In March 2011, Dom Laurence Soper, (now known as Andrew Soper), the Abbot of Ealing Abbey during the 1990s, was arrested on child abuse charges relating to the period when he was a teacher and the master in charge of discipline at St Benedict's School in west London. He would assault them after subjecting them to corporal punishment using a cane. It was reported in October 2011 that he had failed to answer bail and was being sought by the police. Soper withdrew £182,000 from a Vatican bank account and jumped bail to flee to Kosovo.
In 2016, he was arrested at Luton airport after being deported by the Kosovan authorities and returned to the UK to face trial. In early December 2017 — following a 10-week trial at the Old Bailey in central London — Andrew Soper (age 74) was found guilty on 19 counts of child sexual abuse including buggery, indecency with a child and indecent assault. He was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment. He is the fourth man at the school to have been convicted of abuse.
Tetteh Turkson, a senior Crown Prosecution Service lawyer involved in the case, said: “Soper used his position as a teacher and as a priest to abuse children for his own sexual gratification. He compounded this by trying to evade justice and fleeing to Kosovo in order to go into hiding. The victims’ bravery in coming forward and giving evidence has seen him convicted of these serious offences.”
Sentencing Soper at the Old Bailey on Thursday, Judge Anthony Bate said: “You are an intelligent man with gifts of scholarship and erudition. However, as you acknowledged during cross examination, showing a degree of insight, that is not how you will be remembered.
“Your good qualities are utterly overshadowed by the proven catalogue of vile abuse for which you are now at last held to account. Your disgrace is complete.”
Soper’s disappearance to Kosovo had been “meticulously planned”, the judge said, adding: “You intended to live out your days there in obscurity.”
The Guardian reports that in an impact statement read in court, a survivor described having a breakdown after police told him there was insufficient evidence to pursue his claims in 2004 and 2007. “I have tried countless times to take my own life as I just cannot cope any more,” he said. “I still hear Soper’s voice in my head. I can still picture him. I have flashbacks and nightmares.”
“I feel like I’m living in a black hole and I still can’t climb out of it. He has damaged my life and I’m afraid that that damage will never go away.”
The report from 2011, which looked at 21 attacks since 1970, said Ealing Abbey monks must lose their control of the school. That inquiry began in 2010 after Father David Pearce, the former head of the junior school, was jailed for eight years in 2009, after being convicted of abusing five boys over a period of 36 years. Four of the victims were under 14.
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