Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

John Hurt's brother in monastery here after UK child-abuse caution

A Benedictine monk, who was given a police caution after a major investigation into allegations of child sex abuse at a famous Catholic boarding school in Britain, is now living in a monastery here under a restricted regime.

Brother Anselm, who is a brother of film star John Hurt, is at Glenstal Abbey in Co Limerick but has been banned from having any contact with pupils there following the police investigation.

The monk, whose real name is Michael Hurt, has even been ordered to end his involvement in a chess club for boarders.

Aged 79, he is now retired and is allowed to live in restricted conditions at Glenstal Abbey under the terms of a contract that was approved by the gardai and the HSE.

The allegation of sexual assault against Brother Anselm was said to have been "of a minor nature" and to have taken place in the late 1960s while he was teaching at the Downside school, near Bath in Somerset.

Earlier this month, another former Downside teacher, Fr Richard White, was jailed for five years for gross indecency and indecent assault against a pupil in the late 1980s.

The conviction followed an 18-month criminal investigation by officers from the Avon and Somerset Constabulary. Their inquiries are ongoing.

A spokesman for the police told the Irish Independent yesterday that two other Downside monks received a caution, including Brother Anselm, who was not named.

While a caution does not amount to a conviction, by accepting it, a person acknowledges the offence.

The Avon police spokesman added: "We identified a number of offences by a number of offenders. There is no evidence that offenders were co-operating to victimise particular individuals".

Brother Anselm left Downside in 1970 and became a layman. He later said that he had left the order partly because he was "in conflict with the Abbot and the school headmaster".

He moved around England and spent many years in Liverpool, working in adult education, before moving to Ireland. In 1996, he decided that he wanted to rejoin the order and was taken into Glenstal Abbey in Murroe as a novice.

The current headmaster at Glenstal, Brother Martin Browne, said last night that Glenstal operated totally independently of Downside and had not become aware until last February that an allegation had been made against Brother Anselm.

He pointed out that Brother Anselm had no teaching role there and that his only contact with pupils had been through a chess club. That contact was immediately terminated when Glenstal became aware of the allegation, he added.

The Glenstal authorities consulted with the gardai, the HSE and the National Board for Safeguarding Children and were informed that Brother Anselm had received a police caution.

As a result of that caution, Brother Anselm was made subject to the notification requirements of the Sexual Offenders Act for two years.

He was for some time in charge of the kitchens at the abbey and eventually decided to write a cookery book as a result of queries from guests for his recipes. It was published and included simple, humorous illustrations of monks at work and play.

Brother Anselm's younger brother, John Hurt, became famous worldwide through his roles in films including 'The Elephant Man', 'Midnight Express' and 'A Man For All Seasons'.

In the trial of Fr Richard White, who was jailed last week, it emerged that he had been allowed to continue teaching after he had first been caught abusing a child in 1987.

He then went on to groom and assault another pupil in the junior school. White was then placed on a restricted ministry but was not arrested until last year.

After White's conviction, Fr Aidan Bellenger, the abbot of Downside, wrote to former pupils and apologised for White's actions.

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