Archbishop of Canterbury apologises to abused participants in Christian camps

21st May, 2021 9:10 am

In the 1970s and 80s QC John Smyth abused boys who attended camps where Justin Welby worked.

The archbishop of Canterbury has issued a “full personal apology” to survivors of sadistic abuse perpetrated by a QC in the 1970s and 80s against public schoolboys who attended Christian holiday camps.

Justin Welby, who worked as a dormitory officer at the so-called “Bash camps” in the 1970s, said: “I am sorry this was done in the name of Jesus Christ by a perverted version of spirituality and evangelicalism … I continue to hear new details of the abuse and my sorrow, shock and horror grows.”

John Smyth, who died in 2018, carried out “horrific beatings” of teenage boys who attended the camps, in his garden shed, according to a secret 1982 report from the Iwerne Trust, which funded the camps. Smyth was the chairman of the trust, whose activities were later taken over by the Titus Trust.

The Iwerne Trust invited boys and young men from public schools and top universities to attend holiday camps, with the aim of ensuring that future members of the establishment be committed Christians.

Winchester College, whose pupils were among the alleged victims, was informed of abuse allegations but neither the college nor the trust reported Smyth to the police. Instead, the headmaster asked Smyth never again to enter the college or contact its pupils.

Among Smyth’s alleged victims was Andrew Watson, now the bishop of Guildford, who said he was subjected to a “violent, excruciating and shocking” beating.

Smyth moved to Zimbabwe, where he was the subject of allegations that he physically abused boys in his care at holiday camps he ran. He was arrested and faced charges of killing a 16-year-old boy, but the case was dismissed. Smyth later moved to Cape Town in South Africa.

Welby, who has said he was “completely unaware” of any abuse when he worked at the camps, last month met a group of survivors.

In the statement issued by Lambeth Palace, the archbishop said: “These victims are rightly concerned that no one appears to have faced any sanction yet, when it is clear a number of Christians, clergy and lay, were made aware of the abuse in the 1980s and many learned in subsequent years … I am told by survivors that some facilitated Smyth’s move to Africa.”

The Church of England’s national safeguarding team would “investigate every clergy person or others … who knew and failed to disclose the abuse”.

The C of E has ordered an independent review of its handling of allegations of abuse by Smyth, which is expected to report this year. Welby said it would be published in full.

Last year, the Titus Trust reached a settlement with three victims of Smyth and acknowledged that “lives have been blighted”.

Responding to Welby’s statement, a group of survivors said: “We are pleased that the archbishop of Canterbury is taking responsibility and acting as a good example for the other culpable parties involved in our story.

“It is clear a large number of individuals, clergy and lay, have known about these abuses for over 30 years.”

Richard Scorer, head of abuse law at Slater and Gordon, who acted for Smyth’s victims in their claims against the Titus Trust, said: “Justin Welby’s apology is welcome but he still needs to give a full account of his involvement in this particular C of E subculture, what he knew of high-profile abusers such as John Smyth and when he knew it, and what action he took in response.”

Source: The Guardian

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