Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse Ampleforth and Downside Investigation report 9 August 2018
On the 9 August 2018, the IICSA published the Ampleforth and Downside Investigation Report, as part of the Roman Catholic Church Investigation. David Enright and Sam Stein QC attended a preview meeting this morning where they were able to read the report before publication. Below is a review from David and Sam of the contents of the report. A fuller analysis will follow, but this is our first impression of its contents.
If you have any questions please call or email Howe & Co’s IICSA team at IICSA@howe.co.uk
David Enright (head of Howe & Co.’s Public Inquiry’s team) and Sam Stein QC of Nexus Chambers, the Chambers of Michael Mansfield QC, attended a preview of the IICSA’s report into Ampleforth and Downside Abbeys and schools.
This investigation forms part of the IICSA English Benedictine Case Study, which in turn forms part of the wider ongoing IICSA Roman Catholic Church Investigation. Today’s report arises from the public hearing, which was held from 27 November 2017 – 15 December 2017. David Enright and Sam Stein QC appeared at that hearing representing their core participant clients. A link to their opening submissions in that public hearing can be found here. David Enright’s submissions begin at 58:16: https://www.iicsa.org.uk/video/iicsa-english-benedictine-congregation-case-study-day-1-271117-am1
Overview of Ampleforth and Downside investigation report
The chronology of child sexual abuse of children by persons associated with Downside and Ampleforth Abbey (including monks and staff) set out in the report is truly shocking. Not only is the scale of child abuse shocking, but how long the abuse continued, that it was widely known at the highest levels of these monasteries and Schools, and that child abusers routinely went unreported, unpunished and were allowed to abuse again.
It is difficult to describe the appalling sexual abuse inflicted over decades on children aged as young as seven at Ampleforth School, and 11 at Downside. Ten individuals, mostly monks, connected to these two institutions have been convicted or cautioned in relation to offences involving sexual activity with a large number of children, or offences of pornography. The true scale of abuse however, is to be considerably higher. (Paras 3 and 4 of executive summary of Ampleforth and Downside investigation report)
“In addition, there have been allegations of a wide spectrum of physical abuse, much of which had sadistic and sexual overtones” (Executive Summary p.iii)
Destruction of records
It is clear from the report that there is strong evidence that evidence relating to child sexual abuse the Abbey’s response to it may have been destroyed. The Inquiry made scathing findings regarding the destruction of records. It found:
In common with other Inquiry investigations, the issue of destruction of records arose. Recently, he thought possibly in 2012 (when he was headmaster of Downside School), Dom Leo Maidlow Davies spent some time removing files from the basement of a Downside building. He made several trips with a wheelbarrow loaded with files to the edge of the estate and made a bonfire of them. These files were reported to be primarily the personal records of individual monks and staff stored over a lengthy period of time, which were required to be disposed of to create more storage space. It is impossible to say whether these files contained either potentially incriminating information or, indeed, information which could have enabled victims to have a better understanding of what happened to them. Regardless of the motivation for the destruction of these records, it adds to the perception of cover up on the part of Downside.
The very real concern is that persons, including the leaders of these Abbeys and schools may have allowed records to be destroyed, or even destroyed them themselves, to shield the Abbeys and the Church from full and proper scrutiny.
Howe & Co’s impact on Inquiry’s report and recommendations
It appears that submissions made by Howe & Co on behalf of its clients have had a significant impact upon the report and recommendations.
All of our clients within this investigation have made it abundantly clear that one of the main issues confronting the Catholic Church, as a whole and demonstrated in the governance structure of the English Benedictine Congregation, is that it lacks any type of corporate management structure. Because of this profound structural flaw the implementation of any recommendations as to change and compliance with child protection systems has no organisational effect. The Inquiry adopted submissions, strikingly similar to those made by Howe & Co, as can be seen:
“The EBC is not pyramidal in structure; it has no recognisable line management oversight. Each abbot or abbes has responsibility for their own community, which is autonomous.”
