A Welsh Assembly AM has said that Dyfed-Powys Police have been found wanting in the handling of complaints of sexual abuse on Caldey Island during the 1970’s. Assembly members expressed their concerns regarding the revelations of historic sexual abuse on Caldey Island at the Plenary meeting of the Welsh Assembly on Wednesday (Nov 29).
Welsh Assembly Member for Clwyd West Darren Millar asked: “What consideration has the cabinet secretary given to commissioning an independent inquiry into allegations of abuse on Caldey Island?” The Minister for Children and Social Care, Huw Irranca-Davies replied: “Any allegations of abuse are truly abhorrent and survivors were not given the response they deserved when they spoke out.”
Darren Millar highlighted the fact that the abuse was reported in 1990 and that at least one more individual had been reported as having abused a child. He raised concerns that another sex offender Paul Ashton had lived undetected on the island for seven years. He said: “I have to say I think the whole thing stinks. It smacks of a cover up, a deliberate cover up of abuse by clergy on that island, which is frequently visited by young children. A place which ought to be safe, which hasn’t been safe in the past and I think we need answers. We need answers as to who knew what, when and why the abbey didn’t report things to the police when they ought to have done when things were brought to their attention. We also ned to know when Pembrokeshire Social Services Department knew about these claims and what action they may or may not have taken in the past to protect young children actually visiting the island. I am appalled by this and I think it would be wise to ask you to organise the independent inquiry into what went on because we do need to learn lessons and we need to be confident now particularly because we don’t know who this second person is that young children are safe visiting that island in the future. School trips are still going on Cabinet Secretary and we ned to be sure that those children are protected from abuse.”
The Minister said that the Children’s Commissioner had written to Caldey Island to seek assurances that they are following the Catholic Church’s National Safeguarding Policy and their procedures on child protection. He said it was worth noting that there was also a National Catholic Safeguarding Advice Service (NCSAS).
Angela Burns said that she had two points. The first she said was that Dyfed-Powys police were aware of these allegations in 2014 and 2016. She said that the reason the police did not move to prosecution was because there was little point because the monk in question had since passed away.
Addressing Huw Irranca-Davies she said: “However there should still have been some form of investigation. How did they know he was the only one? How did they know that he didn’t have conspirators in terms of a cover up? How did they know that there may be other children put at risk? I am not overly impressed with the actions of Dyfed-Powys Police on this matter and I would like to ask you as the minister to write to them in the strongest terms for them to actually investigate how they acted and whether or not they took the appropriate action at the time because I think they have been found wanting on this matter. They should have looked at in and not said well never mind a chap’s dead it’s an irrelevancy.”
The AM for Carmarthen West and Pembrokeshire then raised her second point. She said: “I wrote to the Abbot on Caldey Island to ask him if he would refer himself to set up an independent and full investigation. I thought on this further and I am sure you are aware that the Catholic Church themselves have an ongoing independent inquiry into the sexual abuse and exploitation of children in the Roman Catholic Church. I appreciate at the moment that they are looking at the Benedictine congregation but I wondered if you in your capacity as Minister would write to that inquiry and ask them if they would also look at the Cistercian order on Caldey Island.”
Simon Thomas also said it was important to underline that Caldey was a place of religious sanctuary. He said that what concerned him was that even at the time the original complaints were made the rules meant that those complaints should have been made to the police. It wasn’t and the then Abbot in effect covered it up. He said that that was a pattern of events in all institutions. He said that what he would like was that they could give assurances about the protection procedures for children and vulnerable adults on Caldey Island. He said, “It is not just historic, it is not that procedures were bad in the past. There was a deliberate cover up and it is not that long ago so we must be reassured that that cannot happen again.”
There is an ongoing police investigation (Operation Slate) into historic allegations of sexual abuse on Caldey Island.