Police probe child abuse claims at monastery

Pluscarden Abbey in Moray was founded in 1230. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Pluscarden Abbey in Moray was founded in 1230. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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POLICE are investigating claims of historical child abuse at the UK’s only medieval monastery still in use by monks.

Police Scotland has confirmed that officers are looking into allegations of “non-recent” abuse at Pluscarden Abbey in Moray.

The reports remain under consideration

Crown Office statement

The monastery, near the town of Elgin, has been the home to a community of Catholic Benedictine monks for nearly 70 years.

A police spokesman said yesterday: “Police Scotland can confirm that officers are investigating a report of non-recent abuse at Pluscarden Abbey in Moray. Inquiries are at a very early stage.

“Police Scotland will investigate all forms of child abuse regardless of when incidents have occurred and ensure that reports of child abuse are investigated thoroughly.

“Anyone who has been a victim of abuse can come forward in confidence, knowing we will listen and investigate.”

It is understood that the allegations concern the violent sexual abuse of a young boy and the physical bodily harm to two other young boys. It is believed the abuses took place in the 1960s and 1980s.

Two men are understood to have separately come forward to discuss the alleged abuse with White Flowers Alba, a support and advocacy group for survivors of child sex abuse. The monastery was founded in 1230 as a Valliscaulian Order priory by King Alexander II but became merged with the Benedictine movement in the 1400s.

Monks lived in the monastery until the 16th century until their numbers dwindled and it was no longer used as a place of religious retreat.

After passing through several hands as a lay property, it was gifted to the Benedictine community of Prinknash in 1948.

They were originally an Anglican Benedictine community who were received into the Roman Catholic Church in 1913.

The priory was granted status as an abbey in 1974 following years of restoration work.

Pluscarden Abbey comes under the supervision of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Aberdeen, led by Bishop Hugh Gilbert who himself was a monk of the priory for 37 years and a former abbot.

A spokesman for the diocese said: “The abbey, bishop and diocese are recently aware of a police investigation that has commenced into historic allegations relating to Pluscarden Abbey and they will fully co-operate with this investigation, with the police and other relevant agencies.”

Earlier this year nine men were reported to prosecutors in connection with historical abuse at a former Catholic boarding school in the Highlands.

The move came after police concluded their investigation into allegations of physical and sexual abuse at Fort Augustus Abbey.

The men are alleged to have been involved in incidents dating from September 1967 to December 1992.

In a statement, the Crown Office said: “The procurator fiscal at Inverness has received reports concerning nine men in relation to incidents alleged to have occurred between September 1967 and December 1992. The reports remain under consideration.”

The school was run by Benedictine monks but closed down in the 1990s.

Police began their investigations in 2013 following a report from a former pupil and further allegations which were made in a BBC documentary.

The programme contained allegations against seven monks. Two headmasters were also accused of covering-up the abuse.

The documentary heard accounts from former pupils at Fort Augustus and its East Lothian prep school, Carlekemp.

The accounts included allegations of physical violence and sexual assault.