Thinking Anglicans

Statement from victims of the late John Smyth QC and the Titus Trust

The statement below has been issued by four victims of the late John Smyth and the Titus Trust, and refers to a statement on the website of the Titus Trust, which is copied below the fold.

We are amongst the scores of victims viciously beaten by the late John Smyth QC whilst he was Chair of The Iwerne Trust.

We are appalled by the statement issued on Monday 13th August by the Titus Trust, which now runs the Iwerne network.

The statement says that the Titus Trust has “done all that [it] can to ensure the matter is properly investigated by the relevant authorities.” This is untrue.

The statement further says that the board of the Titus Trust was only informed of the allegations against John Smyth in 2014. This is also untrue.

The Revd The Hon David Fletcher was employed as the senior officer of the Iwerne Trust from 1967 until 1986, when he became a trustee. He served in that capacity continuously until August 2016, only resigning his post when the Iwerne Trust was closed in a bid to distance it from its successor. Revd Fletcher was also a trustee of the Titus Trust from its foundation in 1997 until the same date.

It is a matter of record that Revd Fletcher and numerous leaders of his movement have been fully aware of Smyth’s abuse for 36 years. Revd Fletcher commissioned a comprehensive report of Smyth’s abuses in the UK in March 1982. From 1993 he was in possession of a further report of Smyth’s abuse in Zimbabwe. These reports, which were stored in the loft of the Chair of the Titus Trust Giles Rawlinson, were not made available to any secular authorities until 2017, when they were requisitioned by Hampshire Police under warrant.

An earlier statement from the Titus Trust website says that Smyth’s abuse took place between 1978 and 1981. They know this to be untrue. Smyth’s abuse in the UK started in 1975 and continued until 1982 and probably until 1984. Rev Fletcher and other Iwerne Trustees then facilitated Smyth’s move to Africa, where he abused at least 60 children between 1985 and 2017.

The Titus Trust, under the leadership of Fletcher and Rawlinson, took over the Iwerne network in its entirety in 1997. Titus has continued to run holidays under the Iwerne brand until as recently as last week. To suggest that the two are completely separate is simply deceitful.

Since Smyth’s horrific abuses were publicly exposed in February 2017, the Titus Trust has flatly refused to engage with his victims, or even to enquire after our well-being, let alone to offer any form of support or redress. Their protestation of sympathy is cynical and disingenuous.

Had the Titus Trust acted on the information that was available to it since its foundation, Smyth’s abuse could have been stopped long ago. Our hearts go out to the 60 or more children of Zimbabwe and South Africa who suffered at the hands of John Smyth as we did, but needlessly.

We have no interest in the “thoughts and prayers” of the Titus Trust. We do not believe they are fit to work with children.

/ENDS

Statement from the Titus Trust

John Smyth
“It is deeply regrettable that John Smyth’s death has robbed his victims of the opportunity to see justice done. Since 2014, when the board of the Titus Trust was informed of the allegations, we have done all we can to ensure the matter is properly investigated by the relevant authorities. We sympathise deeply with Smyth’s victims and continue to pray that they find healing and freedom from the harm that was so unjustly inflicted on them. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by the news of John Smyth’s death.”

The Titus Trust, 13/8/18

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Liam Bead;e
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Liam Bead;e

It seems to me impertinent and hubristic of the Titus Trust to imply that the survivors need ‘healing’ and ‘freedom’. Surely what the survivors are asking for is rather justice, mercy, and humility?

RevDave
Guest
RevDave

Horrific abuse in dressed up as some weird form of kindness. Sounds a bit like Ball – from the other end of the ecclesiastical spectrum? And Savill from the secular arena – though he went on for decades… Why have there been no calls for heads to roll retrospectively at BBC?

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Why have there been no calls for ‘heads to roll’ in the Church of England – or are they all granted immunity and impunity, and thus ‘untouchable’?

RevDave
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RevDave

CofE heads have rolled – both the Archbishops of York and of Canterbury in the 1990s (Hope and Carey) have been inhibited from episcopal ministry!