On behalf of our clients Howe & Co pressed the inquiry to understand that the English Benedictine Congregation had not faced up to their responsibilities, nor adequately acknowledged the abuse within its institutions and that these central failures and flaws were reflected across the Catholic Church as a whole. We are therefore pleased to see that the report is cutting in its findings regarding the actions of leading members of the Abbeys in relation to the wide spread and widely known child sexual abuse that was being perpetrated at both Abbeys.
Those who have followed the hearings will recall that, in cross examination of Dom Richard Yeo (then president of the EBC) Sam Stein QC pressed the Abbot on the lack of progress regarding acknowledgement of abuse and the failure to provide any compensation scheme or even agree that the wider EBC should be responsible for the payment of compensation to survivors.
As regards these issues the Inquiry found:
“Time and again within the public hearing the most senior clergymen in the EBC and in the two Abbeys, including past presidents of the EBC Dom Richard Yeo and Dom Charles Fitzgerald-Lombard, admitted wrong-headed judgments, and expressed regret at past failures to protect children. This was necessary but not sufficient. It was not accompanied by a full acknowledgement of the tolerance of serious criminal activity, or the recognition that previous ‘misjudgments’ had devastating consequences for the lives of the young people involved.”
‘Nor has any comprehensive redress scheme been offered to victims” (Executive Summary p.v).
What were the Inquiry’s conclusions?
In a word, damning.
In relation to Ampleforth Abbey and School the Inquiry concluded:
The [Charity] Commission’s statutory Inquiry announced its findings on 3 April 2018. In summary, the Commission was not satisfied that AAT [Ampleforth Abbey Trust] and SLET’s [the School’s education trust] current safeguarding policies, procedures and practices are adequate and working properly. This includes concerns about their compliance with established safeguarding procedures...As a result, on 3 April 2018, the Commission announced that it had stripped Ampleforth and SLET of their safeguarding oversight and appointed an interim manager for both charities…
It is clear to us from all the evidence we have heard during this Inquiry that several systemic child protection and safeguarding challenges remain at Ampleforth to this day.
In relation to Downside Abbey and School the Inquiry concluded:
Dom Leo told us that Downside is currently working towards the school becoming separate and independent from the monastery. We are not convinced by this statement, but we now understand that after our public hearings a consultancy firm was appointed in April 2018 to manage the separation. It took nearly 10 years to organise this separation, which is yet to be complete.
As with Ampleforth, the evidence that we have seen and heard during the course of our inquiry, outlined above, indicates that a number of systematic child protection and safeguarding challenges remain at Downside to this day.
Nolan and Cumberlege – the Downside connection
It is important for readers of this report not to think that this report represents the first time the Catholic Church has been examined in relation to child sexual abuse. The Catholic Church undertook two major reviews of child safeguarding; the Nolan Report in 2001 and a major nationwide follow up, the Cumberlege Commission in 2006 – 2007.
The Inquiry found that following the Nolan report
“By 2002/3 the Catholic Church had appointed diocesan safeguarding officers who were expected to be involved in handling any allegations or disclosures. There was hostility to the Nolan Report in both institutions for some time after its formal adoption. They seemed to take the view that its implementation was neither obligatory nor desirable. This failure to comply appeared to go unchallenged by the Catholic Church” (Executive Summary p.iv).
The Cumberlege Commission (which was the five year review of progress following Nolan) produced its report in 2007 entitled “Safeguarding with Confidence”.
It is beyond irony, and readers of this report will be astonished, to note that the Cumberlege Commission held its concluding sessions at Downside Abbey and that one of the Commission’s members was Dom Richard Yeo, recent former Abbott of Downside and the then president of the English Benedictine Congregation.
