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Paul Kiesel
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Why Cardinal Mahony is Wrong About the Catholic Church Being Safer Today for Children

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From The Times:

by Tom Perry

There is a common reaction from people whenever I talk about the sexual abuse that I and other pupils suffered at the hands of teachers at Caldicott boarding school in the 1960s and early 1970s, events which were successfully hushed up. “Ah, but that was then,” they say confidently, “things are different now.”

Really? Are you sure? Well, let’s take the case of Alastair, who was targeted at the age of 11 by a career paedophile at Caldicott and whose abuse was discovered by the matron in 1972 . His parents and those of other boys abused by the same teacher — Martin Carson — were called to the school, in Farnham Royal, Buckinghamshire. Carson was dismissed but police and social services were not alerted, apparently “for the benefit of the children”. None of the victims was seen by a doctor, nor any psychologically assessed. Carson later resumed teaching at another private school. (In 2003 he was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment after admitting indecent assault and possessing indecent images of children.) Faced with exactly the same events, what is different today? I’ll tell you — nothing. No school in England, maintained or independent, is under any statutory obligation to report alleged abuse to the authorities. This includes the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO), the police or social services. Successive governments and the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) have delivered no practical improvements for the abused child for the past 38 years, despite endless child protection rhetoric.

I can almost hear the cries of “No — he’s wrong”. I have heard it so often. If you do not believe me — and many don’t — I suggest you try to identify a statute, then seek counsel’s opinion thereon if you think you’ve found something. I will wave you goodbye knowing that I will never hear from you again. Because nothing of the kind exists. You may encounter something that looks and smells like a statute but it does not bark like a statute. It is related to Section 175 of the Education Act 2002 for maintained schools, and Section 157 of the same Act for independent schools. These statutory duties are supported by “guidance” contained within Working Together to Safeguard Children, issued by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) in April 2006, and Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment in Education, which was also issued by the DfES in November 2006 and took effect in January 2007.

All you will find at the cornerstone of child protection in English classrooms is that schools should report alleged abuse to the LADO. If a school fails to follow this “guideline” there is no sanction for “failing to report”. In theory the School Inspectors should put any such school on an undertaking to the DCSF to report alleged abuse appropriately: but this rarely happens (and is a frequent example of failure in the inspection process).

Presenting this “guidance” as quasi-statutory misleads most in the world of education, including, to my knowledge, a senior officer in the DCSF involved with Safeguarding. It is a triumph of presentation over reality. But the losers are the child victims of abuse, and it is this that the DCSF fails to understand. From many years of communication with the DCSF it has become clear that “Safeguarding” is not a subject of which there is much practical understanding. As far as I’m aware, I have never yet had an exchange about this with an officer from the DCSF who has had the benefit of a social-care background.

I discovered more about the fractured landscape of child protection in education as a result of finally and belatedly trying to confront the legacy of sexual abuse that has so troubled my life.

I was abused from the age of 12 by one of my teachers at Caldicott, Peter Wright, who went on to become headmaster. The abuse began when he asked me to visit him in his room close to our dormitory. It continued when I would be asked to take up his morning cup of tea. After all these years I can still remember his smell when he kissed me. At the time I said nothing, silenced by fear, shame and a deeply dysfunctional sense, then fostered within the school’s culture, that I had been singled out for special treatment, that I was somehow “privileged”. This experience I have recounted in detail in the Bafta-nominated Channel 4 documentary Chosen, which has ignited the debate about sexual abuse in schools.

A unique combination of events prompted me to find my voice late in life. The mental death of my mother from Alzheimer’s; my son moving towards the age at which I had been abused; the appalling revelations of sexual abuse by clergy in the US that filled the news. And an extraordinary article that I’d read about a lawyer who was the Roman Catholic Church’s principal child sexual-abuse lawyer in Florida, who stopped mid-sentence mid-trial when cross-examining a male complainant and said: “I can’t do this any more, I was abused by my priest when I was an altar boy.” His extraordinary state of denial and years of silence chimed with mine. Mentally, I imploded and became very unwell.

The article continues here.