A group of paedophile priests behaved “like the mafia”, abusing dozens of young boys at a west London school over a 50 year period, a report says.
St Benedict’s School, Ealing, was described as a “grim and beastly place” by the Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).
A culture of cover-up and denial of sexual abuse operated at Ealing Abbey, which ran the school, the report found.
To date five priests have been jailed for abusing children at the school.
- In December last year Laurence Soper, 74, was jailed for 18 years for abusing boys in the 1970s and 1980s
- In 2009, Father David Pearce, 75, nicknamed the “devil in a dog collar”, was jailed after he admitted 11 charges of indecent assault dating back to 1972
- Between 2003 and 2009, “master of discipline” John Maestri, 78, of Chatham in Kent, admitted five indecent assaults against children at St Benedict’s in the 1980s and was jailed
- In 2011, John Skelton was convicted of indecent assaults against two complainants said to have occurred in 1983
- Father Anthony Gee faced accusations of abuse and a civil action was brought against him
Staff who reported concerns about teacher behaviour compared it to going up against “the mafia” and “ramming your head against a brick wall”.
Peter Halsall, a teacher at St Benedict’s for 40 years, made complaints about both Pearce and Maestri “but they didn’t go anywhere and it definitely harmed my career”.
The IICSA received 18 further allegations against 8 monks and staff, but the true scale of the abuse is “likely to be much higher”, the report found.
Children suffered severe corporal punishment which was often used as a means to initiate sexual abuse or for sexual gratification.
“It remains to be seen whether Ealing Abbey proves itself capable in the future of ensuring proper safeguarding of children at risk,” the report said.
The IICSA report highlighted failings by school leadership, police, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and child protection teams.
The report, the inquiry’s tenth, has been published as part of its investigation of abuse within the Roman Catholic church.
A request was sent to the Holy See for a witness statement covering questions on what steps were taken after Soper disappeared from the country in 2011.
The Vatican declined to provide a statement, a move John O’Brien, secretary to the inquiry, described as “regrettable”.