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No pressure to delay Smyth review, says Keith Makin  

18 January 2024

‘Impact recognised’ of not having a report five years after it was commissioned

YouTube/Northamptonshire Safeguarding Partnership

Keith Makin speaks at a safeguarding conference in 2015

Keith Makin speaks at a safeguarding conference in 2015

A LONG-AWAITED report on the violent abuse perpetuated by John Smyth is not being delayed because of pressure from the Church of England, the reviewer, Keith Makin, said on Wednesday.

The report was commissioned more than five years ago, and its publication has been delayed multiple times, 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).

Some have suggested that the Church of England has delayed publication of the report (Letters, 12 January).

In response to a request to comment from the Church Times, Mr Makin said in a statement: “Concerns have been expressed that I may have been put under pressure to delay publication of this report. I can confirm this is not the case.

“Several factors have contributed to the time taken reaching this current stage, including varying the terms of my contract. This will enable me to carry out representations, where those criticised in the review will be given advance notice of this and provided with an opportunity to respond.”

Mr Makin said that this process, known as “Maxwellisation”, was expected to begin in March.

In a statement, the Church of England’s national director of safeguarding, Alex Kubeyinje, suggested that the National Safeguarding Team (NST) was offering “additional resources and financial support to ensure the report is received by the end of April with a view to publication as soon as practically possible after that date”.

Both Mr Makin and Mr Kubeyinje acknowledged the effect that the delay was having on survivors.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank victims for their courage, time, and detailed input to the review and more recently in meetings with me,” Mr Makin said. “I recognise the impact that the duration of the review has had on victims, their families, and others involved in this case.”

Mr Kubeyinje said that the NST, which commissioned the report in 2019, “recognises the process has gone on longer than is acceptable for those waiting for an outcome and for the Church to act and learn on the outcomes of the report. Along with the reviewer we apologise for this delay.”

In 2019, it was announced that Mr Makin, a former director of social services, had been appointed by the NST to carry out a “lessons-learnt” review of how the Church had handled allegations against Smyth (News, 16 August 2019).

Smyth was a former chair of the Iwerne Trust, which, with the Scripture Union, ran holiday camps for boys at English public schools. It was at these camps, in the 1980s, that he groomed dozens of boys and young men, whom he went on to beat violently in his garden shed.

Smyth later moved to Zimbabwe, where further accusations of abuse against children were made. He died in 2018, before he could face trial (News, 13 August 2018).

The statements from Mr Makin and Mr Kubeyinje were issued by Church House, Westminster, on Wednesday morning, and included the provision of details of FearFree Support, an independent advocacy service engaged by the NST to offer support to victims of abuse, offering “trauma informed and victim led bespoke support”.

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