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Ampleforth College defends decision to allow accused priest to remain on school grounds

Ampleforth College (Ampleforth College)

Ampleforth College has defended a decision to allow a priest accused of abuse to live on its grounds and run a school shop.

The school released the statement following a story in The Times today, which reported that Fr Jeremy Sierla was allowed to remain on school grounds even though there had been “multiple misconduct allegations against him.”

But Ampleforth College said it had followed police and safeguarding recommendations.

The school said: “A police investigation was conducted regarding allegations concerning Fr Jeremy in 2004, as you are aware. The result of that investigation was clear, no further action was taken and Fr Jeremy was not charged with any offence. He co-operated with police at all times and denied any wrongdoing. A letter was sent to parents by the (then) headmaster when the case arose and when it was concluded.

“After this investigation was concluded, a Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) meeting was chaired by Assistant Chief Constable Bagshawe of North Yorkshire Police. It recommended that Fr Jeremy could continue to live in the Ampleforth community and work in the shop. Fr Jeremy had agreed to undertake a formal risk assessment prior to this meeting which was carried out and kept under review.”

The statement said Fr Sierla’s case continued to be reviewed by the relevant authorities and it was not until 2012 that it was decided Fr Jeremy should be removed from the premises altogether, in keeping with the latest recommendations.

It said: “When the independent Ampleforth Safeguarding Commission was established in 2007, Fr Jeremy’s case was reviewed again. This body oversees safeguarding at Ampleforth with participation from all relevant statutory authorities who are experts in the field of child protection.

“In 2012, a further review was carried out with the Department for Education and the decision was taken by Ampleforth that Fr Jeremy should move offsite. He now lives in a closed religious order some distance from Ampleforth.

“All the relevant authorities are aware of this and gave their approval. The situation is regularly monitored by the Ampleforth safeguarding coordinator and the independent Ampleforth Safeguarding Commission.”

According to the report in The Times, a criminal investigation first started when a man claimed that Fr Sierla had sexually assaulted him at Ampleforth Junior house during the 1990s.

Fr Sierla, aged 59, now lives in a closed religious order and has always denied any wrongdoing and said he has co-operated fully with investigations.