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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The Roman Catholic Church (EBC) Case Study: Ealing Abbey and St Benedict’s School Investigation Report

D.4: 2010 to the present

The Carlile report

72. Concern with the institutional response of Ealing Abbey and St Benedict’s to allegations of child sexual abuse came to a head in 2010. Pressure came from five directions.

  • In December 2009, the Charity Commission published its report following its two statutory inquiries in 2006 and 2008. It was “extremely critical” of the trustees’ failure to implement restrictions upon Pearce, and indicated that the Commission would actively monitor the charity.
  • The views of certain members of the public gained momentum, especially through Jonathan West’s blog.
  • In April 2010 a series of articles appeared in The Times[1] and an interview with Abbot Martin Shipperlee was aired on BBC Radio 4.
  • Following the withdrawal of the 2009 report, the follow-up ISI inspection of April and May 2010 was critical and made a number of recommendations. These included that St Benedict’s should “Ensure that any staff or members of the religious community live away from the school, if they are subject to allegations of misconduct or convicted of wrongdoing”.[2]
  • On 16 July 2010, Penny Jones of the DfE wrote to Shipperlee to inform him that the Minister of State for Schools was seeking “assurance that all ISI’s recommendations will be implemented promptly”.[3]

73. It was against this background that, in July 2010, Anthony Nelson of Haworth & Gallagher solicitors was instructed to advise Abbot Shipperlee in connection with child protection issues and the ISI report. He advised that “the School and the Abbey, the Abbot being essentially the Head of both, should seek to establish trust with the Regulatory Authorities and to avoid at all costs mistrust”.[4] Subsequently Dr Kevin McCoy was instructed to undertake a documentary review. Mr Nelson also contacted Lord Carlile, with whom he had a previous professional connection,[5] writing:

It is suggested at this stage by the lay person advising the Abbey that an independent report, chaired by yourself in conjunction with Dr McCoy’s particular skills, would be advantageous to the Abbey.[6]

Lord Carlile agreed, but on the understanding that the report would be published online and printed copies made available upon request. His inquiry was formally announced in August 2010.[7]

74. Abbot Shipperlee subsequently presented written representations to Lord Carlile in January 2011, in which he suggested that the purpose of reform should be to implement five principles:

1. to create a governing body with clear independence and autonomous decision-making power;

2. to establish clear accountability between school management, governors and Trustees;

3. to create a system of governance that is transparent and understandable to outsiders;

4. to develop a governing body capable of addressing any concerns over Safeguarding, and monitoring the effective implementation of policies and procedures in this area;

5. to ensure the Benedictine nature of the school is preserved. This remains a particular principle for St Benedict’s, Ealing, and part of the choice parents make to send their children to the school.[8]

75. Lord Carlile’s final report was produced in November 2011. In it, he agreed with Abbot Shipperlee as to the principles, but continued:

It has been suggested to me that these purposes could be met by changes to the existing governance structure under a single trust, with delegation of functions to committees with some guarantees of independence. I do not agree. I have no doubt that circumstances have given rise to an overwhelming imperative for the creation of two charitable trusts … [9]

76. Abbot Shipperlee enacted the formal separation of the school from the monastery swiftly after Lord Carlile’s report, notwithstanding his initial reservations about that course. Given external pressures he had little choice. For example, the DfE was provided with an embargoed copy of the report ahead of publication, and concluded that the report’s recommendation, if implemented, would bring about the necessary changes to the management and leadership of the school.[10] St Benedict’s duly became formally independent of Ealing Abbey on 1 September 2012.

St Benedict’s post-Carlile

77. Following the separation, St Benedict’s became a registered charity and a company limited by guarantee, independent of the Abbey. The chair of the governing body must be a lay person. The majority of other governors are lay: only the Abbot and two members of the Ealing monastic community are governors, along with 10 to 17 others.

78. After the identification of defects in its child protection policy in 2010, there followed a lengthy process of revision in light of concerns raised by the ISI and Jonathan West. Since at least October 2013, external reporting to the LADO of all complaints or suspicions of abuse has been compulsory.[11]

79. In 2016, Andrew Johnson was appointed headmaster of St Benedict’s. He described a number of improvements to safeguarding, including record-keeping and vetting, compulsory reporting to Ealing social services, safeguarding training for staff, information for students and parents, and the operation of the safeguarding sub-committee under the chair of Sue Vale, an education consultant with relevant expertise.[12] Mr Johnson also outlined that he had commissioned an audit report from Philip Threlfall, an independent safeguarding consultant, whose conclusion was that Mr Johnson, Ms Vale and St Benedict’s staff were “absolutely committed” to safeguarding, and that “the right things are in place”.[13] It is the responsibility of all those at the school to remain vigilant and ensure that safeguarding remains a priority.

Developments at Ealing Abbey

80. The instruction of Lord Carlile and the implementation of his key recommendation of structural separation were significant developments undertaken by Abbot Shipperlee. They reflected a more proactive approach by him to trying to learn the lessons of the past and make changes for the future. However, there remained deficiencies in his approach and judgement in the period from 2010.

81. In July 2010, the DfE wrote to Abbot Shipperlee asking him to implement all the ISI’s recommendations,[14] in particular regarding the residence of monks (“Ensure that any staff or members of the religious community live away from the school, if they are subject to allegations of misconduct related to safeguarding or convicted of wrongdoing[15]). This recommendation plainly encompassed RC-F41, nonetheless Abbot Shipperlee did not immediately relocate RC-F41. However, he did commission a further report from Mr Tregaskis.[16] On 12 October 2010, the Minister of State for Schools, Nick Gibb MP, wrote to the Charity Commission expressing concern that the DfE did not have the jurisdiction to enforce RC-F41 living away from the monastery.[17] Shortly after, on 15 October 2010, Mr Nelson informed the DfE that Abbot Shipperlee would ensure that RC-F41 would move from Ealing Abbey by early January 2011. However, when RC-F41 was moved that month,[18] Abbot Shipperlee failed to inform the Diocese of Brentwood (in breach of the CSAS cross-boundary placement policy[19]). The Bishop of Brentwood subsequently asked that RC-F41 be moved because the diocesan safeguarding commission felt that the premises were unsuitable.[20] Thereafter another location for him was found.

82. There was insufficient monitoring of the restrictions upon RC-F46. The restrictions were first imposed following the allegations of RC-A423 in April 2010. These were subsequently found to be “unsubstantiated, but not unfounded.[21] Taken together with allegations made against him by RC-A422 at St Augustine’s Priory, a local girls’ school, the multi-agency strategy meeting determined that the restrictions were to be maintained. Yet members of the monastic community were not informed of the terms of the covenant of care.[22] Further, for a significant period into 2011, RC-F46 not only refused to agree to his covenant[23] but also sought to evade the restrictions, which came to include that he should “only access Ealing Abbey Church during the monastic office and with other members of the monastic community and at other times only with the explicit permission of the abbot”.[24]

83. RC-F46’s restrictions were not reviewed annually, as they should have been.[25]

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