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Titus Trust timeline: a digest

20 August 2021

DETAILS from the Titus Trust timeline, published on 20 August:

 

2012-2013

The Titus Trust timeline begins in 2012, when the broadcaster Anne Atkins published an article in the Daily Mail highlighting her knowledge of an unnamed “eminent lawyer with considerable influence in a well-known public school”, who had beaten boys in his shed after Bible study (Press, 26 October 2012). On 8 November 2012, a person with links to Iwerne camps (“R1”) contacted the Titus Trust manager by email, reporting that the lawyer in the article was Smyth, and suggesting that his activity had been criminal.

R1 wrote: “If you don’t know about the case then your Trustees will tell you about it.” She asked whether “this extreme form of discipleship is no longer operated?” The trust manager replied that day, saying that “the sort of discipline with which you are concerned is not how we care for those that attend the holidays now.”

On 6 December 2012, R1 contacted the trust manager again to ask: “Has this historic situation been investigated/faced up to?” The trust manager forwarded the email trail to three trustees: the two remaining trustees of Iwerne Trust on the Titus Trust board — Giles Rawlinson and David Fletcher, and the vice-chair and safeguarding trustee, unnamed in the report but believed to be David Aston, then headmaster at Aldro’s School; and three other senior Titus Trust employees.

The vice-chair responded by email that he was “vaguely aware of issues dating back 20+ years in connection with John Smyth” and Winchester College, and that the links Smyth had “with camp were stopped”.

On 25 January 2013, the trust manager sent R1 an email, drafted in full by Mr Rawlinson, including the following two paragraphs: “I can confirm that a specific investigation has been carried out by the Trustees since your enquiry, and they are assured that this matter was handled at the time, and that no criminal activity occurred.

”In the light of the Jimmy Savile revelations, the Trustees are also very mindful of their responsibilities in regard to the young people and young adults under their care, and therefore are also carrying out a review to ensure there are no other matters from the past which should be investigated further.”

The board was not made aware of this email until 2017, when R1 forwarded it back to the Titus Trust after Channel 4’s investigation was broadcast. The timeline states: “There is no evidence of a specific investigation having been carried out by the whole board of Trustees since R1’s enquiry on 6 December 2012, and the wider Trustee body was not aware of R1’s query regarding JS’s abuse and potentially criminal activity.”

In March 2013, at a trustees’ meeting, a reference was made to Ms Atkins’s article, and to “the Winchester affair” and an enquiry from an external party. The timeline states: “Mr Rawlinson reported that the matter had been dealt with. There was no mention of historic abuse. Nothing was minuted, and the nature and the relevance of the issue to most trustees was not clear.”

It states that Mr Rawlinson reviewed his 25 January email this year, and “wishes to apologise to R1 and the other trustees at the time because the language . . . was less than crystal clear and unambiguous.”

After R1’s emails, the Bishop of Ely’s safeguarding adviser contacted James Stilman in November 2013, concerning two victims of abuse (V1 and V2) by Smyth from the late 1970s and early 1980s. In addition to providing details of the abuse, and confirming that the police were involved, the adviser asked whether the Titus Trust might be able to pay for counselling for V2.

Trustees were not initially informed of this email. Instead, Mr Stileman met Mr Rawlinson and Mr Fletcher. Mr Fletcher identified V2 from his Christian name. A decision was made that he and Mr Rawlinson would pay for the counselling as private individuals, “as Titus Trust had not existed at the time of the abuse”. The timeline states: “There was a concern not to inform more people than necessary to protect the identity of victims and therefore they felt it was inappropriate to tell all the Titus Trust trustees”.

The Titus Trust’s FAQ explains the failure by Mr Fletcher and Mr Rawlinson to tell what they knew to other trustees by referring to their belief “that the victims and the families that knew about this abuse did not want it to be made public, and that therefore it would be better not to involve more people than were necessary”. Mr Fletcher “acted consistently to protect the identity of the victims,” it says.

 

2014

It was not until June 2014, after V2’s counsellor requested funding for further counselling, that Titus Trust trustees were told of the approach by V2 via the Ely safeguarding counsellor, and that it had been agreed that “sympathetic individuals”, rather than the Titus Trust, would provide some private funding for counselling.

