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Smyth investigation delays are being followed up, says Welby

09 June 2022


John Smyth QC

John Smyth QC

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has repeated his apology to survivors of the serial abuser John Smyth, and said that delays to both the Church-led and independent investigations were unintentional and being followed up.

The Church Times recently published a letter from “Graham”, a survivor of abuse, sent to the Archbishop regarding delays both in the investigations carried out by the National Safeguarding Team (NST) and the forthcoming Makin review (Letters, 20 May).

Last May, after meeting survivors, including Graham, Archbishop Welby said that the NST would “investigate every clergy person or others within their scope of whom they have been informed who knew and failed to disclose the abuse” (News, 20 May 2021). Graham wrote: “One year later, not one has been held to account. . . As a victim, I regard the Archbishop’s words as appearing to be just hot air: promises unfulfilled.”

Responding to Graham in a letter this week, Archbishop Welby said: “I can assure you that much has been done to follow up the comments you made at the meeting held a year ago. I followed up immediately. I understand that the names you mentioned have been reviewed although I very properly do not know what conclusions were reached.”

The Archbishop reiterated his “apology and acknowledgement of the harrowing and lifelong effects of the appalling abuse perpetrated by Smyth”, and gave his assurances that the NST were investigating the actions of clerics and other individuals referred to them, including current safeguarding risks.

“This has been quite a big undertaking due to the volume of information being shared, and I do receive very general updates, while not being informed of the specifics of cases.”

The independent investigator Keith Makin was nearing the conclusion of his lessons-learnt review, Archbishop Welby said. “The referral to him of relevant people of whom he is aware is therefore entirely in his hands, and I have no role. All material information I receive gets passed to Mr Makin. I am not able — because I quite rightly don’t know — to comment on his choices for interviews. I am also not able to hurry him up or slow him down, because he is independent.

“I understand that the reason for the delays has partly been the interruptions caused by Covid, but, more importantly, the ever-growing volumes of material and evidence.”

The Church intended to keep all survivors well informed and supported up to and beyond the publication of the review, Archbishop Welby wrote. He reiterated that he could not be directly involved in the progress of investigations, however, owing to the need for independence.

He concluded: “Once again, I assure you that I have not been sitting on this or in any way delaying it or neglecting it. I do what I am allowed to, while ensuring that the outcome of the review is truly and genuinely independent.”

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