abbot Charles thanking him for seeing him on ‘Friday night’, presumably 28 November 1997. He said that he remained firmly of the view that for the safety and sanity of Dunstan O’Keeffe, he should be dealt with in a ‘very low-key fashion’. He explained that they were:

not talking about an accusation but about known facts. In all our talk about this subject, we have tended to be over-scrupulous simply because the final ocular proof is not yet in place. But the reality is that these things are facts. The evidenceand I have received yet more this morning [the Inquiry’s emphasis] – is conclusive enough to put the thing beyond any real doubt at all. Discussion of whether or not these things have taken place is a waste of time, the only real issue is how it is to be coped with. Therefore it does seem much better to make a simple abbatial decision … quietly issuing an abbatial order which delineates the next stage in his career … the computer in that room will need to be impounded in any case, as will the computer discs and any print-outs which there are, plus any videos, because these are a very real possibility.

Although Martin Fisher told us that Malcolm Daniels’ report was for ‘the eyes of the abbot’, it appears from this letter that Martin Fisher had in fact seen at least some of the evidence.

149. Martin Fisher said that while he had felt supported by Abbot Charles in his investigation, in hindsight the matter should have been looked at in more detail and he should have insisted that the abbot allow him to review the report and the files. He said that because Dunstan O’Keeffe was a monk, the final decision on what to do about him had rested with the abbot.[196]

150. On 8 December 1997, the committee of enquiry produced their report, which Dom Charles told us was ‘in [a] sense … a risk assessment’. The committee concluded there could be no reasonable doubt that the person responsible for downloading the images was Fr Dunstan O’Keeffe. The report said that the unacceptable use of the internet had been going on for about a year, but in contrast to Mr Daniels’ reports and letters, stated that the explicitly sexual material which had been retrieved involved young men rather than children. The committee agreed that the nature and extent of the activities rendered it impossible that O’Keeffe should continue to hold any of his responsibilities in the school. It concluded, however, that there was no evidence or suggestion of any sexual misconduct with any individual either in the school or elsewhere. Dom Charles told us that while they were concerned about having Dunstan O’Keeffe in the school, they did not want to cause upheaval in the middle of the term, and did not think that he would commit an offence in the school. He acknowledged that today the decision would be different, and that action would be taken within a matter of hours.[197] There was a clear lack of urgency demonstrated by those dealing with this case. In addition, what was described to us as ‘in [a] sense ... a risk assessment’ was in fact an internal inquiry undertaken by three individuals from Downside with no relevant expertise.

151. Anthony Domaille conducted a past case review of the O’Keeffe case on 7 September 2010. He commented that: ‘When the abbey became aware of the circumstances of the access to pornography via the Internet in 1997, swift measures were taken to remove Father O’Keeffe from a position where he might pose a risk to young people.’[198] Given the history set out above, it is unclear to us how he could have come to such a conclusion. Dunstan O’Keeffe’s activities were discovered in September 1997 but no action taken until December 1997.

152. As indicated, none of Mr Daniels’ material was available to us during the public hearing. However, we did have a handwritten note dated 9 December 1997 (the day after the committee report).[199] This note, which appears to have been written by Dom Philip Jebb,[200] then prior of Downside, stated:

Note, which appears to have been written by Dom Philip Jebb

And ‘children photos’ had been added in red pen.

153. When asked about this note during his evidence, Dom Charles told us that he did not destroy the computer nor was it destroyed by the monastery. He suggested that Malcolm Daniels was responsible.[201] Mr Daniels has subsequently confirmed that he did not destroy the computer equipment.[202] We accept his evidence. Dom Charles Fitzgerald-Lombard has now confirmed he entirely accepts Malcolm Daniels’ recollection.[203] Mr Fisher has said that the disposal of the disks, printouts and other material was carried out by the monastery.[204]

154. Dom Charles was asked about the reference to ‘children photos’ that had been written in red, and whether he was sure that the downloaded photographs were indeed of young men only. He told us: ‘The ones I saw were, yes. I don’t know why it says “Children photos”, I mean, whether there was a question mark or whether it was referring to the young men I don’t know.’[205]

155. Downside have suggested that because it is not known what date the reference to ‘children photos’ was added or to what it refers, it would be unsafe to assume it meant that anyone was aware that the images were of children. The reference could have been intended, for example, as a need to enquire into the point.[206]

156. Downside also state that the report made to Abbot Charles on 8 December 1997 suggested that the images were at the time lawful images of young people, but not of children. The definition of a child for the purposes of the legislation relating to indecent images of children was altered to mean a person under the age of 18, as opposed to 16, by the Sexual Offences Act 2003 with effect from 1 May 2004.[207]

157. Downside did not adequately respond to this as a safeguarding issue. Regardless of the precise age of the individuals depicted in the photographs, if there was any possibility the images were of children, it was not for them to make judgements on the issue and it should have been reported to the external authorities to be properly investigated. We are entirely unimpressed by the way Downside responded to this issue.

158. In a letter dated 16 December 1997, Dunstan O’Keeffe informed the parents of the pupils that he was resigning.[208] There was no reference to the details of what had happened. Mr Fisher has told us that there was a collective decision not to tell the parents exactly what had happened. In today’s context however, he said that he would certainly have advocated informing the parents.[209]

159. Dom Leo told us that O’Keeffe was returned to the monastery but was not restricted ‘as clearly and strongly as he should have been’.[210] He was not forbidden from going into the school, or from talking to boys. Abbot Charles offered him psychological help, which he declined, and the matter was dropped.[211]

160. Richard Yeo became abbot of Downside in 1998 and therefore responsible for the management of O’Keeffe. Much of what is set out below comes from Abbot Richard Yeo’s note dated 2 January 2004, which summarises the history of the Dunstan O’Keeffe matter and which he was taken through in the oral hearings.

161. Dom Richard Yeo told us that he had heard about O’Keeffe having downloaded indecent images from a friend, when visiting Downside in 1997 or early 1998.[212]

162. At the time Abbot Richard Yeo recorded that he had also seen some of the material that O’Keeffe had downloaded, and that while none of it had involved ‘pre-pubescent children’, some had involved ‘young (possibly teenage) males’. It appears that he would have viewed this material in around 1999 or 2000.[213] When asked about his note during the public hearing, Dom Richard told us ‘I really could not say what age they were.’[214] In general we do not recognise any categorisation by age of indecent images of children. Such images, whatever the age of the child, are by their very nature abusive.

