CofE commissions review into Smyth case

The Church of England has published the following Press Release announcing that its National Safeguarding Team has commissioned Keith Makin to undertake a review into the Church’s handling of allegations relating to the conduct of the late John Smyth QC. The Review will focus on two related but distinct questions: (1) what did the Church of England (i.e. relevant officers and institutions) know about alleged abuse perpetrated by John Smyth, and (2) what was the response of the Church of England to those allegations. Work on the Review will commence on 19 August 2019, and it is anticipated that it will be completed within no more than nine months. 

Independent review into Smyth case


Details of the independent review into the Church of England’s handling of allegations against the late John Smyth QC have been published today.

Keith Makin, a former director of social services with more than 30 years experience in the social care field,  will lead the independent lessons learnt review which will consider the response of the Church of England and its officers to the allegations against John Smyth. Keith has led on a number of serious case reviews and has chaired several local safeguarding partnerships.

The Terms of Reference show that the review will also consider the response of the other organisations involved; Winchester College, the Titus Trust, and the Scripture Union, to the extent that those organisations are willing to co-operate.

This review will allow those individuals who are survivors of John Smyth and who have given an account to the Church of England to describe their experiences. It will also consider the actions of Church of England participants and will identity both good practice and failings in the Church’s handling of the allegations, so lessons can be learnt to improve response to allegations of abuse and, thereby, ensure the Church provides a safer environment for all.

Commenting on the review, the Church of England’s lead safeguarding bishop, Peter Hancock said: “I know for survivors of John Smyth this review into the Church’s response – and the response of others –  is vital to them.  It was their bravery in coming forward that finally brought the abuse perpetrated by Smyth to the attention of the police and wider Church. We commend their actions and I pray that with cooperation from the other organisations the review will be comprehensive and that lessons will be learnt both by the Church and all those involved. We recognise that the process of a review can be a very difficult one, and our thoughts remain with the victims and survivors of John Smyth.  We remain aware that there are others who were victims of Smyth that have not come forward to the Church and we urge them to make contact if they would like support. Please email

Further information

Keith Makin is an executive in the social care and health sector, with over 30 years experience as a manager. He has held the posts of Director of Social Services, Chief Executive of an independent child care agency, Executive Director of a Government Improvement Agency and now runs a consultancy in social care and health. Keith is also active in the voluntary sector, having been a Board member and Director of several organisations, including two social enterprises.

Keith is a qualified social worker. He has a degree in Economics, with post graduate qualifications in Social Administration and Management.

Keith has chaired several local safeguarding partnerships and has led on a number of high profile reviews and inquiries into safeguarding concerns.

2017 Church of England statements on Smyth abuse

2018 statement on death of John Smyth


The Terms of Reference state:

“The Review will consider the response of the Church of England and its officers to those allegations, and the response of other organisations, namely Winchester College, the Titus Trust, and the Scripture Union, to the extent that those organisations are willing to co-operate. The approach of those organisation to the Review at the time of its commencement is as follows:

  • Winchester College. Winchester College has stated that it anticipates that it will cooperate with the Review, providing all relevant information on a voluntary basis, i.e. with the status of an Interested Party rather than a Subject Organisation. In such a capacity, subject to the matter of any live litigation, Winchester College will share its own findings and answer any questions so far as it reasonably can.
  • The Titus Trust. The Titus Trust has stated that it is restricted in its participation in the review by ongoing legal action and it is not able to engage in the Review until this has been resolved.
  • The Scripture Union. The Scripture Union has confirmed that it will not participate in the Review.”

Subsequently, the following statements were issued by the Titus Trust and the Scripture Union.

Titus Trust

“The Titus Trust welcomes the Church of England’s review into the Smyth case and has already shared a significant amount of information with the Church’s national safeguarding team, indicating to them several weeks ago that ‘We are very happy to be involved in a review and seek to be as transparent and supportive as we can be’ but that ‘we remain restricted by on-going legal action.’ We look forward to being able to participate in the review process to an even greater extent once the legal proceedings relating to the case are over.”

The Titus Trust had also issued an earlier statement relating to Jonathan Fletcher.

Scripture Union

“We remain deeply saddened by the accounts of abuse suffered by the victims of the late John Smyth, a trustee of Scripture Union from 1971 – 1979. That such acts were carried out by an individual who had been associated with Scripture Union is a matter of profound and sincere regret for us.

We maintain high standards of safeguarding for the children and young people in our care and continue to handle all cases with the utmost seriousness. Our commitment is to learn from what has happened in the past and continue to develop our safeguarding policies and practices. We have contributed to arrangements for independent counselling support for those affected by this case.

Having reviewed the Terms of Reference for the Church of England review, we decided not to participate and instead intend to conduct an independent review to learn lessons from our past connections with John Smyth. Initial extensive searches of our records show very little relevant information regarding the way in which the Iwerne camps were conducted in the 1970s and 80s.”

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "CofE commissions review into Smyth case" in Law & Religion UK, 13 August 2019,


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