Commission inquiry into monastic charities after sex abuse allegations

13 Dec 2016 News

Ampleforth College

Elliott Simpson

The Charity Commission has opened a statutory inquiry into two monastic charities, Ampleforth Abbey and the St Laurence Education Trust, following media reports of historical sexual abuse.

Ampleforth Abbey runs the Benedictine monastic community and the St Laurence Education Trust runs two private schools, including Ampleforth College, which are located on the same site as the Abbey. 

Earlier this year media reported that the police were investigating complaints against the Right Rev Cuthbert Madden, which dated back to the 1990s. 

Police took no further action and Madden had denied any wrongdoing.

The Charity Commission said it opened the inquiry in November to investigate the charity trustees’ approach to safeguarding and how it handled allegations of sexual abuse. 

It will examine:

  • the administration, governance and management of the charities by the trustees and whether or not the trustees have complied with and fulfilled their duties and responsibilities as trustees under charity law
  • whether, and to what extent, there was/had been misconduct or mismanagement in the administration of the charities by the trustees
  • the charities’ handling of safeguarding matters, including the creation, development, substance and implementation of their safeguarding policy and review procedures
  • how the charities dealt with the risks to the charities and their beneficiaries arising from alleged abuse incidents, including the application of their safeguarding policy and procedures

Ampleforth Abbey has an annual income of around £25m and recently received a £3m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to carry out repairs to a church.

Charity’s statement 

The charities said they were cooperating with the Charity Commission. 

A statement said: “Following media reports of historic allegations this summer, the Charity Commission, the independent regulator of charities in the UK, has notified the trustees of the Ampleforth Abbey Trust and the St. Laurence Education Trust that it has opened an inquiry into whether trustees followed best regulatory and administrative practice in regards to safeguarding issues. The trustees are co-operating fully with the Commission and as the inquiry is ongoing, no further comment can be made. 

“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.”

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