THE lessons-learnt review of the Church’s handling of allegations of abuse committed by the late John Smyth has been further delayed owing to the coronavirus.
The review was announced by the Bishop of Bath & Wells, the Rt Revd Peter Hancock, in August 2018 — a year after the abuse by Smyth, a former chairman of the Iwerne Trust (now part of the Titus Trust), came to light (News, 10 February 2017). A former director of social services, Keith Makin, began his investigations in October, and was due to report this August (News, 16 August 2019).
A statement on the C of E website on Tuesday said: “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.”
Mr Makin thanked victims and survivors “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.”
Several survivors have told of how they were savagely beaten, and encouraged to beat others, in Smyth’s shed in Winchester from 1974 to 1981, when he was running the Iwerne camps. Although none of the abuse is said to have occurred at the camps, the Iwerne Trust investigated allegations in 1982 of abuse carried out by Smyth away from the camps, but kept its findings secret. This allowed Smyth to move unhindered to Southern Africa, where further occurrences of abuse took place. He died in 2018 (News 17 August 2018).
Last month, the Titus Trust announced that it had agreed a settlement with three men who had suffered what the Trust describes as “appalling abuse” by Smyth (News, 9 April). A spokesman for the Trust confirmed on Wednesday that the Revd Simon Austen, Rector of St Leonard’s, Exeter, had resigned from his chairmanship of the Trust shortly after the announcement. This was because Mr Austen’s office of two years had ended and was unrelated to the settlement, the spokesman said.