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Survivor of Smyth abuse withdraws from Makin review

08 March 2024

YouTube/Northamptonshire Safeguarding Partnership

Keith Makin speaks at a safeguarding conference in 2015

Keith Makin speaks at a safeguarding conference in 2015

THE publication of the delayed report on the violent abuse perpetuated by John Smyth was further set back this week, after a survivor withdrew his co-operation, saying that the latest draft represented a “mere shadow” of the case.

The victim, known as Graham Jones, told the Church Times on Thursday that he had been given permission to read a draft of the report under a process of fact-checking, and is tied by a confidentiality agreement. He went on to say, however, that “The draft that I have seen is a mere shadow of what I would expect after almost five years’ work.

“It is deficient in so many regards and there are multiple ‘gaps’ where testimony has not been gathered, and the story has not been comprehensively told.”

The report, currently, was “not fit for purpose”, he said. Before withdrawing his contribution, he had asked the Church’s National Safeguarding Team (NST) for the report to be externally assessed, which had not been agreed to, he said.

Keith Makin was commissioned to review the Smyth case in 2019 (News, 16 August 2019), after allegations had been reported by Channel 4 News two years previously (News, 10 February 2017), when Smyth was still alive. He died in 2018, before he could be questioned.

The publication of the Makin review has been put back repeatedly, after initially being expected in May 2020 (News, 6 August 2021; News, 11 August 2023). Last year, Mr Makin’s discovery and disclosure to the police of new information relating to Smyth led to a further delay (News, 18 April 2023).

Mr Makin recently denied that these delays were because of pressure from the Church of England (News, 19 January): people criticised in the review were expected to be given a chance to respond later this month (a process known as “Maxwellisation”), he said, with a view to publication soon afterwards.

The Church Times understands that Mr Jones has written to the NST this week, informing them of his decision to withdraw. He has refused consent for his data, testimony, and documents to be used, and has asked for them to be removed from the review.

This, he said, would erase a five-year period, 2012-17, because his was the only testimony from this time. Mr Jones first reported the abuse in 2012, in the diocese of Ely.

He said on Thursday: “I am aware my decision will cause further delays. I have only ever wanted a full, hard-hitting review that serves truth and justice. That is not what I have read. I have tried to get external assessment of the state of the review, but that has been refused. If a Reference Group had been in place ab initio, we would not be in this position.”

A spokesperson for the NST said: “We are truly sorry that a survivor of John Smyth feels they are no longer able to contribute to the review, but we respect their decision. Their concerns and issues raised are being taken very seriously and we are aware of the effect of the delays on all those who have come forward and we continue to offer support through an independent advocacy service.

“The reviewer is aware of the decision, and we are in ongoing contact to ensure the next stages of the review can progress as agreed at the beginning of the year.”

Mr Makin told the Church Times that he could not comment before he had a fuller understanding of the situation.

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