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
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.”
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.
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.