A REPORT into child sexual abuse at a Catholic school in North Yorkshire has found there was "a culture of acceptance of abusive behaviour".

The Independent Inquiry Child Sex Abuse report into Ampleforth and Downside Abbeys claims the institutions also ensured there was "prioritisation of monks and their reputations over the protection of children", according to the chair of the inquiry.

Alexis Jay, chair of the inquiry, said: "For decades Ampleforth and Downside tried to avoid giving information to statutory authorities. Instead, monks in both institutions were often secretive, evasive and suspicious of anyone outside the English Benedictine Congregation.

"Safeguarding children fell behind the reputation of the Church and the wellbeing of the abusive monks. We have no evidence that Downside and Ampleforth did any more than pay lip service to any safeguarding policy that was attempted to be introduced. In fact, there was hostility towards safeguarding and they seemed to take a view that it was neither obligatory nor desirable."

The report, published at noon on Thursday, said “the true scale of sexual abuse of children in the schools that occurred over 40 years is likely to be considerably greater than numbers cited in the convictions”, and there were 10 men at Ampleforth and Downside, mostly monks, who were convicted of, or cautioned for, offences involving sexual activity towards children or pornography. 

It said: “Many perpetrators did not hide their sexual interests from the boys. At Ampleforth, this included communal activities, outdoors and indoors, involving fondling of children.

“The blatant openness of this behaviour demonstrates there was a culture of acceptance of abusive behaviour.

“Both Ampleforth and Downside prioritised the monks and their own reputations over the protection of children, manoeuvring monks away from the schools in order to avoid scandal. The known risk of child sexual abuse was thus transferred to other locations.”

The report also said: “It is clear to us from all the evidence we have heard during this inquiry that several systemic child protection and safeguarding challenges remain at Ampleforth to this day.”

A spokesperson for the school said: “We have publicly accepted responsibility for past failings on many occasions, and the Ampleforth of today has never been afraid to learn difficult lessons.”

The spokeswoman said the school was developing a Safeguarding Charter, which it hoped would be shared with other organisations.

Dani Wardman runs Survive - a charity in York which helps people who have experienced sexual abuse, and set up a phoneline to help victims from Ampleforth.

She said: “[AMPLEFORTH] have started a journey of improvement but they are in no way near the end of it, more focus needs to be given to safeguarding but more over creating a culture of belief so survivors are able to come forward sooner. 

“Survive believe that independent regulation of churches on a national scale is the only solution to this ongoing problem and indeed Ampelforth have seen vast improvements in their practice since the charity commission took over.”

The report also featured praise and criticism of North Yorkshire Police's investigations at the school.