An independent review into historic claims of child abuse has been commissioned by Caldey Island.

The monastic island off the coast of Tenby has been under the shadow of the allegations since 2017.

The Caldey Island Survivors Campaign says that around 50 people are now claiming historic abuse by monks from the island.

Amongst them are the group's founder, Kevin O’Connell of Ceredigion, and his allegations will be examined ‘in detail’ during the review, which will also consider how they were previously managed by Caldey Island.

The appointment of a new Superior of Caldey Island’s Cistercian Abbey, Father Jan Rossey, has led to the review being commissioned, together with new safeguarding policies.

South Wales Guardian: Caldey Abbey's new Superior, Fr Jan Rossey, and the island's new Safeguarding Lead, Maria Battle.Caldey Abbey's new Superior, Fr Jan Rossey, and the island's new Safeguarding Lead, Maria Battle. (Image: Caldey Island/Hywel Dda UHB)

It follows the announcement in February that the 1,000-year-old island was about to enter a new era, including new jobs and the re-opening of the chocolate factory and guest house.

A spokesman for Caldey Island said that the review was ‘a central pillar’ of Father Rossey's commitment to ‘fostering openness and transparency within the monastery’.

Although funded by the island, it would be truly independent.

South Wales Guardian: Caldey Island has been home to a monastic community since the 12th century.Caldey Island has been home to a monastic community since the 12th century. (Image: Gareth Davies Photography)

"Caldey Abbey does not know what the reviewer will find and will not be able to influence or modify its findings or recommendations," he added.

Father Rossey said:  “In common with many other organisations, Caldey Abbey has, in the past, received disclosures and allegations involving members of the monastic community about their behaviour towards children.

'Thorough review'

 “We take these allegations very seriously and, in order to uphold our commitment to safeguarding, we have commissioned a leading independent safeguarding consultant, Jan Pickles OBE, to conduct a thorough review.”

“This review is about taking responsibility, learning from the past, and building a safe environment for everyone,” Father Rossey continued.

"I have also appointed Maria Battle, formerly the Deputy Children’s Commissioner for Wales, as our new safeguarding lead.

Visitor safety

"Maria is reviewing our safeguarding policies, practice and training to ensure all visitors to Caldey are safe.”

Lawyer Ms Battle is the former chief executive of the Hywel Dda University Health Board.

Fr Rossey added: “As we prepare to welcome visitors back to Caldey Island, we remain dedicated to providing a secure environment with effective procedures for safeguarding all who visit, live on, or work on the island.”

The conclusions of the review will be made public after completion.