School names police probe monks
Seven Roman Catholic monks with links to a top public school have faced police investigation over child sex and pornography offences, the school has admitted.
In a letter to the parents of the 1,500 pupils at the £26,000-per-year Downside School in Somerset, Dom Aidan Bellenger, the Benedictine Abbot of Downside, apologised to parents and named some of the monks who were picked out by a criminal investigation looking at 50 years of confidential school records.
Of the seven monks from Downside, he said four had faced police action and two, against whom allegations "were founded" , had restrictions imposed on their ministry. The seventh was cleared and allowed to return to his monastic life.
The school has already announced a "major review of the school's governance" that would result in "significant changes" after a monk and former teacher at the school, Richard White, was jailed for five years on January 3 for sexually abusing two 12-year-old boys in the late 1980s.
His abuse was known about by monastic and school staff at the time but he evaded criminal charges for more than 20 years.
"We are truly sorry that children and young people have been abused by those whom they should have been able to trust," Dom Bellenger wrote.
"We are committed to doing everything possible to ensure that such things do not happen again.
"We must never underestimate the great damage suffered by the victims of abuse. Their bravery in telling their stories has resulted in radical changes in the way safeguarding is approached. Victims of abuse are in our prayers and the sadness we feel for what they have suffered will be with us always.
"These unhappy events inevitably cast a long shadow, but your chief concern will of course be the welfare, security and happiness of children currently at Downside. Many steps have been taken to ensure that the Downside portrayed in some parts of the media is a thing of the past."