Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby issues apology over Church of England links to 'child abuser'

Archbishop says Church of England 'failed terribly' for not reporting abuse

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The Independent Online

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said the Church of England "failed terribly" for not reporting the head of a Christian charity accused of carrying out sadomasochistic attacks on young boys.

Justin Welby issued an "unreserved and unequivocal" apology on behalf of the church after admitting he had worked at the holiday camps where the teenage boys were groomed.

Channel 4 News will broadcast allegations John Smyth QC used the camps to groom teenagers, who he forced to strip naked before beating them.

One alleged victim told the broadcaster he and other boys were beaten so violently they had to wear nappies to stop the bleeding.

"We recognise that many institutions fail catastrophically, but the Church is meant to hold itself to a far, far higher standard and we have failed terribly," the statement on behalf of the Archbishop said. 

"For that the Archbishop apologises unequivocally and unreservedly to all survivors.”

The Archbishop said he became friends with Mr Smyth in the late 1970s, when Mr Welby was a dormitory officer and Mr Smyth was one of the main leaders at the Iwerne holiday camps.

Lambeth Palace said they had since exchanged “the occasional card”.

However, in the late 70s and 80s, Mr Smyth allegedly recited bible passages to 22 young men before beating them with a cane in his garden shed.

One of his alleged victims, Mark Stibbe, told the broadcaster: “It was along the lines of, this is the discipline that God likes, this is what’s going to help you to become holy.”

Another, Richard Gittins, said the boys "used to have to put nappies on" after the beatings.

Mr Welby said he was made aware of the allegations against Mr Smyth in 2013, when the police became involved.

The abuse only came to light in 1982, when one boy attempted to kill himself over fear of the beatings.

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The Archbishop of Canterbury issued 'unreserved and unequivocal' apology (file image) (PA)

The Iwerne Trust commissioned a report into the allegations, which concluded: “The scale and severity of the practice was horrific.” 

However, despite the report's findings, the Iwerne Trust did not report Mr Smyth to the police.

Instead, a senior figure of the trust wrote to Mr Smyth telling him to leave the country.

He soon after left to live in Zimbabwe and then South Africa.

When Channel 4 put the allegations to Mr Smyth on camera, he said: “I’m not talking about that. I don’t know anything about that.”