This investigation, the Abbey’s and the Church’s attitude to Child Sexual abuse may well be summarised in the words and evidence of Mr Adrian Child (former director of the national Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service) to the Inquiry on 13 December 2017 (page 136 – 137 of the transcript):
… If I could just, I suppose, add to that that I think the Catholic Church has had two excellent opportunities, through Nolan and Cumberlege, to get safeguarding right on a kind of, as I said, goodwill, internal basis, and whilst I think there's been a huge amount of effort by a lot of people, a lot of very good people, within the church, and I include some bishops and religious leaders in that, they haven't got it right, and that's in a 15-year period. So I don't see any value in tinkering around the edges and saying, "Here you are. Here is a third opportunity. Go away and sort this out yourself", so that comes back to my point I made a few minutes ago: I think there needs to be accountability and some kind of mandatory enforcement.
Thus, the former head of the Catholic Church’s own safeguarding advisory body believes that the Catholic Church has had its chances to prove that it can keep children safe, the Church has failed in that duty and should not be given a third chance. In his expert view, child protection needs to be taken out of the hands of the Catholic Church.
In November the Inquiry will hold a hearing into the Archdiocese of Birmingham. As a result of submissions made by Sam Stein QC and David Enright, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nicholls, will give evidence to that hearing.
In February 2019 the Inquiry will hold a further hearing into the English Benedictines (Ealing Abbey and School). As recently as 21 December 2017 that former Abbott of Ealing, Lawrence Soper, was convicted of 19 charges of indecent and sexual assault of 10 pupils of Ealing Abbey School.
The Inquiry has indicated that it will be holding a further and final hearing in the Roman Catholic Church Investigation in late 2019.
Howe & Co will be representing core participant victims and survivors at all of these hearings.
The report provides the most deeply troubling account of long term, wide spread child abuse, perpetrated at these Abbey run Catholic Schools. The child abuse that was being perpetrated at these Abbey’s and Schools was widely known of within the Church. Abusers were not reported, they were sheltered and were allowed to be free to continue to abuse again.
The report paints the starkest picture of the apparent inability and unwillingness of these institutions (The Benedictine Congregation) and the Catholic Church in England and Wales to confront child abuse and child abusers:
“We agreed with Dr.Whitehead’s views about the safeguarding challenges still facing Downside. He talked of a ‘massive issue’ in relation to structure and governance, with a culture of ‘monastic superiority’, ineffective governance and a lack of transparency as to who was actually running the organisation. He said they needed to ‘wake up’ to the realities of modern compliance.
David Molesworth, a safeguarding specialist with the local authority, gave his contemporary assessment of child protection at Ampleforth: ‘I do not currently believe that the origination a whole understands or accepts their responsibilities for child protection issues….., we appear to be dealing with denial or downright obstruction’” (Executive Summary pili).
Whilst many aspects of this report are commendable, in that IICSA recognises both the scale of the abuse within the EBC and the failure of the EBC to live up to its responsibilities to protect children within its care, the report shies away from making recommendations as to change. Despite the fact that within this investigation David Enright and Sam Stein QC repeatedly called for urgent recommendations to be made immediately the Inquiry has decided that it will await the conclusions of the others parts of the Catholic Church investigation and potentially other investigations as well.
It is difficult to understand why there is a delay to making some obvious recommendations. As an example, why wait until the final part of those investigation to come to the obvious conclusion that the seal of the confessional cannot be absolute? Instead this report says we shall have to wait:
“This case study has given rise to a number of issues which have wider implications than for the English Benedictines Congregation. These include issues of self-governance relating to safeguarding, ‘failure to report’ and ‘position of trust’ offences, and the extension of statutory procedures governing state schools to independent schools. We shall address these in future Inquiry reports”
It remains our central submission, on behalf of our clients, that the Catholic Church in England and Wales has (directly or indirectly) within its care almost a million school children and hundreds of thousands of other children and vulnerable adults in crèches, churches, care homes etc.
An organisation of such size and national importance must be held to the same standards of child protection, as we would expect from any other organisation. As matters stand it remains the case that experts, including those who have headed up the Catholic Church’s safeguarding bodies, do not believe the Church is structurally capable of safeguarding children.
In the face of this evidence, the Inquiry must act more decisively.
David Enright – Howe & Co
Sam Stein QC – Nexus Chambers
9 August 2018