Angusian
Guest
Angusian

or the prison service, or the medical profession, all equally complicit

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

An independent inquiry must be set up urgently. The Church Commissioners will need to pay for it, but its Chair and Panel will need to be selected by third parties, to include all victims who wish to participate in its formation. It will need considerable powers. Its scope needs to be widely drawn. It must be more than just a ‘lessons learned review ‘. It should not be chaired by a lawyer. The first question is who knew what and when? The answer to the ‘who’ question would seem to be a lot. The second question is what was their… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Enough is enough. Resignations are now required – not Independent Inquiries. We have enough of those already eg IICSA

Anne Lee
Guest
Anne Lee

Thank you Anthony for a very measured and reasonable post. Please use all the influence you have to make sure an independent inquiry is set up very soon, without, as you say, a lawyer at its helm. And that a timeline is produced in the open so we all know what happened and when. For example, I know the Titus Trust was contacted in 2012. Accurate information will help everybody.

David Lamming
Guest
David Lamming

Anthony Archer says that an independent inquiry “must be set up urgently”, and that the inquiry “will need considerable powers.” However, such an inquiry (as is IICSA, with power to summon witnesses and to require evidence to be given on oath and the production of documents) could only be established by a government minister under the Inquiries Act 2005. I doubt whether the government would be willing to set up such an inquiry, especially given that Smyth is now dead. IICSA also, I apprehend, would be reluctant to add a separate ‘Smyth strand’ to its already full agenda. Bishop Peter… Read more »

David Lamming
Guest
David Lamming

[Continued] Any expectation that a criminal prosecution of Smyth would provide ‘closure’ has been terminated by his death. If the “organisations linked with [the] case” (which must include the Church of England) are to work together, as Bishop Hancock says is now important, perhaps the Archbishop of Canterbury (not the National Safeguarding Team) can give a lead by commissioning an appropriate independent inquiry, with a requirement to report within no more than six months.

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

‘Scores of victims’ from that period of time means at least 40 – that is notably different from numbers hitherto published – though I imagine those writing would know about this better than anyone, assuming that they are not using language loosely.

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

But why then are the people themselves elsewhere saying the number is around 20-25?

Andrew Godsall
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Andrew Godsall

Christopher are you saying that it somehow lessens the horror and abuse if the number abused is fewer?

Christopher Shell
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Christopher Shell

Obviously not. I am pointing out that there is a danger that when people are survivors even if they are not precise people will take their word as gospel anyway.

Gilo
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Gilo

The number is reported by Andrew Graystone to be nearly 90, with 25+ victims in UK and nearly 60 victims in South Africa and Zimbabwe. This will likely remain an approximation and the real number may be considerably higher.

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

This is tragic – my point related to ‘scores…while he was Chair of the Iwerne Trust’ – I have never heard a confirmed figure as high as 30, in fact.

Jeremy Pemberton
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Jeremy Pemberton

I was a senior camper at Iwerne on two occasions in the period 1975-76, during university vacations. I subsequently trained for ordination with a number of men who had been brought us through the Bash Camp system. Smyth was present when I attended, though was a distant and (I use the term advisedly) god-like figure. But, while he has been exposed as the most egregious abuser, I do not think it was the case of one bad apple. There were others who groomed teenage boys and young men. They created deeply unhealthy emotional dependencies which they manipulated, and, from things… Read more »

Christopher Shell
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Christopher Shell

That is very nebulous. Are you saying that none of the others did anything untoward, but you got the subjective feeling that they might? Not exactly ‘hold the front page’ stuff.

Jim Pratt
Guest
Jim Pratt

Christopher, no, Jeremy’s recollections are not “front page” stuff, but can be extremely useful in examining the culture of abuse and how it was allowed to continue. I was a Scout in a troop, the Scoutmaster of which was accused of abusing at least 30-40 boys over a period of 20+ years. Like Jeremy, I never witnessed any abuse, but there were aspects of his behaviour and the culture around him that, in retrospect, were very creepy and occasionally homoerotic. (Unfortunately, he was never brought to trial, because by the time the police had enough evidence to bring charges, he… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Not my point at all. My point was that he would find it hard on such a nebulous basis to define what his ‘story’ was – if indeed there was one. This is exactly how the landlord got arrested in the erstwhile murder-case – for looking ‘weird’. Would you be happy with a situation where troublemakers can frame their enemies simply by saying that they ‘felt harassed’? As soon as everything becomes subjective, people can easily get revenge on those they don’t like by concocting some story. Especially if the person has no friends – so increase their isolation and… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

