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Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Charity Commission probes Ampleforth College's handling of child abuse claims

Written by The Press Association

The Charity Commission has launched an inquiry into how a leading Roman Catholic independent school has handled allegations of child sexual abuse.

Ampleforth College, in North Yorkshire, is already the subject of a police investigation into historical allegations of abuse.

In September the Right Reverend Cuthbert Madden, Ampleforth College's chairman of governors at Ampleforth College and Ampleforth Abbey's abbot, stepped aside as he denied any wrongdoing after North Yorkshire Police confirmed it was investigating non-recent allegations of indecent assault against four pupils at the school.

Parents were later told by the school that police had completed their investigation into Abbot Madden and they will not be taking any further action, it was reported in November.

On Tuesday, the Charity Commission announced it had opened an investigation into Ampleforth Abbey and St Laurence Education Trust, which runs both Ampleforth College and St Martin's Ampleforth.

Ampleforth Abbey maintains a Roman Catholic religious community which is located on the same site as Ampleforth College.

In a statement, the commission stressed it will not be investigating the actual child abuse allegations.

It said: "The regulator's statutory inquiry will investigate the charity trustees' approach to safeguarding and handling of allegations of sexual abuse.

"The investigation follows media reporting regarding individuals with links to Ampleforth College in connection with allegations of sexual abuse."

The commission said the inquiry will examine the administration, governance and management of the charities by the trustees and whether or not the trustees have fulfilled their duties and responsibilities.

In a statement Ampleforth College said: "The trustees are co-operating fully with the commission and, as the inquiry is ongoing, no further comment can be made.

"Ampleforth is 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 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."

Ampleforth College, which opened in 1802 as a boys' school, has more than 600 pupils and admitted girls for the first time in 2002.

Some of its famous former pupils include Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes and former England rugby captain Lawrence Dallaglio.

The school has a history of allegations of abuse with a number of previous convictions, including Father Piers Grant-Ferris who was jailed for two years in 2006 for 20 counts of indecent assault on boys in his care.

After North Yorkshire Police's announcement in September, a statement on the abbey's website said: "Following allegations relating to historical events, Abbot Cuthbert Madden has temporarily stepped aside from his responsibilities as Abbot of Ampleforth.

"Father Madden denies any wrongdoing and will be co-operating fully whilst the allegations are investigated by the appropriate authorities."

But parents were reportedly sent a letter in November which told them Abbot Madden would not face any police action.

North Yorkshire Police said its investigation into Ampleforth Collage was continuing.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2016, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) PA Wire.