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Child abuse inquiry: Boy 'abused' by head of Catholic school

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The inquiry into child abuse is examining abuse at Ampleforth College, in North Yorkshire

A head teacher of a Catholic boarding school invited a young pupil into his study and then sexually abused him, the inquiry into child abuse has heard.

The hearing heard the boy was told to pretend to go to bed in his dorm at Ampleforth College, in North Yorkshire, and then to get up and go to his study.

Two other ex-pupils also talked about being abused and beaten at the school.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is currently examining abuse in the Roman Catholic Church.

The Church is one of 13 public organisations being scrutinised by the public inquiry, which is being headed by Prof Alexis Jay.

The third day of hearings into allegations involving the Church examined abuse at Ampleforth College, a private school run by Benedictine monks.

In a statement, read out to the inquiry, a man said he was abused by the head teacher of Gilling Castle – Ampleforth’s preparatory, or primary, school – in the mid 1960s.

He said he was under the age of 10 when the abuse took place.

‘Pervy’ teacher

The man said the head teacher – who was not named during the hearing – asked him to leave his dormitory and go to his study after bedtime.

“Several times he said he thought it was wrong which did not make sense to me,” the man’s statement said.

The man said he received a note from classmates when he was aged 10, saying the headmaster had died.

Earlier, two ex-pupils described being beaten in classrooms and in the confessional of the Ampleforth College chapel.

The men said they were also sexually abused by a monk and Father Piers Grant-Ferris, who was jailed for abuse in 2006.

Grant-Ferris smacked boys’ naked bottoms while masturbating, put his hands into their underwear, and took the temperature of a child rectally, one man said.

The witness said he told another monk, Father Justin Price, about the abuse and was told Grant-Ferris had “a problem with boys’ bottoms”.

Grant-Ferris – who the inquiry was told was nicknamed “Pervy Piers” by pupils – was jailed in 2006 for 20 counts of indecent assault.

After leaving Ampleforth – private school run by Benedictine monks – the witness said he had a “total psychological collapse”.

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Thirteen organisations are being scrutinised by the inquiry, headed by Prof Alexis Jay

The unnamed monk abused boys both “physically” and “psychologically”, the second witness said.

“He was a nasty, cruel, physically violent man towards me,” he said, adding that he treated boys at the school “disgracefully”.

The man said he had been sent as a boarder to Ampleforth’s prep school at the age of six.

He told the inquiry he had to “shut down” his emotions to deal with abuse there.

“My biggest problem has been having a shut down of emotions most of my life because I had to at school, otherwise I wouldn’t have got on and been able to deal with the school,” he said.

A barrister representing the school earlier this week offered a “sincere and heartfelt” apology to abuse victims.

Matthias Kelly QC said: “We wish to apologise for the hurt, injury, distress and damage done to those who were abused as a result of our failings.”

Mr Kelly said there had been “failings, omissions and a lack of transparency” at the school, but its governance had been improved.

‘Source of shame’

The inquiry is examining the extent of any institutional failings over abuse within the Church, in England and Wales.

On Tuesday, a former leader of Benedictine Monks in England told the inquiry he was aware of at least six monks who had been made to move monasteries after allegations of abuse surfaced.

Dom Richard Yeo said safeguarding had been a matter of “firefighting” before the Catholic Church introduced firmer rules in 2001.

The former Abbot President of the English Benedictine Congregation and a former abbot of Downside, in Somerset, said no records were kept of monks who were moved between monasteries.

“I should wish to say that this has been a source of shame and regret to all the members of our monasteries,” he told the hearing.

However, he said he recognised that would not be enough for some of the victims of abuse.

On Monday – the first day of hearing into allegations surrounding the Catholic Church – the inquiry heard children at private Catholic schools could be “at risk” of sexual abuse despite years of efforts to root out predators.

The inquiry heard child protection failures may remain, despite numerous inquiries and convictions.

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