Thinking Anglicans

Church of England announces review of Smyth case

Updated Wednesday afternoon

Details of the independent review into the Church of England’s handling of allegations against the late John Smyth QC have been published today.

See here: Independent review into Smyth case.

Keith Makin, a former director of social services with more than 30 years experience in the social care field,  will lead the independent lessons learnt review which will consider the response of the Church of England and its officers to the allegations against John Smyth. Keith has led on a number of serious case reviews and has chaired several local safeguarding partnerships…

There is more detail about Keith Makin, and  at the bottom of the release there are links to earlier statements from the church about this case.

The Terms of Reference are over here. There are 9 pages of detail, but it starts this way:

These instructions set out the basis on which the National Safeguarding Team of the Church of England commissions Keith Makin (“the Reviewer”) to undertake a review into the Church of England’s handling of allegations relating to the conduct of the late John Smyth QC.

The Review will consider the response of the Church of England and its officers to those allegations, and the response of other organisations, namely Winchester College, the Titus Trust, and the Scripture Union, to the extent that those organisations are willing to co-operate. The approach of those organisation to the Review at the time of its commencement is as follows:

  • Winchester College. Winchester College has stated that it anticipates that it will cooperate with the Review, providing all relevant information on a voluntary basis, i.e. with the status of an Interested Party rather than a Subject Organisation. In such a capacity, subject to the matter of any live litigation, Winchester College will share its own findings and answer any questions so far as it reasonably can.
  • The Titus Trust. The Titus Trust has stated that it is restricted in its participation in the review by ongoing legal action and it is not able to engage in the Review until this has been resolved.
  • The Scripture Union. The Scripture Union has confirmed that it will not participate in the Review.

These instructions are given by the National Safeguarding Team (NST) of the Churchof England, acting on behalf of the Archbishops’ Council. This document should be read alongside, and forms part of, the agreement between the Reviewer and theArchbishops’ Council in relation to this review (“the Agreement”), in particular, provisions relating to confidentiality and data protection…

Update

There has been extensive media coverage of this announcement:

Church Times Smyth review will take evidence from Welby and Titus Trust

Telegraph Justin Welby ‘to give evidence’ as investigation begins into Church camps where boys were beaten

Guardian Welby in spotlight over sadistic abuse claims at Christian camps

BBC Church’s handling of John Smyth abuse allegations to be probed

Daily Mail Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby may testify at inquiry into claims of sadistic abuse at Christian holiday camps

Premier Independent review to look at Church of England’s response to John Smyth abuse allegations

Christian Today Independent inquiry to probe Church of England’s handling of John Smyth allegations

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David Lamming
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David Lamming

The introduction on page 1 of the Terms of Reference states: “This document should be read alongside, and forms part of, the agreement between the Reviewer and the Archbishops’ Council in relation to this review…” Accordingly, if the ToR are to be so read, should not the agreement also be published by the NST?

Kate
Guest
Kate

There obviously must be an agreement covering compensation (pay) for services and one would reasonably expect that to be kept private IMO

Kate
Guest
Kate

“Consider the actions of individuals and organisations against the standards of practice which applied at the relevant time, i.e. understand practice from the view point of the individuals and organisations at the time rather than using hindsight.”

That sounds oh-so reasonable but unless current standards are applied how can lessons be learned which are truly relevant today?

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

It means that actions are to be judged by the standards of what was acceptable, appropriate and legal practice when the actions were taken. The lessons to be learned would be by analogy with later and current standards, which might be different. I have been plugging the point on other threads that bishops and other clergy cannot be punished under the CDM for breaches of the safeguarding rules introduced in 2016 for events which occurred before 2016. They can only be charged with ‘misconduct’. In purely hypothetical terms, an error of judgement in, say, 2000 would not necessarily have been… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

I understand what it means but I don’t believe it is compatible with the declared purpose

peter kettle
Guest
peter kettle

Why is the Scripture Union not participating?

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

From the SU safeguarding web page (undated): “Scripture Union understands that the Hampshire Police have concluded their criminal investigation into the abuse without bringing charges against anyone but that civil proceedings against a third party are now pending. Scripture Union is not aware of the detail of these proceedings or when they are likely to be concluded. Scripture Union intends to conduct an independent review with a view to endeavouring to learn lessons from its connection with John Smyth and ensuring that these lessons are reflected in its safeguarding policies and practices.”