163. He told us that when he became abbot of Downside, O’Keeffe asked him about returning to the school. Abbot Richard Yeo consulted those who had been involved in the investigation of the indecent images. He concluded that there had never been any suggestion that O’Keeffe had harmed a child, but there was some evidence that some boys in the school might have known what he was up to.[215]

164. Abbot Richard Yeo told O’Keeffe that he had to stay out of the school for at least five years, which he said was the time needed for all the boys who had been under his care to have left the school.[216] This is reminiscent of Dom Charles Fitzgerald-Lombard’s actions in respect of Nicholas White, and seems to have been a stock response – to remove the abuser until his actions were out of memory and those who would or could have been aware of them had left. The removal of the monk was not therefore designed to protect children, but to protect from the risk of scandal.

165. Abbot Richard was under the impression that the five-year ban was a ‘disagreeable shock’ to O’Keeffe, who did not seem to appreciate the seriousness of what he had done. Abbot Richard told O’Keeffe that he wanted him to see a psychiatrist and asked him to see Dr Danny Rogers, who was not an expert in the area but was available to see him.[217]

166. Despite this, O’Keeffe was appointed as Abbot Richard’s secretary in 1998.[218] Later that year, Abbot Richard heard an uncorroborated hearsay report that while O’Keeffe had been a student in Rome (around 1992–1995), he used to take photographs of children. Abbot Richard had also been in Rome then, but had heard nothing about this at the time.[219] He continued to retain O’Keeffe as his secretary for about another three years.[220]

167. In an undated letter (described by Dom Richard as a ‘report’), Dr Danny Rogers, consultant neuropsychiatrist, wrote to O’Keeffe’s GP, Dr Rye, copying in Abbot Richard, about a meeting he had had with O’Keeffe on 18 March 1999. He reported that O’Keeffe had told him that he had, since the age of 10, been sexually attracted to boys below the age of 16 and to women above that age. Dr Rogers was of the opinion that O’Keeffe’s involvement with children did not pose any serious risk to those children but that there was a small but potentially overwhelming risk of public scandal if he were ever again to be involved in the teaching of children.[221]

168. Dunstan O’Keeffe’s admission in 1999 that he was sexually attracted to boys under the age of 16 should have triggered a safeguarding response to remove him from contact with children within the school or abbey. Downside accept that a safeguarding issue arose at this time.[222] On the same day as O’Keeffe’s meeting with Dr Rogers (18 March 1999), Abbot Richard received evidence that O’Keeffe had returned to misusing the internet. O’Keeffe admitted this and Abbot Richard disciplined him, and imposed a ban on the use of the internet in his cell.[223] Abbot Richard consulted Dr Rye, who was concerned that O’Keeffe showed some signs of ‘cognitive distortion’, which he stated was a ‘common feature of paedophilia’. He recommended that O’Keeffe see Dr Blackwell, a psychiatrist.[224] According to Richard Yeo’s note, Dr Blackwell’s report gave no indication of cognitive distortion and even suggested that O’Keeffe could return to be a housemaster in the school.[225]

169. Dom Richard told us that recommendations 69 and 70 of the Nolan Report did not cause him to reflect on the position of O’Keeffe. Nor did he think of reporting him to the statutory authorities in 2002, once the association between Clifton diocese and Downside was underway.[226]

170. In the note dated 2 January 2004, Abbot Richard Yeo also wrote that he felt that he was unable to draw any conclusion from the two psychiatric reports other than that O’Keeffe had no psychological issues which needed professional help. However, he also recorded that a casual remark of Mr Fisher’s – to the effect that he thought ‘O’Keeffe intelligent enough to fool any psychologist’ – had always stuck in his mind. When asked about this, Dom Richard told us he did not place great weight on Dr Rogers’ letter in 1999 and had been dissatisfied with both reports.[227]

171. In 2002, having unsuccessfully raised the question of O’Keeffe’s return to school with Mr Fisher, Abbot Richard decided to ‘take the risk’ of appointing him to the post of novice master as there had been no evidence of wrongdoing since the incident in 1997.[228] The post of novice master involved his being responsible for the training of novices at the monastery. Boys may become novices once they reach the age of 17.[229] Dom Richard told us that he now agreed this had not been a good idea, but said he had felt he needed to do something. However, he told us that overall he believed the way O’Keeffe was dealt with was appropriate.[230]

172. On 17 October 2003, the police were called after O’Keeffe was caught masturbating in a car outside a primary school.[231] He was charged under the Public Order Act 1986.[232] Ms Dziadulewicz told us that she heard about this from a friend, not from Abbot Richard. She said:

I was having coffee with a friend, and she asked me if I’d heard about Dunstan – this monk from Downside Abbey who had been caught masturbating outside a primary school. ... It was on a day off, it may have been at the weekend, I don’t remember, but it was through a friend.

She followed it up with Abbot Richard, who told her he had informed Mr Fisher and assumed he had referred the incident to her. Commenting on this, Ms Dziadulewicz described the situation as ‘tricky’ because there was no formal alignment between Downside Abbey and Clifton diocese until much later, in 2013. However, given that Clifton child protection management commission had been offering help on ‘a goodwill basis’, she would have hoped that they would have been contacted immediately.

173. According to his own note, Abbot Richard told O’Keeffe that he should ‘lie low’ and stay out of the school. He felt that O’Keeffe did not take the matter seriously, because although to Abbot Richard’s knowledge he did not go into the school, O’Keeffe did continue to talk to boys in church. Abbot Richard had to intervene on several occasions.[233]

174. O’Keeffe was convicted, and on 22 December 2003 received a conditional discharge. The police record indicates that O’Keeffe acknowledged similar behaviour on at least 10 occasions.[234] Abbot Richard apparently spoke to the police on 23 December 2003, and they told him that they could not be sure whether Dunstan O’Keeffe was interested in the primary school children, their mothers or the secondary school children.[235]

175. Abbot Richard recorded that, after consultation with his council, he decided to remove O’Keeffe from the post of junior master, director of vocations and from the charge of Bainesbury House, which was let out to groups, frequently including young people (access to which was through the school). He did not however ‘see the need to humiliate him more than necessary’, so allowed him to remain as novice master. He told us that this was because there were no novices as they had left in July 2003. O’Keeffe was also allowed to remain a member of the abbot’s council and a trustee of Downside’s charitable trusts. His term of office was due to come to an end in mid-February, so Abbot Richard decided that he would wait until then and simply allow these appointments to lapse. When asked whether he had placed a significant amount of weight on the need not to humiliate O’Keeffe, Dom Richard told us that it was painful to watch events unfold and it was not the time to humiliate him. He said that he told O’Keeffe to stay out of the school, and that he would need him to undergo a psychological assessment. After this he said he would consider any necessary restrictions, as he felt it was necessary to re-examine Dr Rogers’ earlier assessment that O’Keeffe did not pose a serious risk to children.[236]

176. Abbot Richard Yeo had been aware since 1999 that Desmond O’Keeffe had admitted to having a sexual interest in male children. His subsequent appointment of O’Keeffe as his secretary, his reticence to remove him from the various posts that he held, including that of novice master (whether or not there were novices at the monastery at the time), yet again demonstrates poor judgement on his part. Downside accept that Abbot Richard did not act as promptly as he might have done.[237]

177. In his report dated 7 September 2010, Mr Domaille further said that following O’Keeffe’s conviction in 2003 ‘the abbey again took steps to manage any risks that Father O’Keeffe posed’. While this may be the case, whatever the steps Downside took, they were not sufficient.