Trustees were told that the beating of V2 had taken place in the late 1970s, not at a camp, but that the perpetrator, Smyth, had been a leader at Iwerne camps, and that, when it came to light, the victims had been offered psychiatric treatment. They were told of Smyth’s departure for Africa, and that, “although the victim was a consenting adult, the beating could be regarded as criminal assault as blood was drawn”.

Mr Rawlinson told trustees that he had a copy of the Ruston report. Mr Fletcher said that he “did not want the issue brought to light, at least in part because the victims were men who he believed wanted the abuse kept private. But some trustees were concerned that it might be wrongly perceived that they were seeking to protect the reputation of the Trust by hiding this information. There was frustration from the other trustees that they had not been informed previously about the approach from V2 and, more generally, the Smyth abuse.”

Mr Stileman was instructed to engage legal advisers, advise insurers, and to keep the trustees updated on a day-to-day basis. In July 2014, the solicitors Barlow Robbins were formally engaged by the trust. Mr Stileman provided trustees with a copy of what has been referred to as the Stileman report. This included the Ruston report, and a copy of the correspondence with R1, not including the email drafted by Mr Rawlinson claiming that an investigation had taken place.

The timeline includes an account of attempts by V2 — who did not wish to have direct contact with the Titus Trust — to get answers about its handling of the allegations of abuse, including whether it was aware of allegations about Smyth’s activities in Zimbabwe, where a boy had died [Guide Nyachuru]. (The Scripture Union review of the handling of the Smyth abuse reports that there were two confirmed deaths of boys at camps in Zimbabwe led by Smyth.)

Mr Stileman wrote to the Ely safeguarding officer in September 2014, setting out his understanding of events since the abuse came to light in 1981. This account corroborates survivors’ claims that many people in Evangelical circles have known about Smyth’s abuse for decades.

Mr Stileman wrote: “To the best of the Trust’s knowledge, until John Smyth’s abuse became known to a small number of people in 1981, no camp staff or indeed anyone else connected with the camps knew anything about John Smyth’s alleged activities, which it is believed took place away from the holiday camps.

“By way of explanation: Scripture Union ran the camps; the Iwerne Trust had raised funds for staff expenses and holiday equipment.

“As soon as John Smyth’s activities came to the attention of David Fletcher — then the Scripture Union employee responsible for running the Iwerne camps — David Fletcher and Mark Ruston conducted an investigation, during which they conveyed that Iwerne condemned what John Smyth had done.

“Armed with the information gleaned, David Fletcher challenged John Smyth and he was required to account for himself before a group of senior leaders, but declined to attend. David Fletcher proactively informed and warned various people and organisations about John Smyth, including the Headmaster of Winchester College; Scripture Union; the Council of the Lawyers Christian Fellowship; the leader of a church that Smyth tried to join; the Stewards Trust; and the Church Society.

“It appeared that the principal reason why John Smyth was not reported to the police was because the young men interviewed by David Fletcher and Mark Ruston felt that it was in their best interests not to make it public. Furthermore, the environment was different: corporal punishment was normal in schools at the time, and it was understood that the young men had consented. No one who became aware of the allegations in 1982 — within Iwerne or other organisations — considered that it should be reported.”

The timeline adds here: “We now understand that there might have been at least one person who was aware of the allegations in 1982 who did advise Mark Ruston to report the matter to the police.

The summary continues: “James Stileman understood that a senior Iwerne leader had written to John Smyth in 1981 and suggested he may wish to consider leaving the UK and that he must stop working with young people. John Smyth was an ex-trustee of the Iwerne Trust and ex-volunteer leader at Iwerne — those involved in running the camps had no authority over him.”

The Titus Trust timeline adds here: “We have subsequently been told that the leader in question did not advise John Smyth to go overseas.”

The summary goes on: “David Fletcher did hear about beatings at a camp in Zimbabwe in the 1980s — a clergyman from there contacted David Fletcher and David Fletcher informed him about the allegations relating to John Smyth in the UK. No one involved in running Iwerne had heard about a boy dying at a camp in Zimbabwe until Anne Atkins’ 2012 article. Although the Trustees were aware that the police appear to have been notified about John Smyth’s abuse at least twice already, they had instructed Mr Stileman to submit a report.”

