Monks 'To Handover' At Abuse School

Roman Catholic monks could lose control of running one of the country's most prestigious private schools, based in Somerset, after more than 200 years following a series of sex abuse scandals, it has been reported.

Roman Catholic monks could lose control of running one of the country's most prestigious private schools, based in Somerset, after more than 200 years following a series of sex abuse scandals, it has been reported.


Benedictine monks will hand control of affairs at the £26,000-a-year Downside School in Somerset to an independent governing body following a review of practices in the wake of the jailing last week of Richard White, 66, for abusing two boys there in the late 1980s, according to The Times.


Police have now confirmed two other men have received cautions as part of an investigation into historic sexual abuse at the school. A spokesman for the school confirmed that "a major review of the school's governance'' was taking place at Downside and that "significant changes will be announced soon".


White, who was known as Father Nicholas to the 1,500 students at the school, was jailed for five years after being sheltered by the church for more than two decades, despite admitting his crimes to monastic staff at the time. He abused a 12-year-old boy in 1988 but after admitting it he was allowed to continue teaching, abusing a second boy of 12 - whom he paid 50p each time he abused him - the following year.


That boy, Rob Hastings, waived his right to anonymity and urged other victims of abuse at the school to contact police. The 35-year-old IT consultant and father of four from Calne in Wiltshire said it was time the school faced up to the level of abuse which went on, criticising its apology as "inadequate''.


White's court case in Taunton heard that the school received legal advice in the early 1990s that they were not required to tell the police what happened. Instead White was sent to a number of monastic retreats in England and Scotland over the next 20 years.

 

"The apology wasn't even an apology, it was saying 'we have done everything right'," Mr Hastings said.

"I feel that Downside had been infiltrated by paedophiles at all levels. The school needs to admit its level of failure to support the safeguarding of children. Once it has done that it is in a place to move forward and make it a safer place."


White, of Fordingbridge, Hampshire, admitted five charges of indecent assault and two of gross indecency with a child, relating to Mr Hastings, in November last year, and asked for four offences against the first boy, who has never made a complaint to police, to be taken into account. Taunton Crown Court heard last week that even when White himself admitted to the principal what he had done, the police were not told.


Instead the former British Army soldier, who the court heard was repressing his homosexuality at the time, was dismissed from his teaching post and sent away, while Mr Hastings's own family obtained a court injunction to keep him out of any newspaper reports after the News of the World reported on claims of abuse at the school, before removing him.


His crimes only came to light when an investigation by Avon and Somerset Police and the church's Clifton Diocese into historic child abuse claims found evidence in old files in 2010. In a statement last week, Abbot Aidan Bellenger, the current abbot of Downside, said the school was "truly sorry" that the abuse took place.

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