A school in Ealing in which a “sadistic” former abbot sexually abused young boys in the 1970s and 80s has apologised for the “serious wrongs of the past”.
Andrew Soper, 74, the former Ealing Abbot at St Benedict's School, was found guilty of 19 charges of indecent assault and buggery on Wednesday (December 6).
A majority verdict found him guilty of abuse against 10 former pupils in the 1970s and 80s at the school in Eaton Rise.
Since the guilty verdict was returned, the school publicly condemned Soper – who previously fled the country for six years to evade justice - for “not having the courage” to plead guilty.
Lord Carlile QC, representing St Benedict's School following the conviction of Soper, who is also known as Father Laurence, said that “tough lessons of the past have been learned”.
He said: “My client St Benedict's School is deeply concerned for and distressed by the ordeals faced by the victims of Laurence Soper, who have lived with the pain of his activities for so long.
“The school apologises unreservedly for the serious wrongs of the past [and] regrets that Soper did not have the courage to plead guilty.
“The result has been that innocent victims, who he abused when they were boys in the school, were compelled to give evidence.
“They were subjected to cross-examination about matters in relation to which they were both helpless and innocent.”
Throughout the trial, the Old Bailey heard Soper, who was a headmaster of the middle school between 1972 and 1991, taught boys aged between 11 and 14 and was in charge of discipline.
Prosecutor Gillian Etherton QC told the court how the victims were subjected to sadistic beatings by Soper for "fake reasons" - such as "using the [wrong] staircase".
One complainant who provided evidence during the trial said he suffered from flashbacks and nightmares about his treatment at the former abbot's hands.
“The fact that these matters took place many years ago does not mitigate the pain and injustice endured by them,” Lord Carlile continued.
“St Benedict's is now a completely different institution with a very experienced lay headmaster and lay-dominated governance, completely reformed and different from the monastery-based governance in place when Soper served as Abbot of the nearby Abbey and dominated the school.
“The tough lessons of the past have been learned, and the errors and crimes of the past are in the daily consciousness and conscience of the school management.
“Child safeguarding is the top priority, alongside the highest level of teaching and the provision of an excellent learning experience.
“St Benedict's can and will never forget Soper's crimes. Nevertheless, they are proud of the school as it now is, and as confident as ever they can be that everything is being done to ensure that such events cannot recur.”
Soper has been remanded in police custody following the guilty verdict on Wednesday (December 6) and will appear for sentencing at the Old Bailey on December 19.
Also speaking after the conviction, Detective Superintendent Ang Scott said: “Soper was a manipulative individual who abused his position of trust as a headmaster of a middle school.
“Whilst preparing the boys for a caning, which is now illegal in schools, Soper asked them to remove clothes and he would then sexually assault them.
“This was a gross breach of his position, which has resulted in psychological trauma caused to a number of former pupils of St Benedict’s.
“I would like to pay tribute to the victims in this case for the bravery they have shown in coming forward and reporting these offences and giving evidence in court.”
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