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Winchester College - Sorry for 'horrific' summer camp abuse

A boys' boarding school has issued an apology to the victims of abuse by former barrister John Smyth QC in the 1970s and 80s.

 

Smyth beat teenage boys who attended Christian summer camps from public schools - including Winchester College. The school said sorry for its failings after the publication of an independent review of the abuse against ex-pupils.

Smyth was found to have had "unfettered access to the college" which allowed him to groom and abuse boys.

Smyth, a barrister and evangelical Christian, who died aged 77 in South Africa in 2018, chaired the Christian charity the Iwerne Trust from 1974 to 1982, which ran religious holiday camps for boys.

Since 1982, a number of boys who had attended the camps have said they were violently beaten by Smyth.

Reports of his alleged physical abuse of 22 boys were revealed in an investigation by Channel 4 News in February 2017.

Following the Channel 4 programme, the fee-paying college commissioned a review from two independent experts, Jan Pickles OBE and Genevieve Woods.

The scope of the review was limited to events related to Winchester College.

Among the conclusions, the report found Smyth regularly participated in college events, including meetings of its Christian Forum.

The review concluded his access was not challenged by the school, although it adds there were "some attempts by individual staff members to question his involvement or restrict his access to certain pupils".

It acknowledged that safeguarding procedures had changed over the past 40 years, but added "even basic safeguards which were common at the time for those in ministry or teaching roles, such as the use of interviews or references, were not utilised in relation to Smyth".

The report noted: "Smyth's unfettered access to the college allowed him to groom boys and created opportunities for abuse."

'Traumatic and lifelong'

In a letter at the start of their report, the reviewers noted: "The report concludes that John Smyth was primarily responsible for the harm which was done to pupils of the school in the 1970s and 1980s, but the systems which were in place at the time failed to monitor or deter his abuse and his coercive influence.

"The response of the college in 1982, when the abuse was disclosed, did not prevent Smyth from moving overseas to minister at other schools and continuing to work in positions of trust, where he committed horrific abuse against children."

The report concludes that the impact of Smyth's abuse had been "traumatic and lifelong".

In a statement, the college said: "We acknowledge the courage and determination of the victims in pursuing the truth about John Smyth. The college apologises unreservedly for its part in their terrible experiences."

It added that "all institutions, as this review urges, should challenge themselves to do better within a society where abuse is increasingly recognised and reported".

The school said its current safeguarding procedures have been "successfully inspected".

Credited: BBC online https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-60050300, Dated 19th January 2022

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