178. After O’Keeffe’s arrest in 2003, Abbot Richard commissioned Dr Elizabeth Mann to conduct a risk assessment. In her report, dated 1 February 2004, she recorded what O’Keeffe told her about the 1997 incident, which she described as involving ‘downloading images of boys’. She quoted O’Keeffe as telling her that the images were of ‘pre-teens, early teens, so very much fitting into the pattern of fantasies at that time. but (sic) also because there was a sort of challenge to ... you know, you can’t get these in any other way, so you’re always trying to push the limits of what you can find’.[238] Dunstan O’Keeffe had therefore admitted to her that the images were of children, and regardless of how much Richard Yeo knew in 1997, he became aware of this admission on receipt of Elizabeth Mann’s report in February 2004.

179. Dr Mann concluded that Abbot Richard was under a legal obligation to report the downloading of indecent images of children as soon as she had told him that children were involved. This was on 23 January 2004 after the psychological interviews, but before the final report was written.[239] Abbot Richard told us that it was ‘very helpful to have that push’, and he and Dr Mann together reported the matter to the police on 24 January 2004. O’Keeffe was arrested in February 2004.[240]

180. Detective Superintendent William White told us that when O’Keeffe’s room was searched, a computer, external media and a number of photographs of young boys, some of whom had been pupils at the school, were seized.[241] An investigation of the computer and external media found 700 video clips involving children, and 12,000 indecent images, of which more than 98% related to children, ‘the vast majority being of young boys’. In evidence, Dom Richard qualified a question about the images being of children by saying ‘well including minors in their teens’.

181. The images included 16 onto which the heads of boys at the school had been superimposed onto the bodies of adult women in various sexual poses.[242] Dunstan (Desmond) O’Keeffe was convicted of 16 specimen charges[243] of making an indecent pseudo photograph of a child,[244] committed between January 1997 to February 2004.[245] He was sentenced on 3 September 2004 to 18 months’ imprisonment and placed on the Sex Offenders Register for 10 years. DC White stated that full cooperation was given to the police by the school in this investigation, but that the fact that the school had dealt internally with O’Keeffe in 1997 would not occur today. Now the failure to report the matter immediately would be a breach of the school’s duty under the Working Together guidance 2015.[246]

182. Abbot Richard reported O’Keeffe to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in 2004.[247] Thereafter there were discussions as to the best course of action. O’Keeffe was released in June 2005.[248] In January 2006, O’Keeffe decided that he should ask to leave the monastic life, and on 5 May 2006 he was granted full dispensation.[249]

183. In the period between O’Keeffe’s release from prison and his laicisation, there was an issue as to where he should live, because although he remained under the care of Downside it was impossible for him to stay living at the abbey. Abbot Richard arranged for alternative accommodation at Prinknash Abbey, a Benedictine, but not English Benedictine, monastery in Gloucestershire, where a psychologist from the Lucy Faithfull Foundation (LFF) visited him and gave him treatment.[250]

Accounts of child sexual abuse made after the Nolan Report (2001–2010)

RC-F66 and RC-F77 (1990s)

184. The focus of this section is on the allegations made by RC-A82 against RC-F66 and RC-F77 in 2003. The way in which these two monks were dealt with by Downside in relation to allegations in 2003 are intertwined, so both are considered together. It is noted that Downside have suggested that the allegation against RC-F77 is not a direct allegation of child sexual abuse but rather physical abuse.[251] However, from what follows below it is clear (i) that RC-A82 thought that there might have been a sexual element to the caning and (ii) that clear safeguarding concerns arose in respect of RC-F77 as well as RC-F66.

185. It appears safeguarding concerns were also raised in respect of both RC-F66 and RC-F77 before 2003. In respect of RC-F66, on 7 April 1971 RC-F66 was written to and asked to give up his room in the monastery. The letter referred to the ‘unfortunate business’ but gave no further details.[252] Thirty-three years later, on 1 April 2004, Fr Raphael Appleby (headmaster from 1975 to 1980) wrote that the request was due to some ‘inappropriate behaviour involving a boy in the school’ and that he had ‘a faint recollection that RC-F66 might have sat the boy on his lap and fondled him in an inappropriate way’. He also said: ‘I don’t think anything serious or overtly sexual was involved.’[253]

186. In respect of RC-F77, in 2013 RC-A159’s mother alleged that RC-F77 had been complicit in the bullying of her son, a former pupil, by a group of his fellow pupils in around 1990–1991. There do not appear to be any records of this from the 1990s, and what we know comes from more recent documents relating to the 2013 complaint, including Liam Ring’s case summary. It appears from the case summary that it was suggested there might have been a sexual motivation behind the bullying. The behaviour included RC-A159 being hit whilst naked, placed into a bath half filled with urine, and forced outside naked at night during the winter. RC-A159’s mother confronted the boys in the presence of Aidan Bellenger and RC-F77. At first the boys denied it, but later ‘made admissions’.[254] Although there do not appear to be any records of the incident at the time, Dom Aidan has told us that he does recall a ‘bullying matter’ involving RC-F77 being brought to his attention in the early 1990s.[255]

187. An inspection carried out by Somerset County Council in 1992 identified that corporal punishment was being used in one of the boarding houses. The report stated that such punishment should only be delivered by the headmaster and was not acceptable at house level. The school was therefore ‘strongly advised to take appropriate action on this matter’.[256] Dom Aidan Bellenger told us that the teacher concerned was allegedly RC-F77. He denied it, but Dom Aidan Bellenger said that he nonetheless told him ‘he shouldn’t do it’ and required RC-F77 to provide a written undertaking that he would comply with all school disciplinary policies.[257]

188. In April 2003,[258] another former pupil, RC-A82, wrote to Abbot Richard about both RC-F77 and RC-F66.[259] He said that across two years in the early 1990s, RC-F66 would invite him to tea regularly, and would find excuses to ‘tickle’ him and to ‘fondl[e his] chest’. RC-A82 recalled that RC-F66 had been aroused when this happened, but at the time he was 14 years old and did not know exactly what it meant. He had confronted RC-F66 in a letter but said that RC-F66’s response had avoided the matter. In June 2000 he went to Downside to speak to him in person. He said that RC-F66 admitted his guilt, saying that he had not responded in writing because it could be used legally against him. He did not apologise, but sought to justify himself, saying ‘we are al[l] screwed up in some way’. In his letter to Abbot Richard, RC-A82 wrote: ‘I relied on him heavily as a support figure in my life at that time, and cherished him; it is extremely hurtful to know now that although he also had caring feelings for me, all along he was also taking advantage of me.’ He described how he had written again to RC-F66 explaining how traumatic the events had been for him, but that RC-F66 had only replied ‘that friends should not get angry at each other’. RC-F66 went on to say that this was ‘[y]et another example of his cowardice and denial. Indeed it is in the silencing of victims and the secrecy that sexual abuse is perpetrated. I feel hurt, shamed by this and everything that happened to me at Downside.’[260]

