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Priest Denis Alexander who taught at former Fort Augustus school in the Highlands is jailed for abusing pupils; sentence was passed at the High Court in Edinburgh

By Ali Morrison

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Denis Alexander.
Denis Alexander.

Former monk Denis Alexander has been jailed for four years and five months.

Alexander (85) was brought back from Australia to face charges of sexually abusing two pupils at Fort Augustus Abbey School in the 1970s.

He preyed on the children while teaching history at the school, targetting them during yoga classes and in his study.

A judge told him at the High Court in Edinburgh today: "You have brought lasting shame on the Order of which you were a member."

Lord Burns said: "You pleaded guilty to the sexual abuse of two young boys who were between 12 and 14 in 1973 until 1976. You were 37 to 40 years of age at the time.

"That abuse is aggravated by the age of your victims and position of trust and authority resulting from your status as a teacher and as a monk.

"These vulnerable young boys were entrusted to your care and what you did was a gross abuse of the trust placed in you as a teacher."

Lord Burns said it was also in "flagrant disregard" of the principles and beliefs which Alexander was duty-bound to follow as a Benedictine monk.

The judge acknowledged that he had no criminal record prior to or since the offending and was now in poor health.

He told him he would have faced a five-and-a-half year prison term but for the fact he had pleaded guilty.

Lord Burns backdated the sentence to January 23, 2017.

Alexander has been in custody since then.

Denis Alexander taught at the former Fort Augustus Abbey school in the 1970s.
Denis Alexander taught at the former Fort Augustus Abbey school in the 1970s.

The judge also told the Australian citizen that he would be subject to deportation.

Alexander had left Scotland in the years following his crimes and and became a priest in Sydney, Australia.

He initially contested a bid to extradite him when efforts to bring him to justice followed the screening of a BBC documentary called Sins of Our Fathers in 2013.

At that time his victims found the courage to contact the police.

Alexander was returned to Scotland almost three years after an extradition request was first sent to the Australian authorities and admitted two charges of indecent behaviour against the boys at the High Court in Edinburgh last month, after being brought into the building in a wheelchair.

Advocate depute Jane Farquharson QC told the court: "These offences committed by this accused, Denis Alexander, are a snapshot of what is believed to be wider systemic abuse of children within the Fort Augustus Abbey School and its preparatory school Carlekemp, also run by the Benedictine Order."

The prosecutor said the school was a subject of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry during 2019 and the English Benedictine Congregation accepted physical and sexual abuse of children took place. A sincere apology was tendered.

Alexander was known as Father Chrysotum when he taught at the Highland institution, where he also tutored pupils in bagpipe playing.

His first victim, now aged 60, was about 13 when Alexander summoned him to his study and pushed his hand down the victim's trousers and molested him between September 1973 and June 1974.

The second victim, now aged 58, was subjected to abuse after the monk asked him to join a yoga group which was held in part of the monastery. He was aged around 12 to 13 at the time of the abuse.

He found himself alone with Alexander who molested him while he was supporting him in a headstand. The pupil was also forced to carry out a sex act on him.

He told the headteacher, but the police did not become involved.

Alexander left the school during the 1970s and stopped being a practising Benedictine monk, but remained a priest and moved to Australia.

Ms Farquharson said: "He came to the attention of the police as a result of a BBC documentary screened in the summer of 2013 called Sins of Our Fathers that focused on life within both institutions."

The Crown Office requested his extradition in August 2016 and a warrant was issued by an Australian court in January the following year. But Alexander did not consent to his return to Scotland to face justice.

After further legal proceedings he did not continue to fight the move and came back to the UK in January 2020.

Ms Farquharson said: "Significant delays were occasioned in bringing the accused to Scotland as a result of his opposition to the extradition process."

Defence solicitor advocate Shahid Latif said: "He is sorry and he can do no more than he has done and that is to have pleaded guilty."

He said that Alexander had been in "a stressful working environment" at the time of the offending and worked long hours seven days a week.

Alexander watched today's sentencing proceedings via a video link to prison.

He has been placed on the Sex Offenders' Register indefinitely.

View our fact sheet on court reporting here

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