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

In SU’s description of the review it intends to carry out at some future date, survivors don’t seem to figure. I hope they intend to consult Smyth’s victims properly regarding terms of reference, and pay heed to their needs for justice pastoral care. It’s not enough to keep it centred on SU.

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

Janet Smyth was a trustee with SU, I understand, but was he any more than that? Do we know there were survivors on SU programs in the way that there were with Smyth’s involvement in the Titus Trust?

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

I understood that the Iwerne camps were an SU venture, as John Wallace says below, so that Smyth survivors are also SU survivors.

John Wallace
Guest
John Wallace

I am staggered at the way in which SU is distancing itself from the C of E enquiry, but instead eventually setting up its own. Pilate’s handwashing and bolted stable doors come to mind. Iwerne in my recollection was under its umbrella, as a way of producing ‘eclectic evangelical leaders’ . Yet we see another example of self-preservation rather than concerns for those who were abused. Perhaps some current evangelical leaders can put pressure on its Trustees. Otherwise victims are again being treated unfairly

Bernard Silverman
Guest
Bernard Silverman

The Scripture Union website says a lot about their activities with children and young people, including holidays and similar events. It would seem to be extremely unwise from a public relations point of view for them not to cooperate with this enquiry, whatever the strict legal position (note that the chair of their Trustees is a corporate lawyer). What does it look like if an organisation like theirs refuses to take part into an enquiry about what seem to be extremely dodgy young people’s holidays in the past? Leaving that aside, from the view of anyone who’s an outsider to… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

I will leave to others, if they wish, to respond to what you say about the Scripture Union which has said that it will carry out its own internal enquiry. There is a danger in some of these posts of people not realising that this is a Church of England internal enquiry, not a second IICSA. We ought now to leave matters to take their course and, as you say, allow Mr Makin to carry out his role.

robert marshall
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robert marshall

The extract needs to match the formatting of the original document – a paragraph break after the second sentence on the Scripture Union – at the moment it appears that the instructions are from the SU

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

A small point in the totality of this subject, but at paragraph 1.10 of the Terms of Reference it is stated that John Smyth served as a Lay Reader in the C of E, whereas I recall from an earlier thread the Diocese of Winchester saying that they had no record of this. I am not familiar with the formalities. If he had been licensed in a different Diocese would that suffice? I ought to clarify a point in my earlier post about the CDM. I intended to say that a charge of disregarding the CDM safeguarding rules enacted in… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Sorry! In the interests of accuracy, the CDM safeguarding rules were enacted on 1st October 2016, but came into force on 1st January 2017. I think they are unlikely to figure in the Smyth case, although that can’t be ruled out entirely.

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Winchester Diocese appear to have been mistaken in their earlier statement.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Their website is entirely silent on the subject, but in the fullness of time we should find out. The timescale for the Review is nine months or sooner, but that could be affected by the outstanding civil claims.

Charles Read
Guest

Some dioceses do not keep (or have not kept) comprehensive records of Readers. There is no national database comparable with Crockfords.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Apart from the pastoral concerns for victims, an Enquiry is necessary, if for no other reason, to establish what happened, when and where. The unsuspecting newspaper-reading public are still being told by the Daily Telegraph, the Guardian and the Daily Mail that the beatings took place at Iwerne. The Telegraph speaks of “sadistic beatings of boys at Church of England holiday camps”; the Guardian, “sadistic beatings of boys at Christian camps” and the Mail, “sadistic abuse at Christian holiday camps”. As far as I am aware, except for the sadistic beatings, there is no truth in any of these statements.… Read more »

Charles Read
Guest

Too true I am afraid. It seems that Smyth used the camps and the school CU to recruit and groom his victims but the actual abuse happened at his home. This is why the responsibility of the school and Titus Trust is tricky – I am not saying they hold no responsibility you will note.