If it sheds any light, I came across both John Smyth and Peter Ball when I was 14-15. John Smyth I was basically impressed by; on the other hand, if you had asked me whether he might be a bad egg I could not have given an unequivocal answer whereas for several other speakers in the same termcard I would have given an unequivocal answer that they were a good egg. Peter Ball is one of the two instances in my life where I could not place or rightly analyse what I saw in their face. Because it was something… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Anyway, you are writing from a gay and also sexualised-culture point of view. Iwerne at that time would have had leaders from quite another culture – one that knew nothing of the sexual revolution and had in many cases been through the War. They had a bit more depth and gravitas.

Bernard
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Bernard

Christopher, I think it is regrettable to make what appears to be an ad hominem comment about a previous contributor. I also fail to understand the relevance of “they had been through the war”. Are you suggesting that someone who has seen military action is less likely to be aware of bad behaviour around them? Or more tolerant of extreme violence meted out to another person?

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Those who have been through the War have larger horizons than sexual gossip. I spoke of a gay perspective since that is a perspective that would not in their generation have been understood to exist. A perspective where it is assumed that certain people ‘are’ (in essence) gay, as opposed to (a) this being something that they were certainly not as a baby but have later by whatever means become, and/or (b) this being a matter of behaviour not of something fluid and therefore hard to pin down like ‘orientation’. A perspective also that (c) has been through the sexual… Read more »

Jeremy
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Jeremy

Perhaps they also had a military-ingrained respect for the hierarchy?

Christopher Shell
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Christopher Shell

Yes, I think so – and a familiarity with military and locker-room realities.

Nicholas Harris
Guest
Nicholas Harris

I was closely involved with Iwerne Minster as a boy, senior camper and also leading the Cambridge based officers from 1982 to 1983 by which time I had finally reached conclusions similar to Jeremy Pemberton. The movement was anti-intellectualist. This stance emanated from Rev Nash who would tolerate no theological discussion beyond his own views at leaders’ meetings. I was pressurised by Canon Mark Ruston into the role of being senior officer at Cambridge. My choice would have been to train for ordination at Oxford. But Mark used on me a technique of emotional bullying which he had learned from… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Yes, “a much closer investigation of a very unhealthy system is needed”.

Charles Moore brings this out in his Telegraph article of Aug 13 – “…abusive theology can lead to terrible actions”

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/08/13/case-john-smyth-qcan-abusive-theology-can-lead-terrible-actions/

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

An Open Letter – Daily Telegraph – February 6 2017

“Dear Archbishop of Canterbury: Can you look yourself in the mirror and honestly say you did everything you could to expose John Smyth?”

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/06/dear-archbishop-canterbury-can-look-mirror-honestly-say-did/amp/

Mark Bennet
Guest
Mark Bennet

There is a curious disconnect between theology and practice when responsibility is avoided and “observers” (see letter linked above) – particularly those with power and influence – do nothing. Jesus did nothing wrong, we are told, and voluntarily assumed the role of victim – not to subjugate or patronise victims, but to free them and to defeat the forces of victimisation. We are coming to see how subtle and pervasive such forces have been within the culture of the church and its networks. The stance of Jesus in relation to victims was “no-one else is doing anything, so I will”… Read more »

Angusian
Guest
Angusian

Yet another example of the dishonesty and hypocrisy of an establishment more concerned with protecting its tarnished reputation than with confessing its involvement and subsequent concealment of such abuse. Its statement devalues the meaning of prayer, its failure to acknowledge culpability an insult to its victims – surely such an organisation should be held to account and its existence summarily terminated before it can do further harm.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

“Termination’ is not too difficult regarding Titus Trust and its ‘associates’ – but not so the CofE.