In conclusion, Mr Stileman noted: “We at Titus Trust will do what we can to assist the police both in the UK and in South Africa.” He confirmed that the Ely safeguarding adviser could show the letter to V2, and asked her to inform V2 that Mr Fletcher, the trustees, and Mr Stileman were “deeply grieved by what we have been told has happened to [V2] and by his suffering and distress over the years”.

In September 2014, Barlow Robbins advised the Titus Trust to make a report to the police, send a serious-incident report to the Charity Commission, seek “external support in managing the public’s interest in the matter”, and inform Scripture Union and former trustees of the Iwerne Trust. The firm also advised the trustees that they had “a duty of care to Titus Trust . . . and that they must act in good faith, protect charity assets and act in the best interests of the charity”.

Mr Stileman met members of the Metropolitan Police on 30 September 2014. The timeline states that he was advised to give V2 the crime reference number “so he could get in touch if he wanted to”. It says that Mr Stileman gave the police “a summary of the matters reported, including the key facts from the Ruston report”.

At a trustees meeting in October 2014, the Revd Iain Broomfield, a Titus Trust senior-schools worker from 1987 to 2000, was unanimously asked to take on the part of chair, replacing Mr Rawlinson. It was reported this week that Mr Broomfield, Vicar of Christ Church, Bromley, since 2000, has been suspended under the CDM in response to a number of complaints, some of which relate to safeguarding.

On 29 October 2014, Mr Stileman filed a serious-incident report with the Charity Commission. Titus Trust received an email response from the Charity Commission in December, “confirming that they have no regulatory concerns”.

That month, after being contacted by Hampshire Police, Mr Stileman provided an officer with pages from Road to Winchester, the autobiography of the former Winchester College headmaster John Thorn, who had been head when the Smyth abuse came to light in 1982. The book mentioned Smyth’s abuse without naming him.

In November, on the advice of Barlow Robbins, Mr Rawlinson and Mr Fletcher were unanimously asked to step down.

In December 2014, V2 wrote to Mr Stileman (who circulated the letter to trustees), stating that “the common thread for every individual abused by John Smyth was Iwerne, albeit some were recruited from Cambridge University”. He wrote that Smyth’s “position at Iwerne, his status as a leader at Iwerne, gave him the respectability, the platform”. V2 also “raised concerns about what had been done to prevent ongoing abuse in Africa”, and asked whether “there had been any oversight of the other perpetrator” — “S” — who, he noted, was “still . . . working with young boys”.

S was described in the Ruston report as a victim-turned-perpetrator (V3) who had become JS’s accomplice. In March 2015, Mr Stileman spoke to the police about S, noting that he worked in a school.

 

2015

In January 2015, the Titus Trust showed documents concerning Smyth’s abuse to Scripture Union.

That month, Mr Rawlinson and Mr Fletcher resigned from the board. A media adviser presented the board with the pros and cons of various options. His advice was “a proactive pre-emptive public communication about John Smyth’s abuse”, which was “the best way for the Trust to manage the timing and message, direct responsibility where it was due, do justice and distance the Trust from the offences, and give an opportunity to offer support to victims”. He also recommended an independent review.

But, the timeline states, trustees “considered that in order to maintain a victim-focused approach, it was inappropriate to make the disclosure public. Moreover, there was also a concern that making what had happened public, and any resulting media interest, might have a negative impact on any further action that the authorities might want to take over this matter, which had been properly reported to them.”

In March 2015, after V2 had requested further counselling sessions, Barlow Robbins advised Titus Trust not to pay, “as it did not bear the responsibility for John Smyth’s actions”.

 

2016-2018

Mr Stileman left the Trust on 1 June 2016.

The Channel 4 investigation was broadcast in February 2017. That month, the chair of Titus Trust received “an indirect report of abusive behaviour by Jonathan Fletcher, who was one of the longest-serving Iwerne leaders as well as being the retired vicar of Emmanuel Church in Wimbledon in south London and the brother of David Fletcher (News, 28 June 2019). The report was not made by a victim and there was no information about where this alleged abuse happened or to whom.” The trust reported this the same day to the safeguarding officer of Southwark diocese.