Martin Sewell
Guest
Martin Sewell

I and others have been in direct communication with Smyth victims. One has specifically asked me to correct what is said here. These are the exact words delivered through me to preserve anonymity. “It is being repeatedly stated that there were no beatings at Iwerne. The most severe beating of all, 800 strokes, did take place at Iwerne. John Smyth had to break for lunch as he was too tired. This is contemporaneously recorded and the police were given all the details. Whilst the majority of beatings did in fact take place in the notorious shed outside Winchester, it is… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Thank you for that clarification. I was obviously unaware, and had never heard this before. How on earth did 800 strokes – anywhere – go undetected and unreported? Rhetorical question, more a comment, and I realise that you aren’t in a position to answer.

The victim must have received – certainly needed – medical treatment. I don’t think further comment is necessary.

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

Many Iwerne campers such as me have been concerned that these beatings might have taken place at Clayesmore School, but hoped that they did not. This is a game changer as I see it, and requires a far wider circle of people to be questioned as part of the review. It may even vitiate the whole missionary enterprise promoted by ‘Bash’.

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

I am pleased to note the announcement of this independent review, something I have been urging the National Church to commission for a year or more. The decision of Titus Trust and Scripture Union not to participate may make little difference, as key individuals will find it hard not to assist, even if they do not do so as representing organisations. And if they will not assist, that fact will be recorded in the published report. Winchester College was at the heart of the discussions as to what to do, or what (in their view) not to do. The reviewer,… Read more »

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Thank you for this. Am I right in thinking the Rev. Chris Hingley had a role in the Investigative Report produced in Africa?

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

Yes. Revd Christopher Hingley is mentioned (para 44) in what I refer to above as the Zambesi Ministries Report (more usually referred to as the Coltart Report). Colhart was the lawyer of Messrs Webb Low and Barry of Bulawayo who reported on Smyth’s activities in Zimbabwe. He does not appear to have been one of the principal ‘Christian Ministers’ who commissioned the report. However, he was Anglican Chaplain of Whitestones Primary School in Bulawayo, and I assume boys from this school attended Zimbabwe Ministries camps. As I reflect further on this scandal, the principal consequence of Smyth not being reported… Read more »

Sam Jones
Guest
Sam Jones

It is disappointing that Smyth died before he could face criminal charges and I fully support the victims taking legal actions against the organisations and/or trustees, but I am wondering what this enquiry is trying to achieve. The events took place nearly 40 years ago. There were no safeguarding rules in place at the time. The priests (and lay people) who received the Ruston report are dead or retired. What is the point of this review?

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Charles Read has summarised the facts of the case above in three lines, and is rightly cautious about imputing ‘responsibility’ to other parties. Actually, the very fact that survivors are taking legal action should mean that we refrain from comment about ‘responsibility’, and whose responsibility – meaning civil liability for the injuries.

But as far as criminal responsibility is concerned, the Police have investigated and the current position is that they consider Smyth to have been the only person to have acted potentially criminally. As you say, his sudden death prevented any prosecution.

John Wallace
Guest
John Wallace

The point is that one hand those who were abused by Smyth can have their abuse acknowledged and so can get some sort of closure. On the other hand, it is important that the ‘church’ and its various organs, like Titus and SU are seen to be held to account. Abuse happens in the dark – we must shine the light on it, whenever and wherever it happened.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Actually, and I hope this will be my final contribution, holding Titus and the Scripture Union to account are outside the remit of Mr Makin’s instructions. I wonder how many people commenting here have read the Terms of Reference. Mr Makin is not authorised to make findings of fact; he can express a view based on the balance of probabilities. He is specifically instructed to answer the questions in Paragraph 3 of the Terms of Reference. Those questions do not mention the Titus Trust or the Scripture Union. Nor are those institutions included in the list in paragraph 5.5 of… Read more »

Mark Bennet
Guest
Mark Bennet

CMR = [Cuthbert] Mark Ruston?

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

Yes, thanks. Slightly strange that he ‘copied’ himself on his own report (which was ironically largely very good, given the total failure to act in the light of it). Maybe as he didn’t sign it.

Gillian Argyle
Guest
Gillian Argyle

David Wilkinson was brother-in-law of David and Jonathan Fletcher.