189. In respect of RC-F77, in the same letter,[261] RC-A82 said that during the same period RC-F77 would find any excuse to cane the pupils. He wrote that in his case it was ‘worse than complacency’ and that ‘Christ’s tender compassion is contrary to his cruelty and blatant abuse of power. The very ones he was given to care for where [sic] the ones he abused.’ He described a specific incident where he could not find an important document. He had thought RC-F77 may have it. When he eventually found it, he went to tell RC-F77 the good news. RC-F77 told him to remove his trousers and his underwear and kneel on the floor supporting himself on his hands and knees while he caned him from behind.

190. As we have explained above. Downside have suggested that this is not a direct allegation of child sexual abuse. However, we note that RC-A82 said in his letter:

I would not be surprised if this satiated a sexual sadistic desire of his for it certainly was not a ‘normal’ sort of caning. I have felt deeply humiliated and traumatized by such an experience. Surely the school authorities knew about his infamous caning. It is bewildering to know they turned a blind eye to this illegal and condemned act.

In any event, it is clear from what follows below that this case, along with RC-F66, raises safeguarding concerns.

191. Abbot Richard wrote an initial brief reply to RC-A82 and contacted Jane Dziadulewicz about RC-A82’s complaints against both RC-F66 and RC-F77.[262] On 23 April 2003, he also wrote to Abbot Thomas Frerking, who carried out the abbot president’s duties on behalf of Abbot Richard Yeo when issues arose at Downside. In this letter he set out the allegations, explaining in respect of RC-F77 that, at the time of the incident, corporal punishment had ceased to be used at Downside, although it was not then illegal. He explained that he had given RC-A82’s letter to Jane Dziadulewicz and she had told him to report it to social services, who had in turn communicated it to the police. Abbot Richard Yeo understood that the police and social services had decided not to take action, as the evidence was ‘too slight’. Abbot Richard Yeo said, although there was insufficient evidence for a prosecution, ‘these allegations are probably not without foundation’ and explained that the plan was to ‘confront’ both monks on 14 May 2003.[263]

192. Detective Superintendent William White of Avon and Somerset Constabulary told us it was decided that without a formal complaint there was insufficient evidence to commence an investigation. It was not known if the victim was contacted again, other than by the school, and no police enquiries were made at the school. He told us that as a result of child protection changes since then, he believed that police enquiries would now be made in respect of such an allegation in the same circumstances.[264]

193. On 30 April 2003, there was a meeting between the safeguarding coordinator, insurance broker representative and Abbot Richard in respect of the allegations against RC-F66.[265] It would not be uncommon practice for an abbey (or anybody) to inform insurers of such complaints, nor for them to take legal advice.[266]

194. On 14 May 2003, Abbot Richard Yeo, Jane Dziadulewicz and Martin Fisher interviewed both RC-F66 and RC-F77. RC-F66 called the letter from RC-A82 ‘a lot of nonsense’ and denied having admitted the allegations.[267] RC-F77 confirmed that he was willing to apologise for the bullying.[268] Subsequently a meeting was held on 1 July 2003 with RC-A82, at which Dom Leo Maidlow Davis, then headmaster, apologised for the abuse which had taken place. Dom Richard Yeo told us that he had tried but failed to get RC-F66 to attend and apologise.[269]

195. In her evidence to the Inquiry on the way in which Abbot Richard Yeo handled the allegations, Jane Dziadulewicz said that ‘I think that at that time he worked hard to try to find a resolution, given that [RC-A82] didn’t want to involve the statutory authorities.’[270] However, she also told us more generally that Abbot Richard Yeo struggled with the Paramountcy Principle and she felt that ‘his emphasis was more on protecting the clergy than it was [on] victims’.[271] She acknowledged that initially it was a learning exercise for Downside Abbey, for herself and for the first abbot.[272]

196. On 18 July 2003, Abbot Richard wrote to Abbot Frerking,[273] expressing the opinion that RC-F66 was ‘probably innocent’. He went on to explain that Ms Dziadulewicz was not so sure, and that she believed that RC-F66 should undergo a risk assessment. He said that although he planned to collaborate fully, he also believed that ‘a monastery runs on trust, and that until [I have] clear proof of RC-F66’s guilt, I should continue to trust him’. However, he did arrange that RC-F66 should no longer have the exclusive use of a room in the school.

197. In respect of RC-F77, he told Abbot Frerking that the monk had in fact admitted that RC-A82’s allegation was true, but that RC-F77 clearly did not regard it as serious. Abbot Richard said that RC-F77 would cease in his then position of parish priest, but that the bishop was of the view he could continue as vicar for the religious of his particular diocese, provided that the matter did not become public.

198. Abbot Yeo told Abbot Frerking that RC-A82 had also raised the question of compensation and that a solicitor appointed by the insurance company would be attending Downside on 21 July 2003 to review the matter, together with himself and the child protection coordinator. He said that he anticipated that the question of financial compensation was going to become the most serious matter, and expressed concern that if compensation were paid, other boys might then come forward and make complaints about RC-F77.

199. On the same day, 18 July 2003, Abbot Richard also wrote to RC-F77 saying that RC-A82 was ‘out to get compensation’. He said that he feared the RC-A82 ‘business’ might be with them for some time, especially if he were to claim compensation, but that he wanted to help RC-F77 put it behind him so that he could ‘look forward to the future with confidence’.[274] The following day, 19 July 2003, Richard Yeo also wrote to RC-F66 to tell him that he would have to see Downside’s solicitor about the claim for compensation. He wrote ‘[o]bviously I am sorry about this, but it is essential, as we have to ensure that both you personally and Downside as a whole are properly protected’.[275] The tone of this correspondence was inappropriate and illustrative of Abbot Yeo’s emphasis on the welfare of the clergy and the reputation of the institution rather than the victims of abuse.

200. Dom Richard has told us that Downside did impose restrictions on RC-F66 and RC-F77[276] but, other than the loss of RC-F66’s room, it is not clear what those restrictions were.

