Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Thursday, June 4, 1998 Published at 18:47 GMT 19:47 UK


Paedophile priest's sentence cut

Former maths teacher Chaning-Pearce assaulted boys in a treehouse

A Jesuit priest who sexually abused boys at a Roman Catholic public school had his five-year jail sentence cut to three years after a High Court appeal funded by church leaders.

James Chaning-Pearce was convicted at Preston Crown Court of molesting four boys as young as 12 while a maths teacher at Stonyhurst College in Lancashire between 1987 and 1995.

Jesuit spokesman Father Michael Smith: The Society has a responsibility to look after us (15")
The incidents occurred in his study or in a tree-house in the school grounds where boys were allowed to sleep.

The Society of Jesus, a tight-knit Jesuit organisation which runs the 12,000-a-year school, had funded his appeal against his convictions in respect of one of the boys.

Last September at Preston, Chaning-Pearce admitted indecently assaulting three boys, aged 15, 13 and 12, but denied four counts of molesting the 16-year-old.

But three appeal judges said the jury which convicted Chaning-Pearce had not been adequately directed on whether a 16-year-old pupil had consented on three occasions.

'Why was he supported?'

Children's charities have condemned the actions of Catholic leaders who funded the appeal, the cost of which is not known.

Michelle Elliot of Kidscape: It gives the wrong message to victims (24")
Michelle Elliot of the Kidscape charity, which works to prevent child sexual abuse, said: "We just can't understand why they funded it. Why couldn't he go for legal aid like other people? Why was he personally supported by the Jesuits?

"I think that it does not bode very well for children who have been abused by a priest. They will obviously be frightened of disclosing this and think, 'They are all in this together'."

Father Michael Smith of the Society of Jesus, said Pearce was still considered a member of their family.

'He had the right to appeal'

"Like everyone else he had a right to appeal. He has always disputed the offence, while pleading guilty to the other three.

"As he was given leave to appeal we took the decision to fund the action."

The Society removed Pearce, who is still a priest, from the school in 1995 after receiving a letter alleging similar behaviour by him while working at a school in Zimbabwe a decade earlier.

But police were not called in until a year later after parents of one of the boys reported an assault to the school.

Communication breakdown

One of his victims is now seeking compensation. Pearce was ordained 24 years ago and, like most of the world's 24,000 Jesuits, spent 15 years training for the priesthood.

At the time of his trial the Society blamed a breakdown in communication for their failure to take heed of warnings about the priest's behaviour while abroad.

Before being convicted, the Jesuits had sent him to Canada for psychiatric treatment and he later went to Our Lady of Victories, in Gloucestershire, the retreat where fallen priests from the UK and the Irish Republic are sent.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage |

UK Contents

Northern Ireland
Internet Links


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online