Tag Archives: Peter Owen


Update on safeguarding complaint against the Archbishop of Canterbury

on Thursday, 12 November 2020 at 11.11 am by Peter Owen
categorised as Church of EnglandSafeguarding

The following statement has been issued by Lambeth Palace this morning.

Update on safeguarding complaint against the Archbishop of Canterbury

The abuse carried out by the late John Smyth was horrific and support continues to be offered to survivors. The Makin review is currently looking at the Church’s handling of allegations about his abuse, including the response of other organisations involved.

A formal complaint made to the National Safeguarding Team, NST, in June, that the Archbishop of Canterbury did not follow correct safeguarding procedure when responding to an allegation against Smyth, has not been substantiated. The complaint referred to Lambeth’s response to allegations which first came to attention in 2013 and information relating to the specific issues raised has been reviewed. Information relating to a further complaint sent to the NST in August, about wider issues, has now also been reviewed and no safeguarding concerns have been identified. All the information reviewed will now be sent to the Makin Review, due to publish next year, for further scrutiny.

Archbishop Justin is deeply sorry for the abuse that was carried out by John Smyth. The Archbishop has committed himself to leading the change needed in the Church of England relating to safeguarding and is personally keen to listen to survivors and striving to keep developing and learning in his own ministry.

Both the reviewers and the Church recognise that giving information to this review has the potential to be re-traumatising for victims and survivors. Support can be offered to victims through the National Safeguarding Team’s survivor engagement worker Emily Denne, who can be contacted at emily.denne@churchofengland.org or do contact Keith Makin, the independent reviewer, direct at keith.makin@independentreviews.live. Subscribe 

Richard W. Symonds

Richard W. Symonds 

“A formal complaint made to the National Safeguarding Team, NST, in June, that the Archbishop of Canterbury did not follow correct safeguarding procedure when responding to an allegation against Smyth, has not been substantiated”

A Church of England Core Group has decided the complaint against Archbishop Welby “has not been substantiated”.

Does the Church hierarchy honestly think anyone – especially a ‘Thinking Anglican’ – takes seriously any decisions by a Church Core Group – especially in the light of the George Bell, George Carey and Martyn Percy moral and legal disgraces?!

As Richard Scorer, a solicitor at the law firm Slater and Gordon who represents abuse survivors, said this week [regarding Roman Catholic Church abuses paralleling that of the Church of England]:

“This is an absolutely damning report. It highlights the shocking scale of abuse, the disgraceful slowness of the church’s response, the abject failures of leadership by Cardinal Nichols, and the Vatican’s appalling refusal to cooperate properly with the inquiry. Cardinal Nichols needs to resign right away – in any other walk of life he would be gone immediately. This is a church that cannot be trusted to protect children. The only way forward now is a mandatory reporting law, so that abuse cannot be covered up, and independent external oversight of church safeguarding. The church cannot be relied on to put its own house in order, and so without these changes, children will continue to be at risk”

John Wallace

John Wallace Reply to  Richard W. Symonds

So agree with this, Richard. I hope Lambeth got discount for the amount of whitewash used! 

Simon Sarmiento

Admin Simon Sarmiento 

The complainant in this matter has issued a press release in reply:

Fr. Dean Henley 

As ever the Church comes out of this looking so grubby. The list of things the Archbishop ought to have resigned over gets ever longer but it’s clear that he’s determined to cling onto his office come hell or high water. He was a dormitory officer at the Iwerne holiday camps he must surely have been aware of the children’s scars.

Martin Sewell to  Fr. Dean Henley

I have been closely involved in this story for some time and am not afraid to make straight criticism where that is justified. I have not heard anyone who knows the facts seriously suggest that ++ Justin knew of the abuse at the time it was happening. I do not believe it. If that were to change I would be content to say so. I do not expect to do so. The problems lie elsewhere. 

Richard W. Symonds

Richard W. Symonds Reply to  Martin Sewell

Martin, you say: “I have not heard anyone who knows the facts seriously suggest that ++ Justin knew of the abuse at the time it was happening”

I don’t think it relevant whether Archbishop Welby knew of John Smyth’s abuse “at the time it was happening” or not. Probably not, but that’s not the point.

I don’t like repeating myself [Opinion – 31 October 2020], but in this instance I will because I don’t think “the problems lie elsewhere”.

‘Let me be very specific about Archbishop Welby’s safeguarding failure regarding Smyth – which needs to be addressed now [not by the Makin Review next year]:
It was for the Archbishop of Canterbury to contact the Archbishop of Cape Town, after the Bishop of Ely had brought the matter to Lambeth’s attention.
“The Bishop of Ely wrote to the Archbishop of Cape Town to tell him, in some detail, the issues around Smyth [2013? – Ed]. The letter I have seen made it easy to find him by enclosing his current South African address. The idea that Smyth was uncontactable was patently absurd since he was an active figure in South African legal circles, working for the Justice Alliance of South Africa.  The Bishop of Ely received no replies and in May 2015 the DSA wrote to Graham to say that he ‘had no power to compel agencies in South Africa to respond to my concerns.’ This somewhat feeble response was the best that Ely could come up with in spite of seven letters from Graham between May 2014 and August 2015 to get the Church to take the whole issue seriously. The Titus Trust, although they knew that Smyth was entering Britain regularly on visits, refused to accept that they had any moral or legal obligations over his behaviour. From that point until the Channel 4 programme in Feb 2017, the story was like a ‘pass the parcel’ game. Nobody wanted to accept responsibility for enquiring too deeply into the abusive legacy of this man or the danger that he potentially posed for the church in the future’..

