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Safeguarding complaint against Welby ‘not substantiated’

12 November 2020


The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has been cleared over claims that he failed to act correctly over allegations against the late John Smyth, a leading figure in a Christian charity who carried out sadistic attacks on young males.

In the 1970s and ’80s, Archbishop Welby was a dormitory officer at the summer camps financed by the Evangelical Iwerne Trust. One of the leaders was John Smyth, who groomed youths and invited them to his home, where they were often beaten violently in his garden shed.

One of Smyth’s survivors, identified only as “Graham”, accused Archbishop Welby of failing to act correctly when the news of the beatings first came to light in 2013. Smyth had by then moved to South Africa, and Graham challenged the lack of communication between Lambeth and the Church in South Africa. This allowed Smyth to continue abusing young men, and delayed extradition attempts back to the UK.

A statement issued on the Archbishop’s website on Thursday said that a formal complaint made to the National Safeguarding Team in June (News, 31 July) that he had not followed correct safeguarding procedure when responding to an allegation against Smyth had “not been substantiated”.

It says: “The complaint referred to Lambeth’s response to allegations which first came to attention in 2013. Information relating to a further complaint sent to the NST in August about wider issues has now also been reviewed and no safeguarding concerns have been identified.”

All the information will be forwarded to the independent review of the Church’s handling of the allegations against Smyth set up last year. The inquiry, led by Keith Makin, an executive in the social-care and health sector, is due to report next year. Smyth died in 2018.

The statement goes on: “The abuse carried out by the late John Smyth was horrific and support continues to be offered to survivors. Archbishop Justin is deeply sorry for the abuse. The Archbishop has committed himself to leading the change needed in the Church of England relating to safeguarding and is personally keen to listen to survivors and striving to keep developing and learning in his own ministry.”

The decision has been attacked by Graham, who said that the safeguarding team’s claim that it had reviewed all the evidence was “untrue”. In a statement issued on Thursday, he said that he was never formally interviewed and that “no attempt was made to go through the documents I provided to support the complaint.

“I have been told consistently that my complaint fell outside ‘safeguarding’, and that the Archbishop was not under investigation. The Archbishop was told about John Smyth QC in 2013; yet Smyth continued abusive behaviour towards young men for another four years.

“The week after IICSA [Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse] and the Whitsey Review, the Church of England appears to have learned nothing, and fails simple tests of transparency and truthfulness. Reputation management remains paramount.”

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