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Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry finds Benedictine monks at former Fort Augustus Abbey School in the Highlands repeatedly abused children

By Gregor White

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The former Fort Augustus Abbey School.
The former Fort Augustus Abbey School.

Inquiry chairwoman Lady Smith found children suffered sexual and emotional abuse and noted some monks were "serial sexual predators".

Lady Smith examined practices at both the former Fort Augusus Abbey School and Carlekemp Priory School, North Berwick, both run by the Fort Augustus order.

Witnesses gave evidence about children having been abused at both.

The inquiry also examined the systems, policies, and procedures in place, how these were applied, and whether systemic failures enabled abuse to happen.

Lady Smith said: “Children were sexually abused at both schools. A number of monks were serial sexual predators and, because of the movement of monks between Fort Augustus and Carlekemp, they were able to target victims at both schools.

“Children were cruelly beaten by sadistic monks at both schools, and some beatings had sexual overtones. Children were humiliated and punished inappropriately and excessively.

“Some children complained to monks in positions of responsibility about being abused. They received either non‑existent or inadequate responses.

“Knowing that they would not be believed, other children refrained from complaining about abuse. Complaints made to devout‑Catholic parents were rejected because they would not accept it was possible that Catholic monks would abuse children.

“The emotional scars caused by the trauma associated with sexual abuse, physical violence, and the denigration of children, were, for some, long‑lasting and debilitating, blighting their adult lives.”

Hearings in the case study took place between June and October 2019 and heard evidence from 43 witnesses.

These findings are the second in a series of three sets of case study findings in relation to the provision of residential care for children by male religious orders in Scotland.

Lady Smith added: “The monks were not trained to look after children on a residential basis. They lacked the capacity and ability to do so. The notion that untrained monks could care for school‑aged children was seriously flawed.”

Last month former monk Denis Alexander (85) was jailed for four years and five months after admitting sexually abusing two boys at the school in the 1970s.

Denis Alexander.
Denis Alexander.

Lady Smith will take the latest findings into account when she analyses all the evidence gathered by the wide-ranging inquiry and decides what recommendations to make in her final report.

Applicants and any other witnesses with relevant evidence about the care provided by the Benedictines to offer should contact the Inquiry; their evidence can still be considered as part of the continuing process.

The findings from the Benedictine case study can be read in full here

Related article: Priest Denis Alexander jailed for abusing pupils

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