Thinking Anglicans

John Smyth review – timing of publication

Updated Tuesday afternoon to add response from Andrew Graystone
Updated Wednesday to add report of the resignation of the Titus Trust chairman.

The Church of England issued the following press release today.

John Smyth review – timing of publication
28/04/2020

The Learning Lessons Review, commissioned by the Church of England, into its handling of the allegations of abuse committed by the late John Smyth continues to be delivered according to the terms of reference. To ensure the review is as comprehensive as possible and that the large volume of information submitted can be fully studied, completion is now expected into 2021. This timeframe will also allow for any impact the COVID-19 restrictions may have on the review’s day to day workings.

The review, led by Keith Makin and supported by Sarah Lawrence, has to date focussed on engagement with victims and survivors who have bravely provided invaluable and full accounts of the abuse. In addition, the reviewers have continued to receive contact from individuals and organisations wishing to submit accounts and written materials of vital interest. This has been wider than could have been anticipated when the review began.

It should be noted that the reviewers continue to welcome any further submissions from victims and survivors who have yet to come forward along with other individuals or organisations that wish to participate. Contact details below.

The terms of reference suggested a timeline for completion of the review within nine months from commencing in October 2019 (having been announced in August). Progress updates have been held at regular intervals since then between the National Director of Safeguarding and the reviewers.

Work has been taking place to ensure cooperation between parallel reviews being delivered by organisations listed in the terms of reference. This is to ensure appropriate, safe and legal information sharing takes place to protect confidentiality of victims while at the same time ensuring minimal impact on individuals in terms of repeating their traumatic and damaging experiences of abuse.

The Covid-19 crisis will undoubtedly have some impact on the review process and timeline although virtual meetings are being used where possible.

Keith Makin, Independent Lead Reviewer said: “Sarah and I have been privileged to speak to many brave victims and survivors as part of this review process so far and would like to thank those people for their most valuable accounts of the terrible psychological and physical abuse experienced at the hands of John Smyth.

We know the delay in completion will be a great frustration for all those involved but we are absolutely committed to making this review as comprehensive and thorough as possible to ensure lessons are learnt.

To do this properly, I have asked for more time to allow Sarah and I to continue to meet with individuals and analyse the evidence submitted. The Church has agreed that this additional time will be time well spent and vital for the Church’s safeguarding learning.”

Contact

Keith.makin@independentreviews.live               07713149683

Update

In response Andrew Graystone has released the following.

Church of England announces further delay to Smyth Review

The Church of England has announced a further delay to the publication of its review of abuse by John Smyth QC. The church says that the review, which was originally scheduled for publication next month, will now be completed in “early 2021” and published some time later. The postponement, which was announced on the Church of England’s website, is the second time that the date has been put back.

The first announcement of a review was made by the Lead Bishop for Safeguarding Peter Hancock on the day of Smyth’s death in August 2018. It was a further 12 months before a reviewer was appointed, and Terms of Reference were announced in August 2019. At that stage the review was expected to last nine months. The church later revised the Terms of Reference to accommodate the fact that work on the review had not started until October 2019.

In a note to some victims yesterday, the reviewer Keith Makin said that “The response from victims and survivors as well as many other interested parties and organisations to our request for information has been immense. The timescale change reflects this as we continue to receive new lines of enquiry to investigate along with vast amounts of written materials and individual accounts.” He said that the difficulties caused by Covid-19 are not currently a factor in the timing of the review.

Victims’ advocate Andrew Graystone said “This review is the last opportunity for Smyth’s victims to receive some form of justice, so the additional delay will be difficult for them. Hopefully it is a sign that the Church of England is coming to terms with the scale of abuse, and the extent to which it is embedded in the church.”

If the review is completed in 2021 it will be almost a decade since the abuse was first reported to the Church of England, and almost forty years since it was first brought to the attention of the Iwerne Trust. Parallel reviews into John Smyth’s abuse are being conducted by Winchester College and Scripture Union. The experts conducting those reviews were not informed in advance of the decision to extend the Church of England’s review.

Andrew Graystone

07772 710090

andrew.graystone1@btinternet.com

Further updates

Anglican Ink reports that the Rev Simon Austen, the Titus Trust chairman, resigned on 9 April 2020. According to this “A spokeswoman for Mr Austen at the St Leonard’s Church office said the reason for his resignation as chairman of the Titus Trust was that he ‘intended to serve in this capacity for two years and has now come to the end of his term of office’.”

Law and Religion UK bring a lot of useful background links together here.

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Interested Observer
Interested Observer
3 months ago

I wrote last week “Paragraphs 7.1 and 7.2 of the terms of reference make it clear that it should be published by the end of July. Who wants to hold their breath?”.

Luckily, I did not hold my breath.

Anthony Archer
Anthony Archer
3 months ago

The good news is that it seems Makin is faced with vastly more material than he imagined, from victims and survivors, and others with knowledge. This report will analyse and dismantle the abusive culture. It will also ask searching questions about why SO MANY people who knew about Smyth did absolutely NOTHING, except heave a sigh of relief that he had left the country.

Interested Observer
Interested Observer
3 months ago
Reply to  Anthony Archer

That’s one interpretation. The other is that it’s in everyone’s interests apart from the victims for the inquiry to be as protracted as possible. That way, everyone involved is safely retired and/or dead and there is no chance of any action at all being taken. And the institutions which were blind and/or supine can then say it was all a long time ago, and today we would not do things the same. Ignore it as long as you can. Delay any enquires. Lose the documentation down the back of the filing cabinet. When an inquiry is finally mooted, spin it… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
3 months ago

A Smyth survivor has asked me to post the following: ‘You mention July, but the original Terms of Reference issued on 13 August 2019 stated that the Review would start on 19 August and last “no more than nine months”. That would mean publication in May, not July. It was only later that the original Terms of Reference were withdrawn, the section “Brief factual summary” removed (after multiple complaints about the accuracy of those facts) and quietly a new start date of October was inserted. The ToR as first issued promised publication in May.’

Interested Observer
Interested Observer
3 months ago
Reply to  Janet Fife

How did the February presentation of the Living in Love and Faith materials to Synod go? To have one report go over schedule could be considered a misfortune, but two starts to look rather like a concerted policy of delaying bad news.

Judith Maltby
Judith Maltby
3 months ago

I would be interested in comment from those more experienced in this area about the wording of the Terms of Reference for the Makin Review, particularly the ‘Principles underpinning the Review’. As a professional historian, of course I think investigations should be put in historical context, but these seem to over-emphasize changes in attitudes of the ‘relevant time’ to now to an excessive degree. I am not sure what the reference to ‘hindsight’ means in this context. Is it actually the purpose of the review to ‘understand practice from the view point of individuals and organisations at the time rather… Read more »

Jeremy
Jeremy
3 months ago
Reply to  Judith Maltby

Thank you, Judith, for your clear-sighted question.
Again one must wonder whether persons with knowledge of the abuse had a part in framing the terms of reference that limit the investigation into that same abuse.

Interested Observer
Interested Observer
3 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy

If you read the IICSA report on Peter Ball, and the preceding Gibb report, it’s clear George Carey and other bishops deliberately concealed evidence of sexual abuse in order to protect their friend Peter. Gibb report paragraph 5.2.9: “However we have been unable to find any good reason for the decision – and we believe it must have been more of a decision than an omission – not to make police aware of the letters which raised concerns about Ball. The failure to pass six of the letters to police, reported to us by Mr F – while providing them… Read more »

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