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Ealing Abbey: Paedophiles acted 'like the mafia'

Laurence Soper Image copyright Metropolitan Police
Image caption Laurence Soper was jailed for 18 years for abusing boys at St Benedict's

A group of paedophiles behaved "like the mafia", abusing dozens of young boys at a west London Catholic school over a 50 year period, a report says.

St Benedict's School, Ealing, was described as a "grim and beastly place" by the Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).

A culture of cover-up and denial of sexual abuse operated at Ealing Abbey, which ran the school, the report found.

To date five men have been convicted for abusing children at the school.

Father Anthony Gee faced accusations of abuse and a civil action was brought against him

Staff who reported concerns about teacher behaviour compared it to going up against "the mafia" and "ramming your head against a brick wall".

Peter Halsall, a teacher at St Benedict's for 40 years, made complaints about both Pearce and Maestri "but they didn't go anywhere and it definitely harmed my career".

Image copyright Google
Image caption Five men have been jailed for abusing children at St Benedict's

The IICSA received 18 further allegations against 8 monks and staff, but the true scale of the abuse is "likely to be much higher", the report found.

Children suffered severe corporal punishment which was often used as a means to initiate sexual abuse or for sexual gratification.

"It remains to be seen whether Ealing Abbey proves itself capable in the future of ensuring proper safeguarding of children at risk," the report said.

The IICSA report highlighted failings by school leadership, police, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and child protection teams.

The report, the inquiry's tenth, has been published as part of its investigation of abuse within the Roman Catholic church.

A request was sent to the Holy See for a witness statement covering questions on what steps were taken after Soper disappeared from the country in 2011.

The Vatican declined to provide a statement, a move John O'Brien, secretary to the inquiry, described as "regrettable".

Correction 1 November 2019: An earlier version of this article referred to abuse carried out by a group of paedophile priests and reported that five priests had been jailed. It has since been amended to explain that five men were convicted of abusing children at the school, including two priests.

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