Church statement: safeguarding at Iwerne Trust

The Church of England has published the following statement in relation to reports on Channel 4 news. A statement on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury has also been issued.

Statement from National Safeguarding Adviser

01 February 2017

Statement from Graham Tilby, the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Adviser, following reports on Channel 4 news:

“The violent abuse of young men between 1978-82, as outlined in the Channel 4 programme, should never have happened and we utterly condemn this behaviour and abuse of power and trust.  The report into these horrific activities, drawn up by those linked with the Iwerne Trust, a non-denominational Christian charity, should have been forwarded to the police at the time.  When the Church of England was alerted by a survivor, through the diocese of Ely in 2013, the police were immediately informed as was the Anglican Church in South Africa where Mr Smyth was then living.  The national safeguarding officer, which was a part time post, was informed and helped find support for the survivors.  Clearly more could have been done at the time to look further into the case. We now have a dedicated central team made up of six full time posts – we will be reviewing all files making further enquiries as necessary.  We echo the Archbishop’s unreserved and unequivocal apology to all the survivors and are committed to listen to anyone who comes forward and we would urge anyone with any further information to report it to the police “

Statement from Archbishop of Canterbury 

Wednesday 1st February 2017

Statement on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, following reports by Channel 4 News:

“The Archbishop of Canterbury was a Dormitory Officer at Iwerne holiday camp in the late 1970s, where boys from public schools learnt to develop life as Christians. The role was to be a mentor to the boys, as was that of his now wife at a similar camp for girls.

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. The Archbishop left England to work in Paris for an oil company in 1978, where he remained for five years. He began training for ordination in 1989.

The Archbishop knew Mr Smyth had moved overseas but, apart from the occasional card, did not maintain contact with him.

In August 2013 the Bishop of Ely wrote to the Bishop of Cape Town, informing him of concerns expressed to his Diocese Safeguarding Adviser about Mr Smyth from an alleged survivor. The British Police had been notified. The Archbishop’s Chaplain at the time was forwarded this letter, and subsequently showed it to the Archbishop for information only.

The Archbishop has repeatedly said that he believes that the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults should be a principle priority in all parts of the Church, and that any failings in this area must be immediately reported to the police.

The Archbishop is on the record as saying that survivors must come first, not the Church’s own interests. This applies regardless of how important, distinguished or well-known the perpetrator is.”

Third Sector subsequently reported that the Charity Commission had contacted the Titus Trust, which had taken over the Iwerne Trust – the charity that had run the holiday camp in the 1970s and 1980s.

Statement from the Titus Trust

“Channel 4 News and others have this week run stories about John Smyth QC, who was Chairman of the Iwerne Trust between 1974 and 1981. The allegations are very disturbing and our thoughts are with all those who have suffered, and their families.

The Titus Trust was set up in 1997 and took over fundraising from The Iwerne Trust. In 2000 it took control of the running of the holidays from Scripture Union.

It was only in 2014 that the board of The Titus Trust became aware of these allegations, after which the Trust provided full disclosure to the police, offering full co-operation with any inquiry that might arise as a result. The allegations were very grave and we believe that they should have been reported to the police when they first became known in 1981.

The Trustees also reported these allegations to the Charity Commission in 2014 who confirmed that they had no regulatory concerns about the management of The Titus Trust. A further update was sent to the Commission this week.

Our safeguarding policy is in line with latest best practice to ensure the safety and care of every individual on our holidays. The Trust is committed to operating a stringent policy which is regularly reviewed and updated. You can access a copy of it: click here.”

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Church statement: safeguarding at Iwerne Trust" in Law & Religion UK, 2 February 2017,

4 thoughts on “Church statement: safeguarding at Iwerne Trust

  1. While we very rarely refuse comments on posts, we have decided not to accept comments about the Smyth allegations. We do this with regret; but we cannot – for obvious reasons – accept comments that are potentially defamatory and (neither of us being libel specialists) we should prefer not to be in the position of having to make judgments as to what might be defamatory and what might be acceptable.


    FC & DP

  2. Pingback: Julian and Sandy go to Cambridge | Law & Religion UK

  3. Pingback: Law and religion round-up – 5th February | Law & Religion UK

  4. Pingback: John Smyth – Statement by Bishop of Guildford | Law & Religion UK

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *