Somerset

Downside Abbey head admits school's reputation 'damaged'

Father Leo Maidlow Davis, headmaster of Downside School near Bath
Image caption Father Leo Maidlow Davis said the school now has "robust risk assessments in place"

The headmaster of a Somerset school hit by allegations of historical sexual offences has acknowledged the school's reputation has been damaged.

But Father Leo Maidlow Davis, head of Downside Abbey, said he was now "satisfied that we have our child protection issues right".

Richard David White, 66, a monk who taught there, was jailed for five years for child sex offences.

White, of Hyde, Fordingbridge, Hampshire, was sentenced on 3 January.

The offences took place in the 1980s when White taught at the school in Stratton-on-the-Fosse.

Father Leo Maidlow Davis, head of Downside Abbey, said: "The reputation - the damage I'm sure has been very considerable because it's raised a lot of concern about Catholic education. Benedictine schools and I would be very foolish to underestimate the damage that that could do to the school."

He said the school now had robust child protection procedures in place.

"But in the past, when the concerns were raised, they did have one-to-one access to children which they do not have now," he said.

"And Ofsted in their last report say that we have robust risk assessments in place and that they are confident that we can prevent the wrong people having access to children.

"And yes, I am satisfied that we have our child protection issues right now."

Catherine Pepinster, editor of the Tablet Catholic Newspaper, said "people's trust had been shaken".

"I think it could take quite a considerable effort on their part to reassure parents of the children that they are doing everything possible to ensure their protection," she said.

At White's trial, the court was told that he was warned about his behaviour after molesting one 12-year-old boy but, instead of being reported to police, the Benedictine abbot of the monastery, which is attached to the school, simply prevented him from teaching younger students.

He went on to indecently assault a second boy - the one he was charged with assaulting - over the course of several months while he was aged 12 and 13.

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