Saturday, 8 May 2010

Sexual Abuse

I blogged below about the sexual abuse which, it turns out, went on for many years at the school where my 3 brothers went and where my father taught from 1948 until his death in 1974. The school, Saint Benedict's, is run by the Benedictine monks of Ealing Abbey, which was also our parish church. One of the convicted abusers, David Pearce, was a priest at the Abbey. The other, John Maestri, was the maths teacher, and a family friend.
Since writing about it I have heard credible accounts from a close friend and ex-pupil at St Ben's of abuse by Maestri and by another monk, Fr Lawrence Soper, who is currently in Rome. Other allegations that I have heard indirectly name two other monks at the Abbey - one still alive, and in fact one of the trustees of the school, and the other now dead.
The deceased monk was head of the junior school when we were small - and I remember that my mother told me my elder two brothers did not start at the school at the age of five, as they could have done, because my father did not want them around this monk. I always assumed it was because that monk was heavy-handed with the cane, but now I wonder.
Well, Pearce was finally brought to justice after 30 years of complaints against him. In the last few years he was put on a restricted ministry and supposed to have no access to children (officially, according to the Abbey, the "protect him against false accusations"). Nevertheless, he was still able to find a minor to abuse. He was jailed for 8 years, after the court heard the testimony of some of his victims.
Fine, but on Friday his appeal to have his sentence reduced was heard, and it succeeded. He's now down to 5 years. The really extraordinary thing was the statement of the judge, as reported in the Times, that Pearce's activities should not be "elevated to the status of a crime". In which case, why on earth is sexual abuse of minors prosecuted at all?
What the judge seems to mean is that Pearce manipulated, groomed, emotionally blackmailed, groped, fondled and snogged boys in his care, and for whom he was headmaster, priest, and possibly also their confessor. He did not penetrate them, so it's not serious. Possibly also the judge thinks that as they were boys (some as young as 11) it doesn't matter so much. Well, we all know what boys are like, don't we?
In the words of Private Eye "this justice should be seen to be done."

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