There has been some confusion about the statement published by Titus Trust on 3rd April 2020 responding to the settlement of claims by three victims of John Smyth. I hope these facts will clarify the situation.
John Smyth’s known victims currently number in excess of 110. The Titus Trust has settled with just three of them. The three men initiated a civil action because, after several years of being blanked and ignored by the trust, they felt that this was the only way to force the trust to confront its responsibilities.
In response, the Titus Trust has spent well in excess of £100,000 in legal fees defending the civil claim. This is many times the amount that the claimants will receive in settlement. In addition, the trust has retained one of the most expensive secular Public Relations consultancies in the UK to manage their profile. The Titus Trust had an income of £1,934,000 last year, of which £1,078,000 was donations.
The three claimants were given no prior sight of the statement, which was released by the Titus Trust without warning on a Friday evening, 3rd April 2020.
The Titus Trust statement, and the settlement itself, contains no admission of liability or involvement in Smyth’s abuse, no reference to the involvement of key members of the Iwerne network in arranging Smyth’s removal to Africa, no acknowledgement of his continuing abuse there over three decades, and no reference to the covering-up of Smyth’s abuse since it was disclosed in 1982. Indeed, the settlement repeats several times their assertion that the Titus Trust was not and is not responsible in any way for Smyth’s abuse. This is in spite of the fact that there is a significant continuity in activities, personnel and culture between Titus Trust and its predecessor. In terms of apology, all that the statement says is, “We are sorry that the Titus Trust’s earlier public statements were inadequate as explanations of the relevant facts and history and that some of the language the Trust has used in public statements about these matters has prompted anger on the part of some survivors and others.” They are sorry for their language.
The Titus Trust continues to maintain that the Iwerne camps network was the responsibility of the Scripture Union.
Reviews and inquiries
The Titus statement describes three “actions” that they say that have taken, or are taking, in response to the revelations of abuse by John Smyth.
i) A full independent review of safeguarding practices
A review was conducted in 2018 by the reputable independent safeguarding consultancy thirtyone:eight. It examined safeguarding on camps and activities currently run by the trust. Titus Trust has not published this review. The trust is within its rights to keep such a review confidential, though in the circumstances it might have helped public confidence if it had been published.
Their statement of April 2020 says that “among other things, [the review] has included receiving training in pastoral care and supporting survivors of abuse.” It is not clear what this means, since I am not aware that any survivor of abuse has received any pastoral care or support from the trust. The three men who brought the civil action against Titus Trust have received no contact from the trust at all since the abuse became public knowledge.
ii) An internal Cultural Review
The statement says that “an internal Cultural Review has been carried out that considered aspects of our traditions and practices.” No information about this review has been published. This review was not conducted by thirtyone:eight. It is not clear what aspects of culture this review covered, who conducted it, what was concluded, or what if anything has changed.
iii) An independent Cultural review
The statement says that “an independent Cultural Review will begin shortly” that will “enable us to look honestly at our culture and its impact on individual behaviour.” This review has not yet taken place, and no information about it has been published. It is not clear what it will cover, what form it will take, who will conduct it, when it will take place, or whether it will be published.
The statement also makes reference to “the Review into John Smyth led by Keith Makin.” This review was announced by the Church of England in August 2018, commissioned in August 2018 and begun in October 2019. The Makin Review was originally due to be completed by April 2020, but this was put back to June 2020. The current best estimate is that it may be complete by early Summer 2021.
The Makin Review is one of three inquiries currently being conducted into the abuse by John Smyth. Clearly the existence of three separate reviews is far from ideal, and causes additional suffering to the victims. It became necessary to conduct separate reviews because The Titus Trust refused to cooperate with one overall review when it was first proposed, insisting that they had no connection with John Smyth. Smyth was the chair of the Iwerne Trust, which was the predecessor of the Titus Trust.
More recently the Titus Trust has agreed to cooperate with the Makin inquiry, the civil claimants having made that a condition of the settlement of their claim. We cannot yet know what the extent of that cooperation will be. The Titus Trust is not conducting its own review into the activities of John Smyth.
In addition to the well-publicised abuse by John Smyth, there have been at least four other corroborated instances of abuse against boys and young men by members of the Iwerne network. Others are under investigation.
Victims of John Smyth continue to believe that the Titus Trust should close.