Home » General » Hampshire college admits failing to report allegations of abuse to police

A HAMPSHIRE college has admitted it failed to report to police allegations of physical abuse by a former colleague of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

A series of accusations have been levelled against John Smyth, a former leader at Iwerne holiday camp for teenage boys, which had close links with the church and where Justin Welby worked as a dormitory officer in the late 1970s.

The allegations have come to light following a Channel 4 News investigation into the prominent QC and part-time judge who is now thought to be based in South Africa.

It is reported that some of the young men met Smyth at Winchester College but there is no suggestion that any abuse took place at the college or with the knowledge of its staff.

A statement from Winchester College said: “Winchester College deeply regrets the terrible ordeals of the victims and pays tribute to their courage in speaking out.

“The college has never sought to conceal these dreadful events. Nothing was held back in 1982 in the school’s inquiries. House masters were informed, and many parents consulted.

“The then headmaster met John Smyth and required him to undertake never again to enter the college or contact its pupils.

“No report was made to the police at the time, not least because, understandably, parents of the victims felt that their sons should be spared further trauma, and these wishes were respected.

“We do not know whether any pupils or parents, undergraduates or university authorities reported the matter directly to the police.

“College authorities did their best to deal responsibly and sensitively with a difficult situation, in accordance with the standards of the time.

“That John Smyth went on to abuse further reveals the inadequacy of those standards. The law today is very different from 35 years ago, insisting that any allegation must be immediately reported to the authorities.

” College has already been in contact with the police regarding the allegations and will assist further in any criminal investigation.”

The Iwerne Trust, which oversaw the Christian camps, was made aware of the allegations and compiled a report in 1982 but failed to tell police, Channel 4 News said.

Asked about the allegations, Mr Smyth told the broadcaster: “I’m not talking about that.”

Further asked if he committed the alleged crimes he said: “I’m not talking about that at all.”

A statement issued on behalf of Mr Welby said: “John Smyth was one of the main leaders at the camp and although the archbishop worked with him, he was not part of the inner circle of friends; no-one discussed allegations of abuse by John Smyth with him.”

It went on: “We recognise that many institutions failed catastrophically but the church is meant to hold itself to a far, far higher standard and we have failed terribly.

“For that the archbishop apologises unequivocally and unreservedly to all survivors.”

Mr Welby, who stopped working at the camp in 1978, was not aware of the allegations at the time and had stayed in touch with Mr Smyth through an “occasional card”, Lambeth Palace said.

Graham Tilby, the Church of England’s national safeguarding adviser, said the church had “immediately informed” police after they were alerted by an alleged victim in 2013.

Lambeth Palace said the archbishop was then made aware of the allegations.

Mr Tilby said a report by the trust into the allegations should have been referred to police at the time.

The Titus Trust, which took over some functions of the Iwerne Trust, said it was made aware of the allegations in 2014 and informed police and the Charity Commission.

“These are very disturbing allegations and our thoughts are primarily with all those affected,” a spokesman said.

“The allegations are very grave and they should have been reported to the police when they first became known in 1981.”

Speaking on LBC Radio, Mr Welby said he had been “completely unaware” of any abuse when he worked at the camp.

He said: “I was at that particular camp in the mid-70s. I was young then – 19 to 21 or 22 – and I was completely unaware of any abuse. I never heard anything at all, at any point. I didn’t have the slightest suspicion at all.

“As I recall him, he was a charming, delightful, very clever, brilliant speaker. I wasn’t a close friend of his, I wasn’t in his inner circle or in the inner circle of the leadership of the camp, far from it.

“And then I went off to work in France in 1978, which is when I am told the abuse began. It may have been earlier or later, I don’t know, and I was abroad during the time the report was done and had no contact with them at all.”

The Archbishop said he was first informed of the alleged abuse in late 2013 or early 2014.

He said: “I was told the Bishop of Ely – it fell within his diocese – had been informed by a survivor of what had happened and had written to the police so we checked that indeed the police had been contacted immediately as per the Church rules.

“They had been, we keep an eye on it obviously, we kept in touch and found out what was going on.

“As you know, John Smyth had moved to Zimbabwe in the early 1980s, I understand, and it was not in the police’s jurisdiction.

“We were sure it was being rigorously handled by the Bishop of Ely according to the normal way the Church does it.”

Mr Welby added that he had only had fleeting contact with Mr Smyth since.

“I have a vague feeling I may have had a Christmas card in the 1990s and when I was living in Paris he passed through and I shook hands with him, that was the limit.”