John swanson
Guest
John swanson

Anthony: is “sadomasochistic” the right term here? ( as opposed to simply “sadistic”)

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

Not sure. Certainly sadistic.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Forgive me for asking a delicate question, but was John Smyth the only person doing the beating, or did he create a regime where other individuals also beat each other? Was there a regime of ‘purifying’ beatings going on, where others – afraid of losing favour or place in the group identity – took part in a culture, through psychological compulsion, through desire to please, through some kind of religious mania? I’m sorry to ask, but I don’t know the facts, and my take on human nature suggests to me that John Smyth might have been tempted to incriminate others… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

The reason I’m asking, is partly for my own clarification, and partly because I feel that this investigation needs to consider not only the actions of one bad man, but the background and group culture that led to young men participating (and collaborating?) in beatings and frankly what sounds like borderline homo-erotic activity. Did individuals massage each other, or was it just John Smyth? And what does the whole situation say about the ‘kind’ of Christianity they had bought into, its obsessions (and frankly what sounds like mania), its over-masculine almost Christian frat boy culture, its toxic culture and focus… Read more »

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Judging by what I have read you are right, and Smyth did get young men to beat other young men. The psychological damage to all parties must have been extensive.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest
Richard W. Symonds

I think it is important to draw a very clear distinction between adults accused of abusing other adults, and adults accused of abusing children. In the latter case, there is an accusation of a criminal act. In the former case, that may (or may not) be so.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

I agree that an adult beating another adult should not necessarily constitute a criminal act. Sado-masochism is probably a permissible private sexual kink. However, Christianity is not a proper context in which it should be sanctioned or accommodated. In its context in the John Smyth case, this is clearly spiritual abuse. That may not be criminal, but it has no place in the Church. It’s just plain weird, and using spiritual pretexts for something frankly bizarre. I hope the investigation homes in on the dangers of cultures becoming toxic, and the issue of spiritual abuse in the Church. It needs… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

I have read of one such incident (which I had forgotten) in the garden shed, so there was more than one person present in addition to Smyth. This may, or may not, come out in the Enquiry. Adding to Richard Symonds’ post, the question of criminality was discussed in much detail on earlier TA threads. I can’t call to mind the name of the case, but it was a decision of the superior Courts that mutually sado-masochisstic acts between adults are illegal and that ‘consent’ is irrelevant. Irrespective of the fact that minors do not have legal capacity to consent,… Read more »

Helen King
Guest
Helen King

That will be Regina v. Brown

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Thank you. Decided in 1993. I’m not sure whether it has been reversed in any later judgment. It was a House of Lords decision in its (former) judicial capacity, and the judges were not unanimous – a majority of 3/2. I think the difference in the judges’ stances was perceived as moral versus legal.

Helen King
Guest
Helen King

Apparently not reversed, but I’m not a lawyer – interesting discussion of whether Regina v Brown would have gone the other way if those taking part in the activities had been heterosexual, on https://thestudentlawyer.com/2013/03/21/r-v-brown-20-years-on/

Simon Dawson
Guest
Simon Dawson

There is an fascinating line in the paper linked by Helen King stating:

“The Law Commission in their consultation paper Consent in the Criminal Law drew attention to the state of affairs where the infliction of harm was not permissible for sexual gratification, but was permissible for religious reasons, such as flagellation.”

How one assesses the intention of the flagellant is an interesting question. I wonder in how many cases a flagellant might believe he or she is acting out of a spiritual motivation, but there is an underlying erotic/sexual drive, whether acknowledged or not.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest
Richard W. Symonds

Stephen Parsons: “It was then quite clear to me that Smyth believed in the redemptive power of pain, which related to his evangelical ideas about the Atonement. No one then or now would concur with this warped attempt at religious justification. His behaviour was criminal…Although a Church of England review is not one conducted according to strict legal principles, John Smyth’s alleged offences were criminal” Were Smyth’s offences against young adults “criminal” in law? “The Law Commission in their consultation paper Consent in the Criminal Law drew attention to the state of affairs where the infliction of harm was not… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest
Richard W. Symonds

I have little hope of any form of justice in the Church-controlled Makin
Review. It is disturbing to note the clear findings of the Church-controlled Carlile and Briden Reviews, which essentially exonerated Bishop Bell, have been – up to now – essentially ignored by the Church hierarchy. Yet still we cling to the hope that certain Church leaders [including an Archbishop] will have the moral courage to do what is right by righting their wrong. It is moral cowardice to hide behind Church lawyers and insurance companies.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

