A former abbot who fled to Kosovo to escape justice has been convicted of abusing 10 boys at a Catholic school in west London during the 1970s and 80s.
Andrew Soper, 74, was found guilty of 19 charges of rape and other sexual offences after a lengthy trial at the Old Bailey. He will be sentenced on 19 December.
In a statement issued today, Ealing Abbey said:
Andrew Soper has finally been brought to justice.
Our thoughts and prayers are with his victims. We admire them for their courage in coming forward as witnesses in order to secure his conviction.
We apologise to everyone who is affected by the crimes Soper committed while he was a monk of Ealing and a teacher at St Benedict's School in the 1970s and 1980s. The prosecution of non recent sexual offences is an important element in ensuring that, so far as possible, such events do not occur in future.
Soper, whose religious name was Laurence, was Head of St Benedict's Middle School between 1975 and 1984 and Abbot of Ealing from 1991 to 2000. After stepping down as Abbot he became Bursar at S'Anselmo, the Benedictine University in Rome. When allegations were made against him these were subject to investigation by Police and Social Services with the co-operation and assistance of the Abbey and St Benedict's School. Soper was immediately placed under restrictions at S'Anselmo, which included no unsupervised contact with children or young people and restrictions on his movements away from the campus.
Having agreed to co-operate with the Police by returning to London for further questioning, in March 2011 he failed to return for a police interview and left the monastery in Rome. To our knowledge nothing further was heard from or about him until he was arrested in Kosovo in May 2016.
Soper was dismissed from the monastery in 2011. This had the effect of suspending him from all priestly ministry and from presenting himself as a priest. This action was confirmed by the Holy See in January 2012. His conviction will now be reported to the authorities in Rome who will take action following conviction.
Both the Abbey and the School have robust and approved safeguarding policies in place. St Benedict's School was inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) in 2015 and also in April 2017. On both occasions, the school's arrangements for safeguarding and child protection were found to be fully compliant. The Abbey and parish comply fully with the safeguarding policy requirements of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.
In addition, following an independent Review instigated by the Abbey, the governance of the School was totally revised. The new governance arrangements mean that although it remains a school with a Benedictine ethos, it is fully independent of the Abbey. We are confident that the type of offence in the Soper trial is now no more likely in St Benedict's than in any other well regulated school.
Anyone with information about offending against children at St Benedict's School, Ealing Abbey or elsewhere should inform the police. The NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000 will assist anyone to get in touch with the police.
INDEPENDENT CONFIDENTIAL SUPPORT FOR SURVIVORS
SURVIVE is an independent support service for survivors of sexual abuse
Contact 0808 1451890 - free phone number from all UK phones
This is the Ampleforth and Ealing support line, this line offers support, information and advice for victims of sexual abuse at Ampleforth or Ealing. These line is confidential and is completely independent, run by SURVIVE a specialist sexual violence organisation.