The English Benedictine Congregation and other Roman Catholic religious orders make up one of the 13 strands of the Independent Investigation into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).
In April 2017, it was announced that Ampleforth College in Yorkshire would be used as a case study for inquiries into other institutions, but what happened at the college?
What took place at Ampleforth College?
In 2004, an ex-student of Ampleforth College in Yorkshire accused Father Jeremy Sierla of sexually abusing him as a child and while he was a student there. As a result, police investigations were launched.
The police interrogated more than a dozen ex-pupils who had attended during Sierla’s tenure as housemaster in the early 1990s. In addition to the charges made against Sierla by former students, evidence was discovered indicating that he had posed as a teenage girl online in order to communicate with young boys.
Sierla was never charged because prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence to support the charges, and the Crown Prosecution Service has stated that his case file was destroyed years ago.
Concerns Regarding Safeguarding
Despite the fact that no charges were filed, police were so worried about what their investigations had shown that they wrote to the Department for Education (DfE) to explain what they had discovered. They stated in their letter that Father Jeremy Sierla should not be “let anywhere near a school.”
In both 2004 and 2007, a group of Safeguarding experts met to discuss the allegations brought against Sierla. It took the DfE another 5 years to inform Ampleforth College that he should not be permitted on school grounds. Sierla walked away on his own.
Sierla has consistently disputed the charges and currently lives in a restricted religious order far from campus.
Ampleforth College’s Other Offenders
Dara de Cogan began teaching violin at Ampleforth College in 2004. A lady in her twenties came forward with charges of abuse against de Cogan that occurred when she was just 13 years old, more than ten years after she was assaulted by him. De Cogan pleaded to ten charges of sexual conduct with a child while in a position of trust and was sentenced to 28 months in prison in March 2017. He will also be listed as a sex offender for ten years.
David Lowe had previously worked at Ampleforth College as a retired teacher.
Former pupils accused him of assaulting them while they were students at the institution from the 1970s to the mid-1980s.
Victims came forward from two of the teacher’s previous schools, including Westminster Cathedral Choir School.
He is said to have targeted ten youngsters between the ages of eight and thirteen.
Claims surfaced that Lowe had brought the lads to his own flat and exploited them while they slept on school grounds. In 2015, Lowe was sentenced to ten years in prison.
Ampleforth College as an Example
The Independent Investigation into Child Sexual Abuse looked into “the extent of any institutional failures within the Roman Catholic Church to safeguard minors from sexual assault.”
The English Benedictine Order operates several prominent private boarding schools around the country, including Ampleforth College.
Because of the numerous allegations of child sexual abuse, the Committee picked Ampleforth as a case study. The IICSA hopes to learn whether “the inadequacies documented within the Benedictine Congregation in safeguarding are reflective of greater failings within the Catholic Church.”
The Inquiry held hearings in 2017, when the victims gave evidence. You can read the report into Ampleforth online by going to the Rapid Read version which then opens into the full report