The national child sexual abuse inquiry is to hold its preliminary hearing into allegations relating to a leading North Yorkshire independent school early next month.
The preliminary hearing relating to Ampleforth College will be held in London on June 6 to examine procedural issues ahead of the full inquiry which is due to start in December.
It is part of an investigation into “the extent of any institutional failures to protect children from sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church”, which is one of 13 separate areas of investigation being looked into as part of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).
The first case study in the Catholic church investigation is into the English Benedictine Congregation, a Catholic religious order whose affiliated monasteries run or have run a number of prestigious private boarding schools around the country, including Ampleforth. Professor Alexis Jay, chair of the national inquiry, told a conference in York that the inquiry has set out a work programme.
Prof Jay said: “The inquiry has heard 16 preliminary hearings over seven of the 13 investigations. Next in relation to the Roman Catholic church focusing on the Benedictine case study is coming up in early June.
“Looking into Ampleforth here in Yorkshire forms part of our investigation into the Roman Catholic church.”
A spokesman for Ampleforth said: “We are committed to providing the highest possible standards when it comes to looking after those entrusted to our care, and welcome the opportunity to cooperate with IICSA.”
A spokesman for the IICSA said: “The sexual abuse of children within the Roman Catholic Church has been a matter of national and international concern for many years.
“The first case study will examine the English Benedictine Congregation which has been the subject of numerous allegations of child sexual abuse, including at schools run by the congregation.
“The inquiry will examine the relationship between orders such as the Benedictines and the Catholic Church in England and Wales and consider how that relationship impacts on child protection.
“In this way the inquiry will evaluate whether any failings identified within the English Benedictine Congregation, and within any other case studies identified as part of the investigation, are representative of wider failings within the Catholic Church.”
Ivor Frank, an inquiry panel member, told the conference that there are a series of public hearings scheduled as part of the inquiry, including the one into the English Benedictine Congregation in December 2017.
“It is not a civil trial, it is not a criminal trial, it is not a trial at all,” he said. “It is an opportunity to hear evidence. Some of the people giving evidence are victims and survivors of the type of abuse we are looking into.”
Inquiry officials have previously revealed more than 4,000 potentially relevant documents have been obtained from the English Benedictine Congregation and from schools including Ampleforth.