Now Ampleforth faces charity probe linked to sex abuse claims

7th November 2013'Vision Magazine feature on Ampleforth Abbey Beer.'Pictured Ampleforth Abbey. GB1001/2a'Picture by Gerard Binks.
7th November 2013'Vision Magazine feature on Ampleforth Abbey Beer.'Pictured Ampleforth Abbey. GB1001/2a'Picture by Gerard Binks.

A YORKSHIRE religious community was today at the centre of a raft of new investigations linked to allegations of sexual abuse against students.

The Charity Commission announced it was looking into Ampleforth Abbey’s handling of abuse claims at its two church schools near Malton.

At the same time, it emerged that North Yorkshire Police was investigating three new claims of abuse at the Benedictine monk-run institution.

The new claimants are understood to have come forward following the announcement three months ago that the chairman of governors at Ampleforth College had stepped aside while police looked into other allegations of abuse.

The Right Reverend Cuthbert Madden, who was also abbot at Ampleforth, has denied any wrongdoing.

The independent Roman Catholic school, which reportedly charges parents more than £33,000-a-year for boarding pupils, has been dogged by allegations of abuse. In the most recent case, last year, David Lowe, 61, a former housemaster at the college, was jailed for 10 years for sexually abusing boys at two schools as they slept in their dormitory beds and during singing lessons.

The new investigation by charity commissioners will question the safeguarding measures put in place by Ampleforth’s trustees, and their handling of abuse allegations.

The inquiry - launched two weeks after Ampleforth Abbey was awarded nearly £3m from the Heritage Lottery Fund to encourage tourism - will also examine the administration and management of the Ampleforth charities by their trustees, and whether “misconduct or mismanagement” took place.

The separate police investigations concern historic allegations of assault against pupils at Ampleforth.

Earlier this year, officers interviewed a man in his 60s under caution, but police said today he would not face further action.

However, the North Yorkshire force confirmed it was pursuing three active investigations following new allegations.

The Charity Commission inquiry was welcomed by solicitor Rachel Thain, who has handled compensation claims by abuse victims at Ampleforth.

She said: “I am aware of the long history of issues regarding sexual abuse at Ampleforth, which shows a concerning line of men who took advantage of their positions at the institution to sexually abuse the pupils in their care.”

The Yorkshire Post revealed in 2005 that pupils at Ampleforth had suffered decades of abuse from at least six paedophiles following a decision by the late Cardinal Basil Hume not to call in police at the beginning of the scandal.

Hume, a former pupil at Ampleforth, was abbot there in 1975 when he received a complaint from parents about Father Piers Grant-Ferris, the son of a Tory peer.

Grant-Ferris was sent away by Hume and the authorities were not informed. He was later convicted of abusing 15 boys at Ampleforth’s prep school from 1966 to 1975, and jailed for two years.

In a related case, Father Gregory Carroll was jailed for four years in 2005 after admitting abusing 10 boys at Ampleforth between 1979 and 1987.

In 1995, Father Bernard Green was put on probation for two years for indecently assaulting a 13 year old. And Frank Hopkinson, the former head of Ampleforth’s finance department, who had worked at the school for 40 years, was jailed for a year for downloading indecent images of children.

In a statement, Ampleforth said it was “co-operating fully” with the Charity Commission investigation.

The statement added: “Ampleforth is strongly committed to good governance and a January 2016 inspection by the Independent Schools Inspectorate found the College to be fully compliant with regard to all aspects of safeguarding.

“In addition, an independent audit of the Abbey Trust’s Safeguarding Commission carried out by the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service on behalf of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission in June 2015 endorsed the work of that Commission in safeguarding children and vulnerable adults.”

Ampleforth, which opened in 1802 as a boys’ school, has more than 600 pupils and admitted girls for the first time in 2002. Its old boys include Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes and former England rugby captain Lawrence Dallaglio.