Former 1950s students to sue Catholic order over abuse

Image caption Mr MacFaul says he was abused at the school in the late 1950s

A group of 22 former students from two Catholic prep schools have started legal action against the Rosminian Order over abuse.

They claim they suffered physical and sexual abuse at Grace Dieu in Leicestershire and St Michael's Soni in Tanzania in the late 1950s.

The order denied liability and said it was not aware of the abuse at the time.

Father David Myers, head of the Rosminian order in the UK, told a BBC documentary that he was "sorry".

'Boys shot'

In an email to the BBC documentary Abused: Breaking the Silence, he said: "For all that was evil in the past I am profoundly sorry."

He added in a statement: "Such abuse was a grievous breach of trust to them and to their families. I and all my brethren are deeply shocked at what has happened and acknowledge our inadequate response."

Newcastle barrister Donald MacFaul, who attended the Leicestershire school from 1954-59, said: "What was created by what happened at school was a permanent sense of fear and dread."

He said Father Bernard Collins, who was in charge of discipline at Grace Dieu, "used to shoot at boys using an air pistol and occasionally actually injured them".

"He could beat you one minute and then fondle you intimately within a space of hours."

Mr MacFaul's father wrote to complain to the school.

Within a few months Father Collins left for the order's St Michael's School Soni in Tanganiyka - now Tanzania.

In a letter to one of his victims obtained by the BBC, Father Collins said: "I have left behind a legacy of pain and violence and confusion by my behaviour."

In secret filming for the BBC documentary, he refused to admit fondling boys and said he was only carrying out inspections for medical reasons.

At the end of 2009 several priests were confronted with the complaints by the order and apologies were sent to victims, but no formal public apology has been issued.

'Very distressed'

The order has reported on its accounts for the Charity Commission that it "strongly denies liability" in the dispute.

Father Myers declined to appear on the BBC programme, but quoted a Biblical passage from Lamentations: "It is good to wait in silence."

Grace Dieu headmaster Charles Foulds said he was "deeply shocked and saddened at what happened here in the 1950s".

He added: "These events took place over 50 years ago, and have no relevance to the school of today".

The school was "very distressed that any child suffered in this place over half a century ago - it is a source of the most profound sadness to us," Mr Foulds said.

The Leicestershire school, which accepts students from all faiths, is still owned by the Rosminian order and has one Rosminian priest on its staff.

Around the BBC

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites