Christopher Cleugh, Headmaster of St Benedict’s School in Ealing, has said the school will be implementing the recommendations outlined in a report by Lord Carlile.
The inquiry began last year as David Pearce, a former monk at the abbey, was imprisoned for eight years for sexually abusing young boys at St Benedicts over a period of 36 years. Some of his victims were under the age of 14.
Lord Carlile came to the conclusion in his report that the form of governance of St Benedict’s School is “wholly outdated and demonstrably unacceptable.”
The report recommends that the school should set up two trusts to “remove all power” from the Abbey over the school whilst keeping the Benedictine aspect to the school’s operation, which is of importance to the parents. The trustees will be appointed by September 1st, 2012.
The structure proposed by Lord Carlile leaves all ultimate control and governance in the hands of the trustees, all of whom are members of the Benedictine Community of Ealing Abbey.
The trustees of St Benedict’s must also include representatives from constituent parts of the school community, and from outside.
The trust owns the substantial property on which St Benedict’s School is situated and retains the power to control all aspects of the School’s activities within the overall charitable objects.
Headmaster Christopher Cleugh said: “We welcome the report and the school is totally set to implement what is set out in the report.”
“At St Benedict’s School we are committed to safe, happy, achieving and responsible students. We are not just about policy, we are about practise.”
When asked why the school had not been closed due to the seriousness of the allegations, Cleugh responded: “We are a school in high demand; we have over a thousand students and are in high consumer demand. We don’t want to deprive students in the future.”
The report outlines 21 reported cases of sexual abuse, starting from the early 1970s, and goes on to say “there are many lessons to be learned from past mistakes.”
The Vatican has also requested a separate inquiry into the sex offence allegations.
Police are looking for Father Laurence Soper, 80, former abbot of Ealing Abbey, who failed to answer bail in March 2011 following arrest on suspicion of abuse. He taught at the school from 1991 to 2000.
Lord Carlile urged him to “be responsible for his absence and surrender himself to the police, he has a personal and ethical duty to answer questions put to him.”
Lord Carlile concludes his report by saying: “I believe that St Benedict’s School is an excellent place for boys and girls to be educated in safety today and the future. No school is perfect and ‘never’ is a dangerous word and a hostage to fortune.”
The school, which admits pupils aged 4 to 18, came under scrutiny in 2009 when reports emerged of sexual abuse, some of which go back as far as the 1960s.
Father David Pearce, the former headmaster of St Benedict’s School, was jailed for eight years after being found guilty of abusing five students.
A number of priests and lay teachers at the school in Eaton Rise, have been linked to the scandal, which has been subject of three previous inquiries.
They include Father Laurence Soper currently on the run after failing to appear at a police station for questioning in March. The 81-year-old taught at St Benedict’s between 1972 and 1984 and was abbot of the abbey, in Charlbury Grove, for nine years from 1991.
Following further abuse claims, a team sent in by the Vatican visited the connected Ealing Abbey where some monks, who have also been accused of abuse, still live.
The latest inquiry has been ordered by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It is led by Bishop Arnold, an auxiliary bishop of Westminster and Father Richard Yeo, president of the English Benedictine Congregation.
Supporters of the alleged victims have questioned the integrity of the Vatican’s internal inquiry, not least because its findings will remain secret. One campaigner went as far as to say that this latest inquiry is akin to ‘putting Dracula in charge of a blood bank’.
Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat peer, Lord Carlile, has been conducting a separate inquiry into the abuse cases and is due to publish his findings later this month.
A spokesman for the Diocese of Westminster said: “The effective safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults is a priority for the Catholic Church, and Ealing Abbey’s safeguarding policies and procedures formed part of the remit of the apostolic visitation”.
He added: “The Vatican will decide what actions, if any, need to be taken”.