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Church of England Admit Failings in Reporting Abuse Claims

Following a Channel 4 News investigation, the Church of England has unreservedly apologised for the alleged physical and sexual abuse on children and young men by a former colleague of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

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John Smyth, the chairman of the Iwerne Trust, which ran Christian holiday camps for public school pupils, has been accused of decades of abuse. Archbishop, Justin Welby, said that he was told about claims made against Smyth in 2013 and police had been notified of the allegations. 

Yet again, this case shows the need for a mandatory reporting law. This would require organisations which have knowledge of actual or suspect abuse to report these concerns to the police so that allegations can be properly investigated and children protected.

The Church of England should have done more to investigate allegations that children suffered abuse. Had there been a legal duty to report any concerns by those responsible for the safeguarding of children within the Church, further abuse may have been avoided and via legal action, justice could have intervened.

I believe a mandatory reporting law would go a long way to preventing this from happening again in the future.

An investigation was launched by the Iwerne Trust when a man grew so fearful of beatings that he tried to take his own life in 1981. The confidential report described the “beatings” of 22 young men.

Despite the findings of the report, the Iwerne Trust did not inform the police. Instead, a senior figure in the Iwerne Trust wrote to John Smyth, telling him to leave the country. He went on to live in Zimbabwe, and then South Africa.

Winchester College, where some of the young men met Smyth, was made aware of the alleged abuse, but also failed to report it to the police at the time.

Time and again we have seen organisations cover up cases of child abuse and I believe a mandatory reporting law would go a long way to preventing this from happening again in the future.

In May, 2016, it was announced that senior clergy in the Church of England were to be retrained in dealing with reports of sexual abuse.


Richard Scorer is a principal lawyer and head of the abuse team at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK.

Slater and Gordon have the UK’s most experienced team of abuse lawyers and are currently representing over 800 survivors of abuse.

We offer a free and completely confidential consultation to anyone affected by sexual abuse. Call us anytime 24/7 on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online.

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