17 September 2021, The Tablet

Call for inquiry into former De La Salle school

Call for inquiry into former De La Salle school

Sylvester Stallone and Armand Assante as Judge Dredd and Rico. Former pupils of St Joseph’s include Patrick Mills, creator of Judge Dredd.
AF archive / Alamy

Former pupils of a school run by the De La Salle Order are calling for a wide-ranging inquiry by Catholic safeguarders into what they say was a culture of abuse that lasted for 40 years. 

Their call follows the suspension of the current provincial of the Order following a complaint by one former pupil of St Joseph’s College, Ipswich. The De La Salle Order has confirmed that Brother Laurence Hughes, 90, who once taught at St Joseph’s College, has been suspended following an allegation of abuse, police informed and a safeguarding inquiry begun.

St Joseph’s was founded in the 1930s by the De La Salle Order and provided a private education for boarders and day pupils. Its former pupils include Patrick Mills, the comic creator and developer of Judge Dredd, Labour MPs Chris Mullin and John McDonnell, and the rock musician and former member of Roxy Music, Brian Eno. 

Mills has revealed that he based the character of Judge Dredd, a terrifying, authoritarian figure who acted as judge, jury and executioner in the futuristic Mega City, on the monks of his schooldays who terrorised pupils. “They were brutal. They targeted vulnerable boys,” he said. 

Mills has collected evidence from former pupils for the past eight years regarding the behaviour of former teachers at St Joseph’s through his blog. He recalled that he himself was subject to brutal physical abuse by monks and that he endured sexual abuse by several priests, including one who was a chaplain at the school. 

“Judge Dredd causes fear and terror and those were the feelings we had around the De La Salle brothers. He is all-powerful and has all the cards”, he said. “He was a composite bogeyman of all my recollections of fear of them.” 

Mills says he was targeted by abusers because he was the child of a poor widow, whose fees were waived because he had agreed that he had a vocation to the priesthood. “I don’t know if I really did or felt pressured to say so, but they knew life was difficult and I didn’t have a father figure in my life,” he said. 

Among the accusations made by former pupils are those of teachers lashing boys with cat-o-nine-tails and boys being hit repeatedly with other objects. Some of the most serious accusations were made against the late Brother James Ryan who was also accused of sexual abuse of young boys. “He was renowned for his savagery”, said Mills. “I would draw on his anger particularly for Judge Dredd. When he was going to punish the town of Repentance, Brother James was very inspiring.” 

Another monk, also dead, who taught at the Ipswich school later went abroad and opened a foundation for young boys in India, where he was visited by a former De La Salle monk, Brother Soloman, also accused of abuse. The late Brother Solomon left the order and later returned to St Joseph’s where he was known as Mike Mercado, who also had a brief singing career when he was known as The Swinging Monk”. 

The Rev Des Bill, chair of the Catholic Church’s Safeguarding Commission for Orders in Education (SCOE) confirmed that the current head of the De La Salle Order “has been suspended from all public ministry and roles he performed”, and that the case will be investigated by an independent individual “to ensure recommendations and actions taken are objective and not influenced by any person within SCOE or the De La Salle congregation”. 

Although Bill has said that it is too early to say whether the inquiry will be wider, the safeguarding expert he has appointed to work on the St Joseph case indicated that it may develop into something bigger. 

Jo Norman, who has previously worked on safeguarding for the Jesuit Order,  will make recommendations and liaise with statutory authorities. She confirmed regarding her work on the case of Brother Laurence Hughes that “If it becomes a wider investigation, that will be down to the Safeguarding Commission for Order in Education”.

“These things do tend to take on a life of their own and I will take any further information I discover to the board of the SCOE”, she said. 

Suffolk Constabulary has confirmed that following enquiries, a 90 year old male was arrested in June this year in connection with this, with the complaint made regarding the De La Salle Order. “However, due to insufficient evidence and the suspect’s failing health the investigation is unlikely to proceed any further. A second suspect related to the non-recent same offences has deceased.”

St Joseph’s College is no longer run by the De La Salle Oder. 



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