The Charity Commission has opened a statutory inquiry into two related charities after allegations of sexual abuse at an independent Catholic school in north Yorkshire appeared in the media.
The commission said today that it had begun investigating the St Laurence Education Trust, which runs two Roman Catholic independent schools, St Martin’s Ampleforth and Ampleforth College, and Ampleforth Abbey, a Roman Catholic religious community that operates from the same site as the college.
In a statement announcing the inquiry, the commission said the investigation into the charities’ safeguarding procedures came after media reporting of sexual abuse allegations made against individuals with links to Ampleforth College.
The commission said it had been engaging with the charities since August and had decided on 15 November to open an investigation into the trustees’ approach to safeguarding and handling of allegations of sexual abuse.
In a statement, the regulator said: "The commission stresses that it is not a safeguarding authority and its inquiries will not investigate allegations of abuse or actual incidents of abuse, whether historic or recent."
Instead, the inquiry will examine trustees’ administration, governance and management of the charities, whether they have fulfilled their legal duties, whether there has been misconduct or mismanagement, the charities’ handling of safeguarding matters and their safeguarding procedures, and how they dealt with the risks to the charities and beneficiaries arising from the alleged abuse incidents.
The commission urged anyone with concerns about specific incidents of alleged abuses, whether historic or recent, to report them to the police and the relevant safeguarding authorities.
A spokeswoman for the two charities said: "Ampleforth is strongly committed to good governance and a January 2016 inspection by the Independent Schools Inspectorate found the college to be fully compliant with regard to all aspects of safeguarding."
She said an independent audit of Ampleforth Abbey’s Safeguarding Commission in June 2015 endorsed its work in safeguarding children and vulnerable adults.
"The trustees are cooperating fully with the Charity Commission," she said.