In March 2017, there was a meeting of representative trustees with representatives of the Church of England, and, later, an agreement, along with the Church of England and Scripture Union, to share the costs of counselling being offered to victims.

S was identified as Simon Doggart, a former headmaster of Caldicott School, Farnham Royal, in Buckinghamshire, in a BBC interview with one of his victims in April 2017 (News, 13 April 2017). Mr Doggart died, aged 56, in July 2017. Another victim, V4, contacted the trust in 2014. On 11 August 2018, Smyth died in South Africa.

Published alongside the timeframe is a redacted copy of a report sent to the police by Mr Stileman on 30 September 2014. It states that the abuse began when Smyth offered a 17-year-old Winchester pupil, who had been caught shoplifting, the choice of being reported to his parents or being beaten at Smyth’s home.

The beatings continued with four 17-year-olds, who were “persuaded that being beaten was a suitable deterrent to masturbation and they voluntarily accepted the punishment which was administered using a gym shoe in the summer house in Smyth’s garden which was padded to muffle the noise”.

From the summer of 1979, the beatings “intensified”, and were administered to undergraduates who were “promising senior campers or young leaders” on Iwerne Camps. Several were at Cambridge, and went to the Round Church, where the Revd Mark Ruston was Rector. The men were “conned into accepting the beatings as necessary for Christian wholeheartedness and a means to combat sin.” It noted that there was an attempted suicide by one of the men.

The practice was discovered, the report said, in 1981, when Mr Fletcher, the leader of Iwerne Holidays, received an anonymous note saying: “When will someone stop this disgusting activity going on in John Smyth’s garden shed?” That same day, Mr Ruston contacted Mr Fletcher to say that one of the victims, a Cambridge undergraduate, had consulted him about the appropriateness of the practice. Mr Stileman’s report says that, when interviewed by Mr Ruston, “the victims defended John Smyth to the hilt”.

Both Mr Fletcher and Mr Ruston confronted Smyth, who then resigned from the camps and as chair of the Iwerne Trust. The name of the person who wrote to Smyth advising him to leave the country is redacted. Mr Ruston offered psychiatric help to the victims in the UK. The report says that Mr Fletcher had met Smyth “a few times” since 1981, and that Smyth was “oblivious to any wrongdoing”.

 

A victim responds

On Friday, Graham, a survivor of Smyth’s abuse, said: “The Titus Trust timeline tells us far more than we previously knew. And it reveals a catalogue of delays and partial disclosures. Titus are keen to refute the allegations of a cover-up, but any layman would describe this whole timeline as part of a cover-up. . .

“The Titus timeline covers only 2012-2017 and ignores the 30-year period when senior Iwerne camp leaders . . . had known about the abuse throughout the period. The apology does not mention the scores of African children, younger than the UK victims, who were abused. There is no apology for the failures in 1982 to stop John Smyth QC from ever working with children again . . .

“Titus Trust chose to ignore the advice of their media adviser and go public in 2015. Had they done so, victims would have received support earlier, and John Smyth QC might have been brought to justice. Instead, reputation management, and concern about ‘The Work’, were the overriding responses.

“Titus state, with no irony: ‘We believe that it is vital for the full truth to be made known.’ We have waited four years for an account of what they did or did not do. And it is now clear they did the absolute minimum that was required. The account to the police made no mention of the advice in July 2014 from their lawyers that the abuse ‘was likely to have been criminal’, an opinion first given in the suppressed 1982 Ruston report.

“If Titus wish for the full truth to be made known, we ask for the legal and media advice they received in 2014/15, and the Serious Incident Report to the Charity Commission, to be made public. We can then judge whether they have been.”

In 2020, the Titus Trust announced that it had agreed a settlement with three victims (News, 9 April). It also closed the Iwerne summer camps. Neither its 2018 independent review of safeguarding practices, undertaken by thirtyone:eight, nor an internal culture review, have been made public.

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