John Paul II's clone Cardinal Mahony is Wrong About the Catholic Church Being Safer Today for Children
April 24, 2009 8:32 PM
From The Times:
Why a child today is no safer from sexual abuse than I was
The acclaimed documentary Chosen, about systematic sexual abuse of young boys at Caldicott school four decades ago, is nominated for a Bafta. Here, one of those former pupils who appears in the film, warns that the school protection system that failed him then could just as easily fail your child now
by Tom Perry
There is a common reaction from people whenever I talk about the sexual abuse that I and other pupils suffered at the hands of teachers at Caldicott boarding school in the 1960s and early 1970s, events which were successfully hushed up. “Ah, but that was then,” they say confidently, “things are different now.”
Really? Are you sure? Well, let’s take the case of Alastair, who was targeted at the age of 11 by a career paedophile at Caldicott and whose abuse was discovered by the matron in 1972 . His parents and those of other boys abused by the same teacher — Martin Carson — were called to the school, in Farnham Royal, Buckinghamshire. Carson was dismissed but police and social services were not alerted, apparently “for the benefit of the children”. None of the victims was seen by a doctor, nor any psychologically assessed. Carson later resumed teaching at another private school. (In 2003 he was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment after admitting indecent assault and possessing indecent images of children.) Faced with exactly the same events, what is different today? I’ll tell you — nothing. No school in England, maintained or independent, is under any statutory obligation to report alleged abuse to the authorities. This includes the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO), the police or social services. Successive governments and the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) have delivered no practical improvements for the abused child for the past 38 years, despite endless child protection rhetoric.
I can almost hear the cries of “No — he’s wrong”. I have heard it so often. If you do not believe me — and many don’t — I suggest you try to identify a statute, then seek counsel’s opinion thereon if you think you've found something. I will wave you goodbye knowing that I will never hear from you again. Because nothing of the kind exists. You may encounter something that looks and smells like a statute but it does not bark like a statute. It is related to Section 175 of the Education Act 2002 for maintained schools, and Section 157 of the same Act for independent schools. These statutory duties are supported by “guidance” contained within Working Together to Safeguard Children, issued by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) in April 2006, and Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment in Education, which was also issued by the DfES in November 2006 and took effect in January 2007.
All you will find at the cornerstone of child protection in English classrooms is that schools should report alleged abuse to the LADO. If a school fails to follow this “guideline” there is no sanction for “failing to report”. In theory the School Inspectors should put any such school on an undertaking to the DCSF to report alleged abuse appropriately: but this rarely happens (and is a frequent example of failure in the inspection process).
Presenting this “guidance” as quasi-statutory misleads most in the world of education, including, to my knowledge, a senior officer in the DCSF involved with Safeguarding. It is a triumph of presentation over reality. But the losers are the child victims of abuse, and it is this that the DCSF fails to understand. From many years of communication with the DCSF it has become clear that “Safeguarding” is not a subject of which there is much practical understanding. As far as I’m aware, I have never yet had an exchange about this with an officer from the DCSF who has had the benefit of a social-care background.
I discovered more about the fractured landscape of child protection in education as a result of finally and belatedly trying to confront the legacy of sexual abuse that has so troubled my life.
I was abused from the age of 12 by one of my teachers at Caldicott, Peter Wright, who went on to become headmaster. The abuse began when he asked me to visit him in his room close to our dormitory. It continued when I would be asked to take up his morning cup of tea. After all these years I can still remember his smell when he kissed me. At the time I said nothing, silenced by fear, shame and a deeply dysfunctional sense, then fostered within the school’s culture, that I had been singled out for special treatment, that I was somehow “privileged”. This experience I have recounted in detail in the Bafta-nominated Channel 4 documentary Chosen, which has ignited the debate about sexual abuse in schools.
A unique combination of events prompted me to find my voice late in life. The mental death of my mother from Alzheimer’s; my son moving towards the age at which I had been abused; the appalling revelations of sexual abuse by clergy in the US that filled the news. And an extraordinary article that I’d read about a lawyer who was the Roman Catholic Church’s principal child sexual-abuse lawyer in Florida, who stopped mid-sentence mid-trial when cross-examining a male complainant and said: “I can’t do this any more, I was abused by my priest when I was an altar boy.” His extraordinary state of denial and years of silence chimed with mine. Mentally, I imploded and became very unwell.
