St Paul's School faces statutory inquiry over handling of sexual abuse allegations

The Charity Commision says it will investigate whether the independent school's policies have dealt with the risks to the charity and its beneficiaries resulting from recent allegations

St Paul's School, London
St Paul's School, London

The Charity Commission has opened a statutory inquiry into the charitable independent establishment St Paul’s School in south-west London in relation to its safeguarding policy and handling of allegations of sexual abuse.

Since February, a total of six arrests have been made as part of Operation Winthorpe, a Metropolitan Police investigation into historical abuse allegations.

The commission said it had been engaging with the charity’s trustees since May 2014 in the wake of national press coverage of those arrests and investigations, before it opened its statutory inquiry on 11 June.

The commission’s inquiry will examine four areas: the creation, development, substance and implementation of the school’s safeguarding policy; how it dealt with risks to the charity and its beneficiaries arising from the alleged incidents; whether or not the trustees have complied with and fulfilled their duties under charity law; and whether there has been any misconduct or mismanagement on the part of the trustees.

A statement from the commission 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. Its concern is with the proper regulation of charities."

Last year, the school, which is regularly ranked as one of the country’s top-performing educational establishments and lists the Chancellor, George Osborne, among its alumni, had an income of £32.6m and a total of 1,335 pupils, a third of these at its prep school, Colet Court.

Frederick Hohler, chair of the governors at the school, said in a statement: "We note the Charity Commission’s announcement today. We have met with them and are cooperating fully with their requests."

The commission will in the next few weeks publish an updated version of its guidance on safeguarding children, which will include updated information on the Disclosure and Barring Service, which replaces the Criminal Records Bureau, and changes to safeguarding legislation as a result of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.

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