201. Dom Richard has said that the allegation against RC-F77 was only one of physical abuse and that therefore it was not required to report him to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). In the case of RC-F66, he said that although the allegation was of sexual abuse, and ‘the evidence submitted suggested that the abuse had probably been committed’, he ‘did not think it appropriate to report it to the CDF’, because he ‘believed that it was objectively not serious enough to constitute a delict at canon law since a delict requires grave material’ (citing canon 1321 §1).[277]

202. In 2007, RC-F77 was made a trustee. In his evidence to the Inquiry, Dom Aidan accepted that he must have allowed this appointment.[278] Dom Leo Maidlow Davis told us that while he did not think so at the time, he now thought that the appointment was not appropriate.[279] Dom Richard agreed with this.[280]

203. On 8 July 2008, Anthony Domaille carried out a past case review on behalf of Clifton diocese. In his report, when summarising the actions taken in respect of RC-F66 and RC-F77, he referred to steps having been taken to ‘limit the opportunities’ for them to be in contact with children but did not outline what these steps were. He stated that at a minimum both had engaged in inappropriate behaviour, and the fact that Downside’s insurers felt that RC-A82 should be compensated was a clear indication of the veracity of his account. He said that both men ‘pose/posed’ a risk to children, and the restrictions imposed upon their work and ministry then were proportionate to that risk. He recommended that Clifton diocese should contact Downside to make sure that protective measures were still in place. He also suggested that it would be useful to establish whether or not the abbey had paid compensation as ‘[i]n the event of any future disclosures this effective admission of guilt would be an important factor’.[281]

204. On 16 March 2009, Anthony Domaille was asked to carry out his own recommendations.[282] He wrote to Dom Richard Yeo, then abbot president, on 18 May 2009, acknowledging the ‘prompt and appropriate action’ that he had taken when the allegations were made, and asked for further information.[283] Abbot President Richard Yeo responded on 22 May 2009[284] to say that the last thing he had heard from the insurers was that they had agreed to pay a sum of money to RC-A82, but there had been difficulty in making contact with him. He also indicated that he would ask the abbot at that time, Aidan Bellenger, to respond about the safeguarding issue. Abbot Aidan Bellenger wrote to Mr Domaille on 8 June 2009[285] and told him RC-A82 had received apologies but no compensation had been paid. Abbot Aidan Bellenger also told Anthony Domaille that RC-F66 (and RC-F77) had ‘limited access’ to the school. Mr Domaille concluded that the file could be closed.[286] It was inappropriate to close the file in the light of the earlier finding that both men posed a risk to children.

205. These cases were later revisited. In his past case review of RC-F66 and RC-F77, report dated 2 August 2010, Anthony Domaille observed that the Downside Abbey files did not contain comprehensive information about the allegations made by RC-A82, nor the management of risk. He recommended that there should be a record of regular reviews on RC-F66 and RC-F77’s circumstances, together with clear written documents outlining the restrictions designed to safeguard children and young people, whether in a Covenant of Care or some other form, and agreed with both monks, RC-F66 and RC-F77.[287]

206. The minutes of a strategy meeting on 27 January 2011 record that Jane Dziadulewicz had met with Abbot Aidan Bellenger to discuss the implementation of restrictions on RC-F66 and RC-F77. It was also recorded that, while at the abbey, Jane Dziadulewicz saw RC-F77 in the school, which was against the term of his restrictions. The plan was for Jane Dziadulewicz to ask the abbot to issue a formal warning. Concern was also expressed about allowing RC-F77 to remain in the abbey since he had breached his restrictions. It was agreed that Jane Dziadulewicz would take advice on this, but it was noted that it would be difficult to try to find another place of residence for him and therefore it was necessary to try to enforce the restrictions at Downside Abbey.[288] On 11 May 2011, the minutes of the final strategy meeting record that restrictions had been tightened. Jane Dziadulewicz stated that all monks resident in the abbey, as well as the head and deputy head, knew of the restrictions and would challenge him if necessary.[289]

207. RC-F77 remained at Downside. Dom Aidan told us that he was not happy about this, but the task of finding somewhere for him to go was very difficult. On being shown the minutes of a meeting on 17 May 2011 which recorded that he ‘does not wish’ RC-F77 to leave the monastery, Dom Aidan said that this was ‘a grammatical point’, and that he was keen for RC-F77 to take up a chaplaincy. Commenting on the notes, he told us ‘[s]o saying “does not wish this”, I don’t think I was able to get him to move outside’. He told us that it was a real problem because the victim had disappeared, and RC-F77 was a difficult person to deal with. Dom Aidan said he therefore felt it was better for RC-F77 to be managed by the monastery as he could not find anywhere else for him to go. He denied that the preservation of the monastic life of RC-F77 had been placed above the welfare of the children.[290]

208. Nevertheless, when Anthony Domaille became locum safeguarding coordinator for Clifton diocese in August 2011, he discovered that the advice he had given about RC-F66 and RC-F77 the year before, in August 2010, had not been followed. Neither Covenant of Care for RC-F66 and RC-F77 had been reviewed, and the existing conditions and restrictions required updating. He therefore created new Covenants of Care.[291] RC-F77 signed his on 9 September 2011,[292] and RC-F66 signed his on 11 September 2011.[293] RC-F77 was resistant to restrictions, so Mr Domaille met with him and then Abbot Aidan Bellenger. Although Abbot Aidan said that he was considering moving RC-F77 from the abbey unless he complied,[294] Mr Domaille formed the view that ‘little urgency’ was demonstrated in finding a solution. He also accepted that he could have been more prescriptive with the abbey, but said that it was important to recognise that he still had no authority over Downside.[295]

209. The files on RC-F66 and RC-F77 were subsequently passed to Andrew Hobbs, deputy headmaster and child protection officer at the time. On 26 October 2011, he wrote to Abbot Aidan Bellenger. He said that he was aware that measures to safeguard the children at the school had been agreed by Abbot Aidan and Dom Leo, the headmaster, and he enclosed a risk assessment that he had drawn up based on the agreed conditions, with a review date of January 2012.[296]

210. In February 2012, RC-F77, who was still at the monastery, was investigated for breaching the terms of his Covenant of Care by walking over the school playing fields. This was not the first time that RC-F77 had walked through school areas. Andrew Hobbs concluded that RC-F77 should no longer be resident at Downside Abbey and stated there should be further clarification of the risk assessment. On 7 February 2012, this was done in respect of the risk assessments for RC-F66 and RC-F77.[297] RC-F66 died sometime afterwards.[298]

211. On 7 February 2012, Anthony Domaille emailed Claire Winter, LADO for Somerset County Council, informing her of Andrew Hobbs’ recommendation. He stated that Abbot Aidan Bellenger had been considering the removal of RC-F77 even before the breach because he did not trust him. Anthony Domaille stated that he had a meeting with Abbot Aidan Bellenger and RC-F77 on 14 February 2012 and expected that the decision to remove him would follow. He explained that it would not be easy to find somewhere for him to go, but he believed that ‘a tipping point’ had been reached.[299] On 7 February 2012, Claire Winter emailed Louise Goll, director of Somerset children’s services, stating that she felt that ‘the abbot is being protective, in practical terms, even if not from an appropriate value base’.[300] In a further email on 16 April 2012, Anthony Domaille informed Claire Winter that RC-F77 would leave the abbey to become chaplain at a convent at the end of May.[301]

212. However, safeguarding committee meeting minutes from July 2013 show that RC-F77 remained at Downside. His Covenant of Care had been redrafted and he was to remain at Downside until a placement could be found.[302] In October 2014, Andrew Hobbs received a complaint that RC-F77 had attended a memorial service and been seen sitting with parents, former pupils and children. When asked whether this was a breach of the covenant, Dom Leo said that he would have to look at the document again, but he then accepted that RC-F77 should not have been mingling with parents, former pupils and children.[303]

213. Dr James Whitehead, headmaster of Downside between 2014 and 2017, told us that even before the memorial service, he had reviewed RC-F77’s file and the risk assessment, and had written to Dom Leo to ask that RC-F77 be removed from the campus. As we have seen, Andrew Hobbs had already made the same view clear. A meeting with Clifton diocese followed on 18 December 2014. Dr Whitehead told us that several people believed that it was safer to manage RC-F77 under the supervision of the monastery. Dom Leo thought that RC-F77 was in a great deal of denial about the seriousness of what he had done, but he did not think that RC-F77 was a risk to children as he did not have contact with them, although he agreed there was a reputational risk. Dr Whitehead told us he did not agree that the only risk was reputational, and in his view there was a potential, albeit relatively low-level, risk to children. RC-F77 remains on site under a risk assessment despite repeated requests from himself and Mr Hobbs that he should be removed.[304]

214. Dom Leo told us that having discussed the matter with Liam Ring and Andrew Hobbs, they agreed that the risk to pupils is very low and can be best managed where he is at the abbey. It would probably increase if they moved him, due to lack of surveillance.[305] However, when asked how well RC-F77 has in fact been managed, he replied: ‘not perfectly’.[306] Similarly, Liam Ring told us that when he said that RC-F77 was being ‘managed’ by the abbey, the term ‘managed’ needed to have a ‘a very loose interpretation’.[307]

Brian Pike (1988)

215. In the case of Brian Pike, the safeguarding response straddles both the pre- and post-Nolan Report period. Brian Pike was first employed by Downside in 1981 as a cleaner in the school, before moving to work in the school kitchens. In July 2003, following the introduction of CRB checks, it was discovered that Brian Pike had been convicted of sexual offences against a child while working at Downside in 1988 (not committed at Downside, and not in relation to a Downside pupil).[308] According to Abbot Richard Yeo, when confronted, Brian Pike told the bursar that Abbot John Roberts (deceased in 2000) had known of the conviction but had been sympathetic.[309]

216. On 10 February 2011, Eugene Gallagher, safeguarding officer for Clifton diocese, reviewed the file at Downside Abbey to assess the risk posed by Pike.[310] He found that while the file contained basic information, it was difficult to establish a full picture as a great deal of paperwork was undated and unsigned. However, it revealed that Abbot John Roberts had given Brian Pike a character reference for court and allowed him to remain working at the school after his conviction. He noted that there was no indication that the statutory authorities had been consulted about this. The information about his offences appeared not to have been formally passed on when changes of management had occurred at the school and/or abbey.

217. When Pike’s conviction was rediscovered in 2003, the school did not terminate his employment. This was because it had received legal advice to do so might leave the school open to an unfair dismissal claim, as the abbot had provided a reference and allowed Brian Pike to remain.[311] Brian Pike was therefore moved to work in the monastery, and restrictions were imposed on his movement.[312] Pike went on to break the restrictions in 2004,[313] but still nothing of note was done. Downside accept that although the matter was dealt with to some extent in 2003, the response by the abbey was wholly inadequate.[314] Pike plainly posed a risk to children and should have been removed from Downside immediately.

218. On 14 February 2005, Jane Dziadulewicz wrote to Abbot Richard Yeo to inform him that she had received an anonymous telephone call from someone who advised her that Brian Pike was employed by the abbey and had been convicted of a sexual offence some years ago. There was also concern that Brian Pike had been ‘eyeing up the boys a lot’ in the sacristy and had been seen in the school canteen. Ms Dziadulewicz stated in her letter that she had no evidence in respect of these matters and asked Abbot Richard Yeo to confirm some details of Brian Pike’s appointment, including whether a CRB check had been undertaken, and whether the abbey had ever received any complaints about his conduct.[315] Clearly Clifton diocese should have been informed of Pike’s conviction in 2003. While Downside accept that ‘[g]ood practice may have suggested that a report should have been made to Clifton diocesan safeguarding office in 2003’, they point to the fact that Downside’s relationship with the office was still in its infancy at this time.[316]

219. Abbot Richard Yeo responded to Jane Dziadulewicz on 19 February 2005, setting out the relevant details of Pike’s offence and the action taken once it came to light in 2003. He expressed doubt about Pike having been in the school since 2004, but stated that further investigation was necessary as to whether boys were going to play the organ unaccompanied in the abbey church during the times Pike was working there.[317]

220. On 22 February 2005, an email was sent from the PA administrator to the child protection coordinator to Abbot Richard Yeo, explaining that Jane Dziadulewicz was out of the office all week. The PA stated that she had spoken to Fr Richard McKay, who was Jane Dziadulewicz’s replacement during her absence. He said that no further action was required, but that Jane Dziadulewicz would contact him on her return.[318]

221. No further action was taken for five years between 2005 and 2010.[319] In April 2010, Anthony Domaille conducted a review of the case. A document that appears to be an extract of this review shows that the last entry on file recorded that Abbot Richard Yeo had said that Pike was observing his restrictions and had no contact with children. Given Brian Pike was nearing retirement age, Anthony Domaille suggested ‘an enquiry with the abbey would establish his current situation’. He recommended that unless there were new concerns the file be closed.[320]

222. No further action was taken until February 2011.[321] On 4 February 2011, Eugene Gallagher, safeguarding officer for Clifton diocese, emailed Abbot Aidan Bellenger, stating that Jane Dziadulewicz had asked for a formal Covenant of Care to be completed in respect of Brian Pike.[322] On 10 February 2011, Eugene Gallagher carried out his review, prompted by the multi-agency investigations at this time. In addition to what he said of Abbot John Roberts, Mr Gallagher noted although Brian Pike was not supposed to have contact with the pupils, ‘the geography and interdependence of the school and abbey, plus the numerous access points to the abbey church, [make it] impossible to guarantee this’. Mr Gallagher concluded that Pike must still be considered a risk to children and although he was due to retire that year, a new CRB check should be undertaken.[323] In May 2011, the plan was to place Pike on paid leave until his retirement.[324]