My apologies for the length of this post, and its lateness. I only picked up the following from the ‘Law and Religion’ website yesterday: update statements from the Titus Trust and the Scripture Union. Titus Trust “The Titus Trust welcomes the Church of England’s review into the Smyth case and has already shared a significant amount of information with the Church’s national safeguarding team, indicating to them several weeks ago that ‘We are very happy to be involved in a review and seek to be as transparent and supportive as we can be’ but that ‘we remain restricted by on-going… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

“we decided not to participate and instead intend to conduct an independent review…” Their choice, but it’s not a very good look… it doesn’t look very open or helpful. “and instead…” Why does it have to be ‘either… or’? Why not do both? With regard to ‘records’ – there must be people still alive who participated in the Iwerne camps, or helped in the running of them? Was anyone involved with Scripture Union at the time, also involved in some way with the camps? If so, they may be “relevant information”. Evidence about the Iwerne camps is not limited to… Read more »

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

A final reflection (in two parts) on some of these points, which will of course be the subject of the Review by Keith Makin, by all accounts no slouch. Part I The optics of the Scripture Union’s (SU) press release of 14 August (appearing in the Safeguarding section of their website, not as a News item) are not good, although I have some sympathy with aspects of it. That the SU is deeply embedded with the CofE is clear. It has periodically had a senior bishop as its President. It needs to be seen to be fully supporting this important… Read more »

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

Part II Of course, we can all be wise after the events. Of more relevance, which the Review will be able to examine forensically, is why it has taken six years from the first disclosure of abuse to the Bishop of Ely in 2013 to get where we are today; what was the Church doing in the four years until 2017, and why did it have to take the Channel 4 documentary in that year to act as a catalyst for any action at all? The Church dragged its feet, but then neither did Hampshire Police act with any expedition.… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Mr Makin does, indeed, appear to be facing a formidable task. Just one note of caution about the death of the boy in Zimbabwe. JS was acquitted of manslaughter. It’s not for us to draw any conclusions about the verdict in another jurisdiction.

Jonathan Jamal
Guest
Jonathan Jamal

In regard to the John Smyth Abuse, there is a logical question coming out of all this, that whoever advised John Smyth to leave the UK and go to Southern Africa, whether it was one individual or corporately within the Iwerne Trust, could not those responsible for dispensing such advice be charged even now with conspiring to pervert the course of justice, perhaps knowing that further down the line, there could be the possibility of Criminal prosecution?

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

With respect, I think not. That’s a purely hypothetical question and there would be an issue (I suspect insurmountable) of remoteness of causation even if John Smyth were still alive and susceptible to prosecution here or in Africa. Of course, his sudden death ruled out both.

In any event I think people are overlooking the fact that JS was acquitted of the manslaughter of the boy in Zimbabwe. It’s not for us here to question that verdict in another jurisdiction.

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

Smyth was charged in Zimbabwe with culpable homicide. The case never came to court, for procedural reasons. We can of course speculate as to what they were. Smyth had friends in high places in Harare. It is incorrect to say that he was acquitted [of manslaughter], but it is equally correct to say that he was never found guilty. From what I have read (and knowing some of the players in this cover-up), I can find no basis for defending Smyth at any stage of this torrid case. He was evil and was able to manipulate his many ‘friends’ (in… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Well, apologies for that inaccuracy. I repeated what I had read somewhere. But I was primarily replying to Jonathan Jamil, and stand by the answer to his question.

No one is disputing, still less defending, the evil done by John Smyth, and no one can have been more surprised than myself by these revelations after having seen him in court at Winchester (and involved ‘on the other side’ in the same case). This was not very long before he became a QC, and so at much the same time as the abuse was taking place.

Kevin Thaw
Guest
Kevin Thaw

People are right to ponder the significance of the names of those copied in to the Ruston Report. Has anybody pondered the potential significance of the name absent from the report? Jonathan Fletcher spoke on Iwerne camp with his friend John Smyth. They are described by people who were on camp with them both in late 70s and early 80s as ‘talking frequently’ and ‘obviously close’. Jonathan Fletcher was far more important in the Iwerne world than some of the others whose initials are on the report. Is there any significance to his not being mentioned in an obvious way?… Read more »