More could face charges over boarding school abuse

TWO more men have been referred to prosecutors over alleged abuse of children at the Fort Augustus Abbey School.
Archbishop Philip Tartaglia: We recognise survivors pain. Picture: Jane BarlowArchbishop Philip Tartaglia: We recognise survivors pain. Picture: Jane Barlow
Archbishop Philip Tartaglia: We recognise survivors pain. Picture: Jane Barlow

The Scotsman understands the men are not in Scotland and steps may now be taken to bring them back to the country.

It takes the number of people referred to the Crown Office in relation to the alleged abuse of children at the Highlands boarding school to three – all men, aged 77, 80 and 81.

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Meanwhile, the Catholic Church in Scotland has produced its own audit of abuse allegations covering 2006 to 2012. It shows that 46 allegations were made over six years, with 11 in 2012 alone.

The report also found that 56 per cent of allegations were made against priests, and 55 per cent were of sexual abuse in some form. The church says that as of this month, 61 per cent have resulted in no prosecution.

The allegations relating to Fort Augustus are not included in these figures, as the school is not part of any of the Catholic Church in Scotland’s eight dioceses, but is run by the Benedictine Order.

However, the audit report does include a further appendix covering allegations made against religious orders in Scotland, which would cover the Benedictines. This shows that 18 allegations have been made over four years from 2009 to 2012.

In 2012, there were six allegations, including three against priests, two against religious brothers, and one against a religious sister. It does not say at what institutions the abuse is alleged to have taken place.

The Catholic Church in Scotland insists it is determined to crack down on abuse.

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, in a letter to the 500 Catholic parishes, wrote: “We recognise the trauma and pain that survivors of abuse have suffered and we are committed to providing for them justice and healing.”

He said the church was committed to “the renewal of trust in our unshakeable commitment to atoning for abuse in the past, guarding against abuse in the present and eliminating abuse in the future, and supporting those who have been harmed”.

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However, this has not persuaded the alleged victims. Andrew Lavery, 42, a former pupil at Fort Augustus, has along with others, launched a lawsuit for hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation against the Catholic Church.

At present he is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as an injury to his right arm, and is unable to work.

In response to the audit report, he said: “These figures are not mere paperwork. Every single one documents harm against a vulnerable child. Is my suffering another percentile on a pie chart? I’m a good, decent person who suffered abuse by Roman Catholic priests.”

Six former pupils have instructed Switalskis, an English law firm with a reputation for securing compensation for the victims of child sexual abuse, to sue the Benedictines.

The firm is understood to be seeking compensation of up to £100,000 per person.

The Crown Office confirmed the procurator-fiscal at Inverness had three cases relating the Fort Augustus allegations.