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Makin apologises as Smyth review is pushed further into the future

14 May 2024

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THE author of the long-overdue report on the violent abuse perpetrated by John Smyth has apologised this week, saying that his review of the case will not be published this month as previously promised, but at a date yet to be set.

Keith Makin was commissioned by the Church of England 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). A year ago, Mr Makin’s discovery and disclosure to the police of new information relating to Smyth led to a further delay (News, 18 April 2023).

Earlier this year, Mr Makin denied that these delays were because of pressure from the Church of England (News, 19 January). Individuals criticised in the review were to be given a chance to respond in March (a process known as “Maxwellisation”), he said at the time, with a view to publication soon afterwards.

But that same month, a survivor of Smyth, known as Graham Jones — after seeing a draft of the report for fact-checking under a non-disclosure agreement — withdrew his co-operation, saying that the draft represented a “mere shadow” of the case (News, 15 March).

On Tuesday, Mr Makin said that the Maxwellisation stage had now started, “later than planned and later than we outlined in our statement at the start of the year. This was because there was a substantial change to a contribution to the review, at the final stages of completion. The consequence of this was the need to review and edit those parts of the review which drew upon this contribution.

“Once this next stage is complete the final report will be handed to the Archbishops’ Council for publication. This will be done as soon as practically possible, but we cannot give definitive dates until this stage of the process is completed.”

Mr Jones told the Church Times on Tuesday that he was sceptical about any future timelines. “Since I decided I wanted nothing more to do with this flawed process, it has taken ten weeks to remove my testimony and it is now almost six months since I first expressed concerns.”

He continued: “I am told that Mr Makin is allowing three weeks for Maxwellisation. When this review has now taken almost four years, and considering the number of people who might be criticised, this is spectacularly naïve. The only other conclusion might be that the review is so bland that he has not criticised anyone to the degree that Smyth’s victims want and deserve.”

He said: “Justice delayed is justice denied. Not a single person has been held to account over 12 years since I disclosed to the Church of England.”

Mr Makin began his statement with an apology, saying that he was “aware of the ongoing impact that the delays” were having on people affected by the review, particularly the victims and survivors of Smyth. “I would like to underline my apology,” he said, before outlining next steps which he hoped would “provide some reassurance”.

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