223. The case of Brian Pike was also referred to during a safeguarding audit carried out by David Moy in April 2011, which was discussed in a strategy meeting on 11 May 2011. The minutes of this meeting record that although Abbot Aidan Bellenger believed that Brian Pike had no contact with children, Jane Dziadulewicz had walked his round and come across three unaccompanied children. It was noted that the abbot was currently negotiating for Brian Pike to resign or retire as soon as possible.[325]

224. ISI and Ofsted reports on 23 June 2011 described the approach taken to Pike as ‘serious mismanagement’.[326]

RC-F84

225. Complaints were made in relation to RC-F84’s behaviour, including towards two adult novice monks which do not fall within the Inquiry’s remit. A further complaint was made by a former pupil, RC-A102, but no detail was ever given. The pupil himself said that he was not sure whether anything untoward took place and it was subsequently found by an independent investigator there was no suggestion that RC-F84 posed any risk to children or vulnerable adults.[327]

226. However, in April 2005, Abbot Richard Yeo wrote to Jane Dziadulewicz and told her that Fr Aidan Bellenger had been to see him to inform him that another monk had been to visit RC-A102’s mother. The monk had reported back that she had remarked that her son was difficult. Abbot Richard wrote that the reporting monk had said ‘that RC-A102 was gay, alcoholic, and always pestering his mother for money … ’. He continued: ‘I told Fr Aidan that I would pass that little nugget on to you!’[328] Dom Richard Yeo told us that he thought he knew Ms Dziadulewicz well enough to use a ‘colloquial expression’, but Ms Dziadulewicz told us she interpreted the phrase as an example of Abbot Richard ‘finding problems with the victim’.

RC-F80 (1980s and 2005–2010)

227. RC-F80 was a teacher in a senior position in the school. Several allegations were made against RC-F80 over the years, which while not necessarily amounting to child sexual abuse, clearly raised child protection issues.

228. In summary, in 2005, it was discovered that RC-F80 had been ignoring school policy and providing pupils with alcohol. In 2006, RC-F80 interfered in safeguarding procedures by trying to prevent the proper reporting of an incident in which another teacher had hit a child. Dr Whitehead, a teacher at the time, complained about this to Dom Leo Maidlow Davis, the headmaster. Dom Leo told us that while both these matters had caused concern, he had been conflicted over the situation because RC-F80 was ‘highly charismatic and appreciated’, by pupils and parents alike. Dom Leo Maidlow Davis told us that after Dr Whitehead’s complaint in 2006, he had discussed the possibility of removing RC-F80 with Abbot Richard Yeo, who left the decision to him. Dom Leo Maidlow Davis told us that although he initially decided to remove RC-F80, he then changed his mind.[329]

229. In June 2007, by which time the abbot of Downside was Aidan Bellenger (and Dom Leo Maidlow Davis was still headmaster), RC-A117 made an allegation against RC-F80 in respect of events which had occurred in the 1980s, having previously complained to the headmaster at the time, Dom Philip Jebb.

230. RC-A117 was not a pupil of Downside, but was a particularly vulnerable young woman, who had suffered from a serious and debilitating medical condition from a young age.[330] Her family had a close association with RC-F80, Downside and the Roman Catholic Church. She told us that she first met RC-F80 when she was 17 and he was about 52,[331] and that he took advantage of his relationship with her parents to sexually abuse her. She told us this began in 1985 when she was 18. In 2010, RC-F80 was eventually cautioned for sexually assaulting. Although an adult, Downside’s response to her complaint, and specifically to concerns she later raised in relation to RC-F80 and his association with Downside pupils, is clearly relevant to the Inquiry. This is particularly so because of the concerns that she later raised about RC-F80’s association with pupils, including inappropriate contact on social media.

231. RC-A117 made it clear in her evidence that she felt taken advantage of by RC-F80 and very distressed at the sexual encounters with him, which continued for a number of years. She told us she complained to Cardinal Basil Hume, Archbishop of Westminster (now deceased) and Dom Philip Jebb, headmaster of Downside, but they did nothing to help her. She felt ‘completely confused that [RC-F80] was so loved and idolised by everyone’, including her parents.[332]

232. RC-A117 also told us that after spring 1990, Cardinal Hume suggested that she should go to Ampleforth to ‘rest and recover’. Here she told us she was sexually assaulted by RC-F118.[333]

233. She described confronting Dom Philip Jebb in 2004, as a result of which he arranged a meeting between himself, RC-A117 and RC-F80. RC-A117 described their joint attitude at the meeting as ‘trying to draw a line under the matter’ and told us that she felt that she had to go along with it.[334]

234. In June 2007, RC-A117 asked for a meeting with Aidan Bellenger, who was by then abbot. She told him what had happened with RC-F80 and that Dom Philip had known. Abbot Aidan was shocked and said that he would confront the people in question. Several days later he rang RC-A117 and told her that he had had a meeting with RC-F80 and Dom Philip Jebb in which he had ‘expressed his displeasure’, and that both Dom Philip and RC-F80 had admitted that what she had said was true. Dom Aidan Bellenger told us that he informed them that the relationship had been ‘totally inappropriate’ and that Dom Philip Jebb should not have kept it secret, and that Dom Philip Jebb and RC-F80 were ‘apologetic’.[335]

235. RC-A117 told Abbot Aidan she was ‘concerned about RC-F80’s position in the school’ because she had been 17 when he first saw her ‘situation’ and she knew there were 17-year-olds in the school. However, Abbot Aidan did not take any further action. RC-A117 continued to be concerned about RC-F80’s position in the school but did not think it was for her to tell Abbot Aidan Bellenger what to do.[336] Dom Aidan told us he had no reason to think that RC-A117 was not telling the truth and did not think she was delusional. However, he did not take any action against RC-F80 and he did not inform the statutory authorities. He told us that RC-A117 had been an adult and he had been attempting to respect her wishes, which were to keep her identity secret.[337] This wish was born out of her family’s close association with Downside and the Church, what she described to us as ‘the old boys’ network’.[338]

236. In May 2009, RC-A117 discovered that RC-F80 had a Facebook account, and that he was ‘friends’ with a lot of children, many of whose parents were friends of hers. She told us this made her feel sick and anxious, and so she contacted Abbot Aidan. He told her he would speak to RC-F80.[339] Later that month she wrote to Abbot Aidan about the matter, but after waiting for over a month had no reply. RC-F80’s Facebook account was still active and so she wrote to Abbot Aidan again, saying that she was going to consider ‘other options’.[340]

237. Abbot Aidan told us he had not replied to RC-A117’s initial letter because he had been away. When asked if those ‘other options’ concerned him, he said ‘no’. When he finally did respond to RC-A117, he told her that RC-F80 had said that what had happened between them was not abuse but was ‘motivated by love’,[341] which illustrates he had decided to accept RC-F80’s version of events over that of RC-A117. Abbot Aidan also said that RC-F80’s position in the school was under review. RC-F80’s Facebook page eventually came down.[342]

238. RC-A117 did not think sufficient action was being taken in respect of RC-F80, so she appealed to Fr Pat Browne, who had been Cardinal Hume’s private secretary.[343] Fr Pat contacted Abbot Aidan and asked why he had done nothing during the previous three years. Abbot Aidan replied that it was because RC-A117 had never made a ‘formal’ complaint.[344] In saying this, Abbot Aidan was being disingenuous. It is plain that RC-A117 had been complaining vociferously for some time and had clearly been asking for help and for something to be done about RC-F80, requests which were ignored for far too long.

