Monk's victim demands Church apology for ‘brushing abuse under carpet’

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Monk's victim demands Church apology for ‘brushing abuse under carpet’

4th January 2012

A man who was preyed on as a schoolboy by the monk jailed yesterday in the latest UK sex abuse scandal, has demanded the Catholic Church apologise for ‘brushing it under the carpet.’

Richard White, who taught at the prestigious Downside School in Stratton-on-the-Fosse, Somerset, pleaded guilty in November last year to charges of indecent assault and gross indecency relating to his time at the school in the 1980s. Following White’s sentencing on 3 Jan, his victim, now in his 30s, has demanded that the Church take responsibility for failing to act after it learned of the abuse he was subjected to as a boy, and for allowing the Benedictine monk to continue working at the Abbey attached to the school.

Angela Dobbs, a legal expert specialising in helping the victims of sexual abuse, is representing the man. “My client was first abused by White – who was known as Father Nicholas at the time – when he was just 12 years old,” said Miss Dobbs, a partner with Fentons Solicitors LLP. “He had tried to block the abuse from his memory, but was amazed when police contacted him more than 20 years later. They had discovered my client’s records when they were called in to the school to investigate another allegation, and he was shocked and appalled to learn that White was still working within the Abbey and had access to children.”

Miss Dobbs said that her client believes his abuse only initially came to light in the 1980s because of talk amongst his classmates. “My client was residing at Plunkett House, a junior section of Downside School,” she said. “He was young and although he was loved by his family he was never shown much physical affection by them, so when White began taking an interest in him he was unsure how to react. He was groomed and made to feel complicit in the abuse for 18 months, and so felt he could not speak to anyone about what was happening.”

Miss Dobbs said White – who was the young boy’s Geography teacher – would prey on his interest in old books and maps by taking him into the restricted monks’ library at the school. “He would abuse him in the library, and then ‘reward’ him with access to the senior school’s tuck shop and money to buy ‘treats’,” she said.

“My client remembers that it was only when other boys started talking about the special treatment he was getting that the abuse stopped, his parents took him out of the school and – my client believed - White was ‘sent to Ireland’.”

Miss Dobbs said that her client spent the years that followed trying to block out the abuse. “He developed a number of emotional issues, he has attended counselling sessions and he regularly suffers panic attacks,” she said. “Although he has struggled to build and maintain relationships, he is a father and is now engaged to be married to his partner.”

She said when police contacted her client after discovering details of his abuse during their investigation many years later, he was outraged to learn that White had returned to working at the Abbey attached to the school. “He was so appalled that White still had access to the pupils that he felt he had no choice but to give a full statement and ensure that the children at the school were protected from this despicable man,” she said.

“Yesterday’s sentencing is just the first step as far as my client is concerned,” said Miss Dobbs. “More than twenty years have passed since White’s hideous crimes first came to light, crimes committed when my client was a child and was in no position to do anything about them.

“It was the duty of the Church and the school to ensure the safety of my client and all the other children who were there, and instead, White was allowed to continue working at the Abbey. It was like putting the fox in charge of the chickens,” she said.

Miss Dobbs explained that as a victim of a crime of violence, her client is eligible to claim compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, the Government body set up to compensate innocent victims of crime. “But the CICA is funded by taxpayers money,” said Miss Dobbs. “My client is adamant that he does not want the public purse to pay for the crimes committed by White and the Church’s failure to protect him.”

“Instead, he wishes to take action against the authorities responsible and wants the powers-that-be to apologise to him and all other victims of abuse for not only failing to act to protect them, but for also brushing the offences under the carpet, and allowing them to continue.

“White has finally been jailed for his crimes against my client, but by rights he should have been jailed years ago - and could have been, were it not for the inaction of the very establishment charged with caring for and protecting my client,” said Miss Dobbs.

Read more at: BBC News, The Times, Daily Mail