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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

E.2: Diocese of Westminster

2. In 2001, following the Nolan report, Ealing Abbey referred safeguarding matters to the Diocese of Westminster child protection team. The rationale for this arrangement, as the Nolan working group of the EBC made plain, was so that each monastery could have “the support of experienced, impartial advice”.[1] This alignment eventually became more formalised in a written agreement in 2013.[2] Then the Abbot of Ealing Abbey became formally obliged to refer questions to the renamed Safeguarding Service, although the Diocese cannot force the abbot to comply with its recommendations.[3] In practice, however, Abbot Shipperlee did refer questions to the Diocese of Westminster child protection team throughout his time as abbot, and did comply with its recommendations.[4]

3. The key official in the Diocese of Westminster child protection team was the Child Protection Officer. From 2002 to 2014, this was Mr Peter Turner, a former police officer of 35 years with experience in child protection matters.[5] He worked under the leadership of the Child Protection Coordinator, Monsignor Harry Turner. Peter Turner was responsible for carrying out the team’s tasks.[6] His work included dealing with complainants (if allegations were made direct to the Diocese), liaising with external agencies (in particular social services and the police) and providing advice to priests and religious (ie a person bound by religious vows, such as a monk or a nun, but in this context, generally the Abbot of Ealing Abbey) about safeguarding matters such as restrictions.[7]

4. The relevant child protection policies were initially those of the Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults (COPCA), established after the Nolan report in 2001. From 2008, these policies were replaced by those of the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service (CSAS).[8]

5. These policies included requirements to maintain a child protection case file for every case, and to refer allegations of child abuse to statutory authorities immediately. Contrary to these policies, there were numerous failings in record-keeping.

5.1. For example, Peter Turner failed to record:

  • the complaint made by RC-A418 in 2001 that he had been sexually abused by Father David Pearce in 1992;[9]
  • his recommendation in 2002 that Pearce should not come into any contact with children (which he had assured the police that he would make);[10] and
  • RC-A419’s complaint of sexual abuse by Pearce committed in the 1970s.[11]

Mr Turner also failed to obtain and keep full records of the restrictions upon Pearce.

5.2. Some failures in record-keeping predated Mr Turner. For example, in 2004, he told the police that there were no previous allegations in respect of Soper,[12] who was then being investigated in respect of RC-A622’s complaints. In fact, the Diocese of Westminster child protection team was aware of RC-A420’s claim in 2001 (before Mr Turner’s time) but no records of this were kept.[13]

The significance of such failures is obvious: it means that an accurate picture of allegations was not maintained or available in the event of subsequent concerns.

6. The advice given to Abbot Shipperlee in respect of imposing restrictions upon Pearce and others was deficient. First, in identifying the restrictions upon Pearce, Mr Turner and the Diocese of Westminster child protection team overlooked that RC-A419’s account was of abuse by Pearce during a visit as a family friend.[14] Pearce was allowed to continue to visit families within the parish; the only condition was “that he does not wear clerical dress and that the families are bona fide families/friends”.[15] The conditions should also have stipulated that friends and families be made aware of the restrictions upon him, as Mr Turner admitted in his evidence to us.[16] Similarly, Mr Turner did not ask whether any young people worked in the monastery:

I just assumed that they had kitchen staff working at a weekend like they did during the week.

Q: Was that a safe assumption to make?

A: With hindsight, no.[17]

7. Mr Turner also failed to advise Abbot Shipperlee as to how the restrictions should be implemented and monitored.[18] Mr Turner had more experience of child protection matters than Abbot Shipperlee, including the difficulties there may be in monitoring compliance with restrictions. As he told the Inquiry:

in my experience, especially with sex offenders, they will do anything to get around any restrictions that are placed upon them”.[19]

8. There was also a failure by Mr Turner to review the risk posed by Pearce in light of relevant developments, such as the civil judgment in favour of RC-A6 in 2006.[20]

9. Despite this lack of proper consideration of the risk posed by Pearce or of what action the Diocese of Westminster child protection team should take, Mr Turner informed the Deputy Child Protection Manager at the London Borough of Ealing in July 2006 that:

I am certain that [Pearce has] been removed from all Ministry, and [does] not have any contact with Children or Young Persons, and that no further action is required at this stage.[21]

This assertion was made solely on the basis of the fact that restrictions had been put upon Pearce, rather than on how they had been implemented and monitored. To suggest ‘certainty’ was misleading.[22]

10. This same lack of proper consideration is evident in the Diocese of Westminster child protection team’s failure to review or reflect on its approach after it was discovered that Pearce had abused RC-A621 while under restrictions.[23]

11. The Diocese of Westminster child protection team was under-resourced for much of this period (2002 to 2014). That may have contributed to its failures in respect of Ealing Abbey and more broadly (an audit in 2011 by Adrian Child of CSAS found standards not met in a number of areas, including casework and recording practice).[24] Mr Turner’s role required him to undertake operational child protection work in respect of 200 parishes and 80 religious congregations. At first, he worked alone, whilst later he had a part-time assistant and, later still, a part-time Disclosure and Barring Service administrator. As Mr Turner’s successor, Eva Edohen, said:

It became apparent very quickly after I started in May 2014 that it was impossible for one person to carry out the role … or provide the essential services.[25]

Mr Turner said that he had repeatedly raised the issue of resources during his time between 2002 and 2014.[26] Regardless of the issue of resources, there were occasions when Mr Turner and the Diocese of Westminster child protection team acted appropriately. For example, they refused to agree with Abbot Shipperlee’s request in 2007 that the restrictions upon RC-F41 be lifted.[27]

12. The broader issue of diocesan funding for child protection may be considered in the wider investigation into the Roman Catholic Church. We note the evidence given by Reverend Jeremy Trood, the Episcopal Vicar for Safeguarding for the Diocese from 2013 until October 2018, that since 2014 the Diocese has restructured its Safeguarding Service,[28] increased staff from two to five, and more than doubled funding.[29]

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