239. As a result, RC-A117 made a formal report. On 14 June 2010, Mr Hobbs disclosed RC-A117’s complaint against RC-F80 to Clifton diocese. Concerns about RC-F80’s speaking to girls at a school assembly about ‘love [and] sex’ were also passed on.[345] RC-A117 spoke to Ms Dziadulewicz, who referred the matter to the police. Claire Winter, LADO at Somerset County Council, was also notified and a decision taken to hold multi-agency strategy meetings under section 47 of the Children Act 1989.[346] A police investigation was also commenced.

240. At the first strategy meeting on 24 June 2010, the allegations against RC-F80 were discussed. By this stage RC-F80 had been removed from the school. Various actions were agreed, including that Ms Dziadulewicz would discuss with the abbot that RC-F80’s internet use be supervised, and that he should have no access to social networking sites.[347]

241. DC Mark White told us he recalled that from the outset Abbot Aidan was less than fully cooperative. During the police investigation, he discovered that RC-F80 had admitted to Abbot Aidan Bellenger that he had had a sexual relationship with RC-A117, but Abbot Aidan was initially reluctant to provide details of this conversation. However, the police log shows that on 30 June 2010, Abbot Aidan Bellenger provided DC White with RC-F80’s personnel file, which included the letters between RC-A117 and the abbot. Abbot Aidan said that he was willing to make a statement, and confirmed that RC-F80 had admitted to a sexual relationship with RC-A117.[348]

242. At the second strategy meeting on 25 August 2010, it was recorded that while Abbot Aidan Bellenger agreed to the restrictions on RC-F80’s internet use, DC Mark White had witnessed RC-F80 having unsupervised access to the internet. By this stage RC-F80 had been arrested and interviewed and the police had seized his letters, which included one from a 13-year-old in 1975 saying: ‘Don’t get caught’.[349]

243. The minutes of the meeting recommended that DC White compile a list of concerns in relation to Abbot Aidan’s obstruction of the investigations.[350] A handwritten note added that the list had been compiled, but there had been some progress in cooperation, though the police were still alert. DC White duly emailed Ms Dziadulewicz on 11 September 2010 to say that while Abbot Aidan had not done enough to be arrested for obstruction, he had been making the investigation difficult. DC White set out a number of concerns:

  1. Abbot Aidan’s initial reluctance to provide him with RC-F80’s personnel file and his sudden recollection of an incident involving RC-F80 at another abbey, of which there was no reference in the file.
  2. At the strategy meeting prior to RC-F80’s arrest, DC White had asked for a number of restrictions be placed on RC-F80, but when he checked a few days later he discovered the abbot had suggested to RC-F80 he should go and stay indefinitely with his sister.
  3. Abbot Aidan’s delay in obtaining records in relation to RC-F80’s internet use.
  4. DC White had been told that Dom Philip Jebb was unable to speak to him due to age and ill health, but on one occasion when Abbot Aidan was away he had come across him at Downside, and found that Dom Philip had remembered RC-A117.

In respect of this last point, DC White also told us that he felt that he was being kept away from Dom Philip.[351] However, the email also stated that Abbot Aidan had approached DC Mark White, unprompted, and provided a file of letters which caused DC Mark White to hope that Abbot Aidan Bellenger was then fully cooperating.[352]

244. On 28 September 2010, Ms Dziadulewicz sent an email to Claire Winter and DC White, telling them that complaints had been made against RC-F80 by some of the female pupils at Downside. During a relationship lesson with girls, RC-F80 had asked ‘how many of you girls finger yourselves?’ He had made similarly unsuitable comments at an assembly during Lent of the previous year (2009), saying ‘this is the beginning of Lent so no hand jobs or fingering’. He had used the word ‘orgasm’ seven times during a house assembly. No one had challenged RC-F80 because he was popular. Ms Dziadulewicz felt this raised several issues, including the school’s response to behaviour that was at the very least inappropriate. As a result, the police made further enquiries.[353]

245. In December 2010, Mr Domaille was commissioned through CSAS to conduct a preliminary enquiry protocol investigation into the case of RC-F80.[354] In February 2011, before the report was finished, RC-F80 accepted a caution for one offence of indecent assault, relating to the first time he had touched RC-A117 in May 1985, when she was over the age of 18.[355] Following the caution, RC-F80 was placed on the Sex Offenders Register. Detective Inspector Lindsay Shearlock, who reviewed the details of the case for this Inquiry, told us that in her view RC-F80 had taken advantage of RC-A117, an exceptionally vulnerable young woman.[356]

246. On 24 January 2011, Mr Domaille interviewed a number of individuals for his report, including Dom Philip Jebb who denied knowing what had happened but said that he had feared the relationship was inappropriate. Mr Domaille was left feeling unsure ‘whether his memory was genuinely poor or selective in protection of his friend. This feeling was exacerbated when he made a statement to police only days later.’[357] Dom Philip Jebb was at that stage advanced in age, and unwell. We have not seen his police statement.

247. Mr Domaille’s report was completed on 11 March 2011. In it he noted RC-A117 felt that Abbot Aidan was too slow to react to her concerns about RC-F80 and his Facebook account.[358] He concluded, on the balance of probabilities, that the sexual relationship between RC-F80 and RC-A117 was abusive and non-consensual. He recommended that RC-F80 be subject to an independent risk assessment, restrictions be put in place and safeguarding training provided to clergy and staff at Downside. An independent review panel endorsed the report in July 2011.[359]

248. In October 2011, a risk assessment by Steve Lowe, independent consultant and director of Phoenix Forensic Consultants, suggested that RC-F80 should either be retired from ministry or placed where any potential risks he might pose could be limited and/or managed.[360]

249. In an email to Abbot Bellenger in 2012, Anthony Domaille said ‘for those steeped in safeguarding it’s easy to identify that A117’s [first] 2007 disclosure reached the threshold where onward reporting was required.’[361] Dom Aidan Bellenger told us he now agrees that something should have been done in 2007 and accepts that he was slow to respond.[362]

250. We have been told that RC-F80 does not currently live at the abbey but remains subject to a Covenant of Care.[363]

References

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