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

It seems to be reasonable to assume that every organisation that works with children, mainstream or less mainstream, either knows that it had members who abused children or is deliberately deceiving itself over the issue. I can’t think of a substantial organisation whose record is clean, to the point that any that which doesn’t have a scandal should be treated with suspicion on that basis alone. Individual organisations need to be held to account, but really the issue is the meta-question of why safeguarding failed so catastrophically that abusers were able to operate with impunity. In religious organisations they leveraged… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

Pride is one of the seven deadly sins and I fear it is at work in these abuse scandals. The best for the Church – and in this case the Trust – would be if everyone around any of the accusations of historic abuse resigned any position of authority and allowed an untainted, younger generation to deal with the issue with entirely fresh eyes and ears. The senior figures haven’t resigned though. My guess is that they wish to assert that they did nothing wrong. Maybe that is true. But that doesn’t mean that standing aside wouldn’t be the right… Read more »

Gilo
Guest

There is now a Titus Trust wiki page in early form. It will need updating, correcting and further citations. So I hope those with deeper knowledge and necessary wiki skills will post updates. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titus_Trust I think it unlikely that the church will set up an independent review – they burnt their fingers badly on the Elliott Review into my case two years ago – and have tried to avoid truly independent reviews since. In fact another survivor was told by a senior member of the NST that the church would not be conducting any more independent reviews. But given that… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest
Richard W. Symonds

“Hopefully in time something much better can arise from this diminished culture, from the ashes of its lies”

I am reminded of HA Prichard’s wise words:

“You can approach the truth only through the ruins of what is false”

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

An important post Gilo, thanks, but despite what you say I am arguing in the highest places as persuasively as I can for an independent review . I see no alternative. A lessons learned review will simply be seen for what it is likely to be, an internally led piece of work which will not lead to any form of closure for anyone, especially the victims. You are right about people knowing. As time went on from the Ruston review in about 1982 the close circle of people with knowledge got inexorably wider over the years.

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

It’s evident from this 2012 article by Anne Atkins that Smyth was known about in circles outside the Trustees for some years. I am indebted to a commenter on Surviving Church for the link. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2220693/I-havent-handed-sex-offender-police–I-told-confidence-A-leading-agony-aunt-makes-explosive-confession.html

David Lamming
Guest
David Lamming

Thank you, Janet. The Investigative Report (link below) indicates that Anne made a report to Bedford Police in October 2012. It would be interesting to know what she included in that report, and what response there was to her report and what liaison occurred between the various police services (Bedford, Cambridge and Hampshire) who appear to have been provided with information about Smyth between 2012 and 2014. The police may share a degree of blame for Smyth not being brought to face justice in a UK court in his lifetime.

JayKay8
Guest
JayKay8

I agree with Gilo that the senior structure of the church does not know how to own the crisis. I think this was demonstrated well by Bishop Steven Croft’s statement in July about giving PTO to George Carey. It seemed that he wasn’t simply failing to take responsibility for granting the PTO, but by his sentence that “There were no legal grounds for me to deny Lord Carey’s request for PTO…” it appeared that he was actually trying to deny that he had power and responsibility. Why else would that sentence have been included in his statement? Thankfully this fiasco… Read more »

Gilo
Guest

Anthony Archer, I wish you luck in the endeavour towards an authentically independent review. Sorry to sound cynical, but I think it unlikely. Lambeth Palace will not want to rake over anything but the menisicus of Iwerne and John Smyth. Too much at stake. They are in chaos …. but guard their chaos. The strategariat will be keen to steer them clear of daylight – just as Canon Porter has kept survivors at arms length from Archbishop Welby. The ethical dysfunctionality at senior level is astonishing. In recent weeks we discover that Revd Canon John Rees, Welby’s provincial registrar, who… Read more »

Bernard
Guest
Bernard

Thank you, Gilo, for that metaphor about the inner keep. But on Iwerne, I agree with your pessimism that there will indeed be a proper independent inquiry, because such a thing would be very expensive and I fear that the Church Commissioners will argue against paying for it. Instead the truth will come out through survivors speaking up, through the activities of the press, and, one hopes, people being brave enough to say “yes I knew, and I didn’t do enough about it.” And as we have already seen the theological implications and conclusions will be contentious.

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

I get all this and completely understand the frustrations. I will do what I can to ensure it does not die down. Too many senior figures have some kind of involvement. The Iwerne tentacles stretch far and wide and there will very many who wish they could disassociate themselves. That generation of Iwerne men (say 1969 – 1979) went on to hold senior office in both the CofE and Anglican Communion. It was probably the most influential generation, apart from the earlier likes of John Stott, David Sheppard, David Watson et al. I am very surprised that the only official… Read more »