Anglican Watch

Final report in CoE investigation into sadomasochist John Smyth delayed by police referral

John Smyth

The final report of the Church of England’s safeguarding team reviewing sadomasochistic abuse by the late John Smyth has again been delayed due to the need to file additional police reports in the matter.

Keith Makin, the social worker tasked with generating a “lessons learned” report, states that he has filed a police report after additional information came to light in recent weeks:

“I have made a report to the Police regarding matters that have come to light in recent weeks and in the course of my review, into the abuse perpetrated by John Smyth. I have subsequently passed extensive information to them in relation to this matter. This necessary development is in line with my obligations set out in the terms of reference for the review and in UK law and is therefore unavoidable.  This impacts on the planned timescale for completion of the review, and I am aware from my regular contact with victims, of the distress that this is likely to cause them, their families, and others affected by this case. A further update on this will be provided as soon as is possible”.

The report was originally expected in 2020, but was delayed due to the pandemic. It was previously understood that the report would be issued in December 2022.

Smyth ran summer camps for public school youth in the 1970’s. Allegations of sad0masochistic abuse of boys at the camps first came to light in the 1980’s, but were ignored.

The matter drew public attention in 2017 following an investigation by Channel 4 news. Smyth died before he could be prosecuted.

It later emerged that, upon learning of the allegations, senior officials at the Titus Trust, which then operated the camps, tipped off Smyth and urged him to leave the country. He did, and settled in Zimbabwe, were his abuse continued, despite almost constant complaints to law enforcement officials. He subsequently moved to South Africa.

A previous effort to prosecute Smyth in Zimbabwe in 1992 after a boy was found dead collapsed after it emerged that the prosecutor had a conflict of interest.

It was later learned that one of Smyth’s victims was the Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Andrew Watson, who described being beaten by Smyth as “violent and shocking.”

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