By Peter McLaren-Kennedy • 19 January 2022 • 12:06
youAn investigation has found that a cult like Christian society was allowed to flourish at Winchester College and to be used by a barrister to abuse young boys. According to the College who ordered a commission of inquiry, said the school had allowed him unfettered access to groom the boys.
An independent review into the abuse carried out by John Smyth QC, said the “school’s Christian forum showed signs of what would today be described as radicalisation.”
Winchester College, has said it apologises “unreservedly” for its role in the “terrible experiences” of its former pupils.
Smyth, who was the chairman of the Iwerne Trust, violently beat numerous boys and young men in a garden shed at his home in Winchester, handing out up to 800 lashes which left his victims bleeding.
The Scripture Union invited boys and young men from public schools, including students from Winchester College, to holiday camps financed by the Iwerne Trust during the seventies and eighties.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, “unreserved and unequivocal” apology on behalf of the church. Welby had attended the camp and knew the barrister. He issued the apology an on behalf of the Church of England in 2017, admitting that it had failed to report the allegations when they came to light as far back as 1982.
The 197 page report said: “At Winchester, most attendees were drawn from the members of a religious students’ group called the ‘Christian Forum’, which was particularly prominent at the College in the 1970s and 1980s.”
Membership of the Christian Forum had grown to about 100 by the mid-seventies, nearly a sixth of Winchester students. Those involved in the society were dominated by a “charismatic” Smyth who died in 2018.
The review continued saying: “The inner circle of the Christian Forum which formed around Smyth in the 1970s and early 1980s shares many features of a cult. Its members showed signs of what would today be described as radicalisation.
“Multiple staff members, including the headmaster, were aware that Smyth was in close contact with boys in the Christian Forum and that he had a powerful influence over them”.
John Thorn, headmaster between 1968 and 1985, recalled how many parents of the boys in the Christian Forum “became worried” and the boys “sometimes became estranged from their families”.
The Christian organisation were sued with a settlement paid to the men who were sadistically beaten by Smyth as children. The Titus Trust, who took over some of the responsibilities of Iwerne in 1997, said at the time that it had reached a settlement with three men who were subjected to the abuse from Smyth, an anti-gay campaigner, and would be conducting a review to examine its culture.
In a statement, the trust said: “We are devastated that lives have been blighted by a man who abused a position of trust and influence to inflict appalling behaviour on others, and we have written to those concerned to express our profound regret at what happened and also to apologise for any additional distress that has been caused by the way The Titus Trust has responded to this matter.”
Abuse of young boys in the 60’s and 70’s in Christian circles continue to make the headlines, hopefully now this one will be put to bed and those young boys who suffered abuse by the barrister will be allowed to carry on knowing that others won’t suffer as they did.
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Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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