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Archbishop Apology re: Iwerne Camp lead

Posted on: February 2, 2017

The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued an “unreserved and unequivocal” apology on behalf of the Church of England. He admitted that he had worked at holiday camps at which teenage boys were groomed for abuse.

He said that the Church had “failed terribly” in not reporting the head of the Christian charity, John Smyth QC, that ran the summer camps to police after he was accused of carrying out sado-masochistic attacks in the late 1970s.

The allegations are that John Smyth QC used the camps to gain access to teenagers, whom he forced to strip naked before subjecting them to severe beatings.

The Most Rev Justin Welby admitted that he had been friends with John Smyth QC during the late 1970s when he worked at the camps, run by the Iwerne Trust, as a dormitory officer and had kept in “occasional” contact with the barrister since. The Archbishop stated that he was made aware of the allegations against John Smyth QC in 2013 when the police eventually became involved.

John Smyth QC, who has represented Mary Whitehouse and who was appointed a Part Time Judge in 1978, is accused of administering tens of thousands of lashes with a garden cane, supposedly to purge his victims of minor sins such as masturbation and pride. The beatings are said to have taken place in a shed, in the garden of Mr Smyth’s Winchester Home. They are described as being so intense that the victims have been left with lasting scars. His alleged victims, some of whom came from Winchester College, said they were beaten so hard on their bare bottoms that they had to wear adult nappies to allow their wounds to heal.

Mark Stibbe, one of the alleged victims, told Channel 4 News: “He made me strip off my clothes and he got out a cane and started to beat me. He said, ‘This is the discipline that God likes, it’s what’s going to help you become holy’.” According to the 1982 report, the boys were given beatings of 100 strokes as punishment for masturbation and 400 for exhibiting the sin of pride. One was said to have received a beating of 800 lashes for an unspecified sin. Mr Smyth was said to have kissed the necks of the naked boys after beating them, and to have recited bible verses about the virtues of punishment.

Details of the allegations of abuse came to light in 1982, when one of the alleged victims attempted suicide after being ordered to submit himself to another beating. Both Winchester College and the Iwerne Trust were informed of the allegations. The Iwerne Trust commissioned a report which concluded that the “scale and severity of the practice was horrific”. John Smyth QC, however, was not reported to the Police. Instead he was allowed to move to South Africa after being asked never to work with children again.

Uppal Taylor Solicitors are specialist solicitors acting for victims of childhood abuse and maltreatment. If you wish to speak to a solicitor in confidence then please contact us.