Ampleforth Monk Jailed for Abusing Young Boys|
By Andrew Norfolk
The Times [United Kingdom]
January 27, 2006
A MONK from a leading Roman Catholic family was jailed for two years yesterday after admitting 20 offences of indecent assault against 15 young boys at Ampleforth College.
Father Piers Grant-Ferris, 72, whose offences were committed more than 30 years ago, was given a prison sentence even though the court was presented with 3,500 letters and cards from his supporters.
Grant-Ferris, a Benedictine monk at Ampleforth Abbey, North Yorkshire, was a form master at Gilling Castle, the college's prep school, when the abuse happened between 1966 and 1975. His victims, now in their forties and fifties, were pupils aged between 8 and 10 at the time.
It emerged during the police investigation that Cardinal Basil Hume was the Abbot of Ampleforth in 1975 when concerns about Grant-Ferris were first raised by the parents of one boy. He removed the monk from further contact with pupils and sent him to work at a parish in Cumbria, but decided not to report his offending to the police.
Grant-Ferris, a former Irish Guards officer, is the son of the late Lord Harvington, who was a friend of Baroness Thatcher and Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons.
Leeds Crown Court was told that Grant-Ferris was educated at Gilling Castle and Ampleforth, became an apprentice monk in 1955 and was ordained in 1964. He had become a woodwork teacher at Gilling Castle in 1961 and second-year form master in 1965. The role gave him responsibility for dealing with the discipline, hygiene and general health and wellbeing of the children in his year group.
James Goss, QC, for the prosecution, gave details of a series of offences that included the fondling, stroking and smacking of boys' buttocks and, on several occasions, the rectal insertion of a thermometer.
One of the boys whom Grant-Ferris assaulted described his ordeal as terrifying and humiliating. He later suffered a nervous breakdown and believed that the abuse had wrecked his life. Another spoke of feeling excruciating pain and "terrible confusion and bewilderment" after the abuse, which took place in various rooms. One child was attacked in the woods during an outing.
Mr Goss said that when Grant-Ferris was arrested and interviewed after a police investigation began in 2003, he initially denied any sexual motive in his dealings with children.
In mitigation, Patrick Cosgrove, QC, said that his subsequent guilty pleas showed that the monk had "started on a long and painful journey of self-realisation". "Apart from these matters, he is fundamentally a good man," he said. Mr Cosgrove added that Grant-Ferris's own upbringing had been "a form of emotional abuse". From childhood to his life in the Army he had been "starved of the opportunity for emotional development".
When he reflected on his conduct, he felt "deeply sorry for what has happened". At the time, however, he did not fully comprehend that his behaviour "might have been upsetting".
In addition to the prison sentence, Judge Ian Dobkin ordered Grant-Ferris to be registered on the sex offenders register for ten years and banned form working with children until further notice.
The judge said: "There occasionally come to courts in this country cases which are very nearly impossible to get right for all concerned."
The offences had been committed between 31 and 41 years ago, he said, since when it was evident that Grant-Ferris had done "nothing but good". "Can somebody be fundamentally good who can do the things you've done? I don't know the answer to that question."
Seven offences Grant-Ferris denied — six indecent assaults and one of gross indecency — will remain on file.
• The Benedictine community at Ampleforth Abbey was founded in 1802 in a valley near Thirsk, North Yorkshire. There has been a school there since
• A prep school, Junior House, was founded in 1916, moving to Gilling Castle in 1930. In 2001 it merged with nearby St Martin's to become St Martin's Ampleforth at the castle. Weekly boarders pay £14,655 a year
• The Abbey houses the country's largest monastic community; 17 monks teach at Ampleforth College
• Fees for Ampleforth College are £21,450 a year for boarders and £11,445 for day pupils. Girls have been allowed to board since 2001
The college has eight houses for boys, two for girls, each with about 70 students of mixed ages
• There is no uniform, but a strict dress code
• The college motto is "God protect him"
• Old boys include Andrew Parker Bowles, Lawrence Dallaglio, Edward Stourton, Michael Ancram, Colin Firth
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