December 2017

“Sadistic” monk who was head of top Catholic school convicted of abuse

A “sadistic” monk who was head of a top Catholic school was convicted yesterday of molesting ten pupils in a campaign of abuse during the 1970s and 1980s

Andrew Soper, known as Father Laurence, is thought to be the most senior Catholic priest to be convicted of sex crimes in the UK.

He withdrew £182,000 from his Vatican bank account and fled to Kosovo to avoid prosecution for attacking multiple boys at St Benedict’s School in Ealing, west London.

Soper sexually abused pupils while he was master in charge of discipline at St Benedict’s school. He would assault them after subjecting them to corporal punishment using a cane.

The first victim contacted police in 2004 after Soper left his role as abbot of Ealing Abbey and moved to the Benedictine order’s headquarters in Rome.

The former pupil was initially told by officers there was insufficient evidence.

Soper was later interviewed at Heathrow police station in 2010 and subsequently fled to Kosovo while on police bail the following year.

He was arrested at Luton airport in August 2016 after being deported by the Kosovan authorities and returned to the UK.

Gillian Etherton QC, who led the prosecution, told the court victims were subjected to sadistic beatings by Soper for “fake reasons”.

They included kicking a football “in the wrong direction”, “failing to use double margins”, and “using the wrong staircase”, leading to a caning and a sexual assault, she said.

“It is the prosecution case that ‘punishments’ as described by the complainants in this case were carried out by Soper in entirely inappropriate ways and circumstances and, on many occasions, with what can only have been sexual motive,” Etherton added.

Many of his victims have experienced flashbacks and nightmares.

During the trial Soper denied using the cane as a ruse to abuse boys.

The judge, Anthony Bate, remanded Soper in custody to be sentenced on 19 December.

He was convicted of two counts of buggery, two counts of indecency with a child and 15 counts of indecent assault.

Soper was found guilty of buggery, contrary to section 12(1) of the Sexual Offences Act 1956, since the offence took place when that act was in force. The offence was changed from buggery to rape by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

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