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Justice Alliance of South Africa
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Justice Alliance of South Africa
World News

'Seven years on and still no answers' - review into John Smyth delayed again as survivor withdraws evidence

by Donna Birrell

The review into abuse by John Smyth has received a further setback after a survivor withdrew consent for his data to be used.

Smyth was a former chair of the Iwerne Trust which ran Christian Summer holiday camps for boys at English public schools. He was accused of the violent abuse of young boys but died in 2018 before he could stand trial.  

The survivor known as Graham came forward 12 years ago to report his experience in the Diocese of Ely. His evidence from between 2012 and 2017 is the only testimony from this period included in the review but he’s now asked for that data and his testimony to be removed.

The review by Keith Makin, a former director of social services, has been beset by delays. It was first commissioned in 2019, two years after a Channel 4 News expose of Smyth's abuse. It was expected to publish its findings in May 2020. However following further setbacks and the discovery of new information, four years on it has still not been made public.

Graham told Premier :

“There have been two deaths, two suicide attempts, two mental health sections, four divorces, over 100 young men abused over four decades, in three countries, and yet seven years later we have no answers.”

He had been given permission to read a draft of the report for fact-checking purposes, but he told The Church Times that it was a “mere shadow” of what he expected 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. He added that the report, currently, was “not fit for purpose”.

He added that he was aware his withdrawal would cause the review to be delayed further but that he had “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.”

He told Premier :

“The oversight of the Makin Review has been non existent.

“A Review should bring truth and justice, and not be the cause of further pain. The endless delays undermine any chance of closure for victims of John Smyth. How can anyone say that a period of seven years since the Channel 4 expose (and for that matter, 12 years since I came forward), serves truth and justice?”

“In seven years since the abuse was exposed, not a single person has been held to account. Thirteen Bishops had received the disclosure by 2013, and all walked by on the other side. The Church of England has to decide whether a failure to act over a disclosure of abuse is a disciplinary offence or not”.

“The CofE has recently criticised the delays in justice and compensation for the victims of the Post Office and Windrush. Get the plank out of your own eye first.”

A spokesperson for the National Safeguarding Team (NST) of the Church of England 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.”


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