Several years ago I filed a complaint with the police, and four other men who say that they had been abused by Wright came forward and Wright was charged with 13 counts of indecent assault and three counts of gross indecency with a child between August 1964 and May 1970. But in 2003 a judge stayed the case as an “abuse of process”, ruling that the alleged offences had happened so long ago that Wright could not get a fair trial. (He denied all charges.) Seeing how other abused pupils at Caldicott had been failed by the system I wanted to discover how similar events might be handled today, and what legal obligations schools are now under when the same happens to a child. A number of former pupils and parents of Caldicott shared this concern and we started to turn over the stones.
What we found is the shameful failure of primary legislation to support an abused child. A potentially sound inspection and regulatory framework does exist — but presently it’s not working. The situation shares much with Northern Ireland prior to the publication in 2005 of the Cabin Hill School Inquiry report, which made extensive recommendations after the discovery of pupil-on-pupil sexual abuse at that school, and the concealment of it by the school’s administration. The report demonstrated that a fundamentally sound framework existed, but little of it was working to any effect. The Northern Ireland Executive acted on the recommendations and now the Northern Ireland education department has a superb Safeguarding Policy document. Furthermore, it is prescriptive for all schools, and supplemented by school-specific policies. Reporting the crime of abuse in Northern Ireland is a statutory obligation. That’s it — everyone knows where they stand and it makes the efforts of our DCSF look third-rate.
All of us also need to understand that the only independent reports on schools are those produced by Ofsted and ISI, although the ISI is not independent in any meaningful sense of the description. Parents have nothing else on which they may safely place reliance. That is why failures in this realm have serious implications for parents, for pupils, for schools and for local authorities. In my view, Ofsted is in breach of its child welfare inspection responsibilities in maintained schools and all independent and state boarding schools. This is because its inspections and its reports fall far short of the standards of the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) to which Ofsted undertook to adhere in the handover to it from that body on April 1, 2007. There is a persistent failure to inspect against the notifications returned by schools under the Education Acts (and since January this year to the Independent Safeguarding Authority) to the former Teacher Misconduct Section of the DCSF in Darlington, and continuing failure to report appropriately — or in many cases at all — on child welfare issues arising out of the notifications.
Discovering examples of abuse that have not been reported on or inspected against by Inspectorates is difficult because of the artifice of pronounced confidentiality, which is used to keep these matters out of parental sight. But here’s an example: Stony Dean School, in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, a maintained special-needs school. In the most recent Ofsted report dated May 10, 2007 by Melvyn Blackband under the heading “Care, guidance and support” the school receives a grade 1 (outstanding) and the same grade for the sixth form. In the comments section, the inspector writes: “Child protection procedures are exemplary.”
Having read the report, one would think that the school would be at the top of every “probable” list for parents in that area who have children with special needs. The school was previously inspected March 1, 2002 and received a favourable report. But is this a true reflection of Stony Dean since the last inspection in 2002? In November 2005, Anthony Bulley, the former head of care at the school, was sentenced at Oxford Crown Court to ten years in prison for raping two boys and for other sexual offences.
Bulley had previously worked at a school in Oxford where similar allegations had been made. In 2002 he had been suspended from Stony Dean after a number of allegations by pupils. A General Teaching Council hearing in July 2008 concluded that the former head Peter Newsholme and his deputy Deryck Miller failed to ensure that the school properly acted on and managed child-protection issues. It also found that, contrary to DCSF childprotection guidance, Newsholme failed to follow up references for Bulley when he applied to Stony Dean. Had he done so, it would have been discovered that Bulley had been the subject of similar allegations in a previous post.
When such appalling child abuse occurs at a school, what should we as parents reasonably expect to see in an Ofsted child-welfare inspection report? We would want to be assured that any failures exposed by events in the school have been re-inspected and that the owners, the governors and the staff have learnt from the events and put in place procedures and protocols to reduce the likelihood of it happening again. We expect no more, but certainly no less. But do we see it in Stony Dean’s childwelfare report? It is silent on all these matters. It reads as if nothing ever happened there.
Next month the Buckinghamshire Safeguarding Children Board is expected to publish an executive summary of the “Serious Case Review” on events at Stony Dean.
The recent report into safeguarding in independent schools by Sir Roger Singleton recognises that Ofsted has not been fulfilling its welfare remit. His report to the Secretary of State contains many Ofsted-related recommendations. These recommendations seek nothing new in this regard, but merely require Ofsted to deliver what it should have been doing all along. However, the report does not address what should be made to happen to rectify the nationwide legacy of inspection failure that remains at schools such as Stony Dean, or Caldicott, where the current inspection reports of both the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) and Ofsted are silent on all the matters raised with them by the Buckinghamshire Safeguarding Children’s Board, or at Gatehouse School, Milton Keynes, where a culture of staff bullying and physical restraint of children continued for three years but where a favourable Ofsted report was held aloft by the former head as evidence of the staff’s good work.
That school has recently emerged from an independent review in which the author says: “Ofsted inspected the school in 2006 and reported favourably on the school’s management.” However, staff recruitment was as flawed in 2006 as it was in 2008. It is surprising that such a serious defect was not identified. The report continues: “Understandably officers [from Milton Keynes Council] were frustrated that there was a widely held view that ‘things were not right’ at Gatehouse School but that, largely because of such a positive [June 2007] Ofsted inspection and local review [Independent report called for by council officers December 2007], it was not possible to demonstrate this.”
From my limited personal research I can sadly name a double-digit number of schools, maintained and independent, which have inaccurate, unreliable and sometimes wrong child-welfare reports from either Ofsted or the ISI or both. My opinion is that all schools that have been failed in this way should be subject to re-inspection so that we can finally place reliance on those child welfare reports.
In her appearance before the Children Schools and Families Select Committee to give evidence on December 9, 2008, Christine Gilbert, Chief Inspector, Ofsted, said that, except where a complaint is made, Ofsted’s practice is to keep its notes for only three months after publication of a report. This surely handicaps and undermines the next child-welfare inspection, as there are no notes to which to refer and no means of carrying out any meaningful check on a school’s performance. It means that inspectors are left in the dark about whether the earlier problems have satisfactorily been resolved or not. Thus, over time, child-welfare inspection becomes gradually less effective because of a failure to “track back” and maintain a consistent overview. Child abuse that occurs as an isolated incident is one thing; child abuse that occurs in the same way three, four or five years previously before that is quite another. Later inspectors depend upon the earlier reports for their knowledge of trends in the school and previous child-welfare information.
Another important component of child protection is you, the parents. How many of you have read the child-protection policy of your child’s school? Do you understand what you should be looking for in it and requesting it to say? If in doubt please look at questions4schools.org.uk — which was assembled by the survivors of abuse at Caldicott and is for the benefit of all parents.
The other former pupils and I hope that your children have nothing less than a happy and, above all, safe childhood in education, and emerge unscathed on their journey into adulthood. As I and other former Caldicott pupils know, the alternative is a very high price to pay.
Posted by Susan Acker
April 24, 2009 11:59 PM
I would not believe anything Cardinal Roger Mahony had to say on any subject. And I would love to know what some of these clerical sexual predatory perverts have on Mahony; enough to make him fight so hard to protect them.
Posted by Victoriag
April 25, 2009 3:56 AM
The Roman Catholic Church is a decaying house, who's leaders, along with those who serve them closely, are always on the look out for a scapegoat on which to deposit their failure, stupidity and inhumanity. Roger Michael Cardinal Mahony is certainly one of it's (the RCC's) most visible cancers on the face of the church; what catholics refer to as the "Living Body of Christ". From what I have observed, Mahony has not one ounce of pity or humanity for the sufferings of the victimized children of the church who suffer endlessly. At first, many wanted to believe that Mahony, along with his fellow bishops, did not know what was happening to the children, young people and vulnerable adults of the RCC. We now know how foolish we were. But if the children of the Catholic Church are safer today than they were a few years back, it is not the RCC's doing; nor Mahony's, nor his brother bishops. Children are perhaps safer because the Victims/Survivors are still visible outside churches, schools meetings and conventions all across the country. Victims/Survivors are the visible reminders of what can happen when men and women, even so called, "religious" men and women sell their souls in the name of perversion, greed, hedonism, perjury and even murder. The bishops of this country, and around the world; even the pope in Rome, have ridden to their present positions of wealth and power over the raped, sodomized, bloodied and broken bodies of the children of this decayed church. And may those bishops and popes hear the screams of those tortured butchered children through all eternity. And may the bishops and popes never rest in this world, or the next.
Posted by Mike Bryant
April 26, 2009 12:53 AM
Wow, quite a post. Keep Shouting. Thanks for your work in spreading this message.