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Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Monks to lose abuse school control - St Benedict's School chiefs offered a "heartfelt apology for past failures"

Monks to lose abuse school control

(UKPA) – 41 minutes ago

A top QC has called for tougher rules to protect all faith pupils as he stripped monks of control at a London school beset by sex abuse.

St Benedict's School chiefs offered a "heartfelt apology for past failures" as Lord Carlile of Berriew detailed 21 attacks over 40 years.

The peer said he hoped his decision to take powers away from Ealing Abbey would "set a template" for other schools.

Four top fee paying schools - including Ampleforth College, North Yorkshire, and Downside, near Bath - share similar structures to St Benedict's.

In his inquiry, Lord Carlile outlined a catalogue of failures by the west London abbey to intervene as allegations of abuses came to light.

"I have come to the firm conclusion... that the form of governance of St Benedict's School is wholly outdated and demonstrably unacceptable," Lord Carlile wrote. "The abbot himself has accepted that it is 'opaque to outsiders'."

The crimes of Father David Pearce - jailed for a catalogue of abuse against five boys over a period of 36 years - illustrate how "St Benedict's rule of love and forgiveness appears to have overshadowed responsibility for children's welfare".

The report added: "In a school where there has been abuse, mostly - but not exclusively - as a result of the activities of the monastic community, any semblance of a conflict of interest, of lack of independent scrutiny, must be removed."

Two trusts should be launched to remove "all power from the abbey" while maintaining the Benedictine connection for the parents, Lord Carlile said. Changes will be in place by the beginning of the next academic year, he said.

Headmaster Chris Cleugh admitted the west London school "could have, and should have, done more" to stop the abuses. He said the school was "totally" committed to implementing the changes.

Copyright © 2011 The Press Association. All rights reserved

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