SISTER Frances Dominica has yet to rule out returning to the hospices she founded despite being asked to leave following historical sexual abuse allegations, her lawyer has said.

The 72-year-old nun – given an OBE in 2006 for her services to healthcare 25 years after founding Helen House, the world’s first hospice for children – “wholly” denies claims two women were abused between 1980 and 2000.

The allegations, which do not relate to any patient or staff member from Helen and Douglas House, were first made two years ago.

Oxford Mail:

Sister Frances with the Queen and Prince Philip when she opened Douglas House in February 2004

Sister Frances was asked to step aside while they were investigated, but no charges were brought by the Crown Prosecution Service.

However, Helen and Douglas House said it had still asked Sister Frances to leave the hospice, on the recommendation of an independent risk assessment report it commissioned with the All Saints Sisters of the Poor.

Oxford Mail:

Sister Frances with ex-US President Bill Clinton at the hospice in 2001

On Friday night Sister Frances’ lawyer Lee Fisher said: “The position she has taken is not to return today and that position is still under consideration.

“[Helen and Douglas House] has been in touch with her and she has not yet responded. It is detailed correspondence and she is considering it.

“In terms of the allegations made, they are wholly refuted.

“The police investigation did not find there was any case to answer and she does not want to comment on any ongoing issues.

“She has nothing else to say except that she remains committed to the charity.”

Oxford Mail:

Sister Frances helps lay the foundation stone of Helen House in 1981

Thames Valley Police spokeswoman Connie Primmer said: “Thames Valley Police received allegations of indecent assault which took place in Oxford between 1980 and 2000.

“The offences were reported to police in July 2013 by a third party and subsequent investigation identified two female victims.

“A 71-year-old woman was arrested in connection with the investigation in November 2013, on suspicion of indecent assault on a woman over 16 years of age.

“A decision was made by the Crown Prosecution Service not to charge her and she was released in July 2014.

“There is currently no live investigation ongoing.”

No further details about the allegations have been released.

A Helen and Douglas House spokeswoman added: “As soon as the allegations were raised in July 2013, Sister Frances agreed at our request to step away from all activity at Helen & Douglas House. Sister Frances denies all allegations.

“We can confirm that Sister Frances will not return to Helen & Douglas House.

“The trustees of Helen & Douglas House decided to implement the recommendations of an independent risk assessment report, after careful discussion and analysis.”

The hospice, in Magdalen Road, East Oxford, says it is unable to make the risk assessment or its specific recommendations public.

The spokeswoman added: “We wish to reiterate that no allegations contained within the report relate in any way to activity at Helen & Douglas House.

“We have written to families informing them of our decision and will now continue to focus on what is and has always been our priority – providing the specialist care and support to children, young adults and their families.”

Oxford Mail:

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall with Sister Frances

Sister Frances was Mother Superior of the All Saints Sisters of the Poor for 12 years. Community leader Jean Raphael said: “The Sisters of the Society of All Saints Sisters of the Poor have worked with the relevant statutory bodies since the issue was first raised, and co-operated with the police during their investigation.

“An independent risk assessment has recently been completed and the conclusions are being considered carefully by the Sisters.

“The Sisters take the issue of safeguarding very seriously.”

Sister Frances was the driving force behind first Helen House and then Douglas House, the hospice for people aged 16 to 35 that opened in 2004.

She has hosted various dignitaries and celebrities at the hospices, including the Queen and Prince Philip, former US President Bill Clinton and the Duchess of Kent.


  • SISTER Frances Dominica OBE is the founder and now former trustee of the world’s first children’s hospice, Helen House.
  • Born Frances Ritchie in Inverness in 1942, her family moved to Petersham, Surrey, when her father left the army in 1946.
  • She was educated at Cheltenham Ladies College before going to train as a nurse at The Hospital for Sick Children, in Great Ormond Street, London, and the Middlesex Hospital.
  • In 1966, she joined the Society of All Saints Sisters of the Poor, an Anglican religious community formerly headquartered in All Saints Convent in East Oxford.
  • She was Mother Superior from 1977 to 1989, before continuing as a Sister and founding Helen House in 1982 next door to the convent.
  • Sister Frances founded Douglas House in 2004, a hospice for young people aged 16 to 35.
  • She is a Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Oxfordshire, a fellow of the Royal College of Nursing, an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and has received Honorary Degrees from the Open University, Oxford Brookes University, London Metropolitan University and Northampton University
  • She was awarded an OBE in the 2006 Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to healthcare.
  • In 2012 she was presented a lifetime achievement award from Help the Hospices and National Gardens Scheme by former Home Secretary Michael Howard, chairman of Help the Hospices.
  • She is a patron of REACT, International Children’s Palliative Care Network, Together for Short Lives, Sebastian’s Action Trust, Blythe House Hospice and the Ley Community.
  • Sister Frances adopted Kojo, a baby from Ghana

Editor's note: This story has been amended following a police admission that its original statement the allegations related to the 1970s was incorrect and the period in question was 1980 to 2000.