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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

A.2: The scope of the investigation

6. Since 2003, two monks (Laurence Soper and David Pearce) and two lay teachers (John Maestri and Stephen Skelton) have been convicted of multiple offences involving the sexual abuse of children perpetrated between at least the 1970s and 2008. Another teacher, deputy head Peter Allott, was convicted in 2016 of offences relating to the possession of indecent images of children. The Inquiry also received evidence of at least 18 further allegations against these five men and eight other monks and teachers (RC-F41, RC-F46, RC-F122, RC-F191, RC-F282, RC-F310, RC-F311, RC-F312).

7. The accounts that we have heard have encompassed a wide spectrum of behaviour, including severe physical chastisement (sometimes for sexual gratification and sometimes as a precursor to further sexual abuse), grooming, fondling of genitalia, and oral and anal penetration. The true scale of sexual abuse of children in the school over more than 40 years is unknown.

8. The issues that we have sought to address in this investigation are derived from the Terms of Reference set by the Home Secretary[1] and the definition of scope for the EBC investigation.[2] Having considered the evidence received in respect of Ealing Abbey and St Benedict’s, we identified a number of issues which have formed the core focus of our considerations. These included:

  • the extent to which children at St Benedict’s were sexually exploited by monks and others associated with those two institutions;
  • whether children were sexually abused by individuals against whom allegations had previously been made and not properly acted upon;
  • whether adequate safeguarding structures were put in place, or whether these were merely a box-ticking exercise, absent any real desire to implement change and leading to a culture of complacency;
  • whether there was a culture of ‘victim blaming’ or a suggestion that because a child had not made formal complaint it was less serious than claimed;
  • whether the first instinct was to protect the perpetrator rather than to safeguard the child, or to consider the perpetrator’s wellbeing over that of the child;
  • whether decisions were taken with a view to the protection of the reputation of the Church above the safety of children;
  • whether any events were deliberately hidden or covered up;
  • whether the general attitude was one of minimisation of allegations;
  • the background to the review conducted by Lord Carlile of Berriew QC, his report in 2011, and the response of Ealing Abbey and St Benedict’s to it;
  • what steps the EBC now plans to take to address the safeguarding of children.
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