Father Leo Maidlow Davis, 63, now the senior monk at Downside Abbey, burned staff files dating back to the early 1980s in a bonfire in 2012.
However, he claimed any destruction of evidence was unintentional, saying his aim had been simply to ‘get rid of unnecessary old material’.
The fee-paying school in Radstock, Somerset, was examined as part of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).
We never, ever, admit to being in Radstock. Nor, by preference, near it. Stratton on the Fosse, yes, perhaps Midsomer Norton, but really, Radstock?
The inquiry heard of a locked basement room at Downside, used by monks to watch personal videos. It learnt of brown envelopes containing allegations against monks that were locked in the abbot’s safe. Victims described childhood ordeals. Naked boys were taken into monks’ beds. Some were abused so often that it became routine. It was a world in which paedophiles flourished.
There’s an oddity to this. When I was there (and this is confirmed by the two I was there with I still speak to and yes, obviously, anecdata) it just wasn’t a thing. A boarding school has a pretty good gossip network and there just wasn’t any. OK, yes, smoke, fire and all that, but absolutely no smoke?
But when I’ve mentioned this before a couple of correspondents who were there later, in those 80s, say that it was happening then, at least to some extent. As best I can work out therefore something went wrong, the place soured.
BTW, I’m not sure I know of a basement in the place…..it’s the sort of thing we would have found I think.
To be honest I’m all rather mystified by it. Is it that in such an institution if a couple get in then they start the entire barrel rotting?
One Downside monk, Fr Nicholas White, was imprisoned for five years on January 3 for child sex abuse dating from the late 1980s. Two monks have received police cautions, one a former headmaster for “abuse of a vulnerable person” during the 1980s; two more have been confined to the monastery (with the approval of the appropriate authorities) for “founded” allegations about the early 1990s. Another Downside monk has received a “police warning”, and one more was subjected to a police investigation that concluded without any action being taken.
One oddity is that former headmaster. His offence was after he had ceased to be headmaster, when he was out in a parish, not at the school at all. And he was headmaster during that period that I say nothing (well, as far as I know again) was going on. As I say, it’s all rather odd.