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From Medway Today - June 27, 2001

Reports 'were accurate'  

The Guardian and other reputable newspapers including the Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, Times and Evening Standard published a number of articles despite threats from solicitors acting for the dean of Westminster Abbey and the abbey has been unable to substantiate or sustain a single allegation of misreporting or factual error. These articles have not been withdrawn and remain available for inspection.

The facts are that a number of complaints of bullying and intimidation of pupils by Mr Overend were presented by parents last year and subsequently, when they could receive no satisfaction from the dean, six out of the 37 pupils at the abbey's choir school were withdrawn - a not inconsiderable proportion. I spoke to seven sets of parents before the Guardian published its first story and in fact it was to me that one commented that the place was becoming like Dotheboys Hall with parents concerned about their childrens' welfare.

Westminster City Council's social services department report started as a routine inspection but eventually took rather longer than anticipated.

Before its publication but after its contents had been presented to the dean, Mr Overend was asked to attend a meeting in the abbey's Jerusalem chamber and asked to resign. He was not given the opportunity to resume his post and subsequently told a parents' meeting that he had effectively been sacked.

The amended report stated that significant concerns had been raised about the welfare of pupils. It added: "A significant number of parents, choristers and staff have raised concerns about the conduct of the headmaster. These concerns included intimidation through shouting, threats, the tape recording of a conversation with a chorister, humiliation through name calling, gestures and actions, inequality in the treatment and use of disciplinary measures applied to individual choristers."

Dr Walker appears to have taken his views from Dr Wesley Carr, the dean of Westminster Abbey. If so, it appears that he has received a partial picture of events at the abbey choir school. In any event he is in no position to impugn the reports of those who followed the saga rather more assiduously than he appears to have done.

Yours sincerely,

Stephen Bates

Religious affairs correspondent
The Guardian
119 Farringdon Road,
London, EC1R 3ER.

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