A former Roman Catholic priest who abused boys in the 70s and 80s has been jailed for 18 years
Andrew Soper, known as Father Laurence, 74 (17.09.43) of no fixed abode, was sentenced on Thursday, 21 December, after a ten-week-long trial at the Old Bailey.
He was also handed down a Sexual Harm Prevention Order with no time limit.
Soper was found guilty of 19 counts of indecent assault against 10 boys who attended St Benedict’s Middle School in Ealing between 1975 and 1982.
In his summing up, the judge told Soper “Your disgrace is complete.”
The court heard Soper was a former abbot at Ealing Abbey and a headmaster of the middle school between 1972 and 1991. He taught boys aged between 11 and 14 and, as headmaster, he was in charge of discipline.
The first allegation was made in 2004 by a former pupil who said he was sexually assaulted by Soper in his office whilst he was being punished.
In February 2008, another former pupil was interviewed by police and he disclosed that Soper had sexually assaulted him before he was caned.
Another former pupil contacted police in June 2010 as the result of publicity regarding the conviction of a different monk at St Benedict’s.
Soper, who had moved to Rome, was contacted and arrangements were made for him to attend Heathrow Police Station in September 2010 where he was arrested, interviewed and then bailed pending further enquiries.
Two more victims were interviewed by police in November 2010 and January 2011 who reported similar allegations of sexual assault by Soper whilst they were caned by him.
On 8 March 2011, Soper failed to attend Heathrow Police Station to answer his bail to be interviewed regarding those further allegations and a European Arrest Warrant was issued.
In March 2016, the investigation into Soper was taken over by detectives from Operation Winter Key, the Met’s investigation into allegations of non-recent child abuse by persons of public prominence, and within institutions.
Operation Winter Key officers worked with a number of law enforcement agencies including the National Crime Agency. On 11 May 2016 Soper was arrested in Kosovo and he was deported to Luton Airport on 21 August 2016.
He was arrested and charged in relation to all five complainants. Soper was remanded in custody after appearing at Ealing Magistrates’ Court.
Whilst Soper was in custody, detectives from Operation Winter Key interviewed another five victims who made allegations of indecent assault. Soper denied all the charges against him and said there would not have been any inappropriate or sexual contact during any disciplinary action.
In his summing up, the judge praised the professionalism of the entire police team who went “above and beyond the call of duty” whilst investigating Soper.
Detective Superintendent Ang Scott, from Operation Winter Key, said, “Soper abused his position of trust as headmaster of a middle school over a sustained period of time. Throughout the investigation, he has attempted to evade justice by leaving the UK and then failing to answer his bail.
“I would like to pay tribute to the victims in this case for the bravery they have showed in coming forward and reporting these offences and giving evidence at court. Although it can never make up for the emotional and psychological trauma caused by Soper’s crimes, I hope the sentence handed to him today can give them some form of closure. This case demonstrates that perpetrators of sexual abuse, no matter how long ago it took place, can be prosecuted and subjected to a custodial sentence.”