Rowland Wateridge Reply to  Richard W. Symonds

Richard: I’m not defending the Archbishop or speculating about what he may or may not have known, but just pointing out that although primus inter pares in the Anglican Communion, he has absolutely no jurisdiction outside England. If, as you say, the letter was sent to South Africa and there was no response from that end, then any culpability must rest there. You are absolutely correct that Smyth continued to hold a position of considerable public respect in South Africa after 2013. I have posted a very significant video of him on the ‘Surviving Church’ blog which illustrates this. He was a supreme ‘double-act’.

I think that everyone who has contributed so far on this thread ought to consider Martin Sewell’s post. 

Richard W. Symonds

Richard W. Symonds

Another whitewashed safeguarding failure which should lie heavy on the conscience of Archbishop Welby is the case of 96-year-old Barbara Whitley – Bishop Bell’s only-surviving niece up until five weeks ago [Oct 9 2020].

In 2017, Mrs Whitley said “I’m determined to clear his name before I die”.

Her dying wish was not granted by the Archbishop who maintained – even after the Church-commissioned Carlile and Briden reports proved the abuse allegations “unfounded” – that a “significant cloud” still hangs over the wartime Bishop of Chichester.

If any “cloud” exists, it now hangs heavy over the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.

Rowland Wateridge  Reply to  Richard W. Symonds

Richard: I have always been with you on the subject of Bishop Bell. My comment, inevitably, is based on what little we know about the present complaints which have been dismissed.

Some of the other comments on this thread have been highly speculative. Everyone should wait for the Makin report which will contain both a chronology and an executive summary. 

Richard W. Symonds

Richard W. Symonds Reply to  Rowland Wateridge

RW, I do not agree with you that we should wait for the Church-commissioned Makin Report which, it seems to me, will simply be a “chronology and executive summary” of what we clearly already know.

Also, I have a built-in scepticism of Church-commissioned reports – borne of 5 years bitter experience of Church PR/Propaganda – which can be published/delayed at the whim of whoever is ‘pulling the strings’ at the time.

Rowland Wateridge Reply to  Richard W. Symonds

Richard: This is not a place for making bets, but I shall be amazed if Mr Makin’s report runs to less than 300 pages! I suspect it could be many more. He has faced a daunting task from the outset, and ‘developments’ on the way have added greatly to it. I don’t understand why you aren’t prepared to grant Mr Makin’s report the same status as Lord Carlile’s and Mr Biden’s. Both of those reports were commissioned by the Church. Can we leave it there? I understand your strength of feeling, particularly about Bishop Bell, which, to repeat, I share. 

Richard W. Symonds

Richard W. Symonds Reply to  Rowland Wateridge

RW, of course I will grant the Makin report the same status as that of Carlile’s and Briden’s. It’s just that I don’t think the Makin report will fundamentally change anything within the Church hierarchy, just as the Carlile and Briden reports have not fundamentally changed anything within the Church hierarchy – especially relating to Bishop Bell.


Kate Reply to  Rowland Wateridge

We do know though that IICSA recommended dioceses needed a DSA instead of a DSO – ie someone independent of the diocesan bishop. The spirit of that recommendation has not been kept here as those who led the handling of this complaint don’t appear to be independent of Lambeth Palace, especially as Lambeth Palace published the outcome. Irrespective of whether there was any underlying wrongdoing by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the process seems to flout the IICSA recommendations and IS a whitewash.

There were two options for proper governance
a) ask someone independent to review the complaints – ABC is a member of the House of Lords so maybe the House of Lords Commissioner for Standards could have helped
b) Justin Welby could have been suspended for a few months

So, in summary, we don’t know whether the complaints should have been upheld but I believe we do know that the process by which they were dismissed was inadequate.

The House of Lords Commissioner for Standards normally only considers complaints relating to Parliamentary duties but, almost uniquely, the Archbishop of Canterbury is ex officio a member of the House of Lords. I think it is therefore possible to argue that anything connected with the performance of his office by which he became and automatically remains a member of the House of Lords is within scope. Do those here with a legal background feel that is a sufficient nexus to get a complaint reviewed by the House of Lords Commissioner for Standards? Indeed, if the Archbishop of Canterbury, or others on his behalf, have argued that communications with Cape Town lie outside his authority as Archbishop of Canterbury, that would strengthen an alternative argument that he had instead been approached in the matter as a Lord Spiritual. It seems to me that if the Dean of Christ Church was supposed to follow Church of England rules when approached with a safeguarding issue even in an academic context, that equally any safeguarding issue (because it involves possible criminality by the alleged perpetrator) which reaches the Lord Spiritual his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury should be handled under the standards of the House of Lords (as well as those of the Church of England) and that therefore a complaint to the House of Lords Commissioner for Standards by those who know the facts might be in order?



IICSA tells us that as a generality there have been serious problems relating to the handling of safeguarding complaints within the Church of England. The investigation published all the information it considered.

Set against that truly independent background, an investigator (presumably) appointed and paid for by the Church of England concludes in a particular case there is “nothing to see here” but publishes no information to support that conclusion.

Can the Church of England really not see that an independent observer might struggle to believe a carefully worded denial without evidence when set against the culture identified by IICSA?

Janet Fife Reply to  Kate

Kate, the complainant has asked me to post this reply to you: “It was not given to an independent investigator, but was looked at by NST themselves, under the Chair of Zena Marshall. It appears that Zena tried to undermine the process by condoning an approach by the Archbishops Chief of Staff direct to the complainant, presumably to persuade him to call off the dogs. There was no independent investigation. In fact, NST were at pains to point out there WAS no investigation”

Kate Reply to  Janet Fife

Janet, that is even worse then. It is impossible to see this as anything other than a whitewash.

Janet Fife

Janet Fife Reply to  Kate

You’re right. Industrial quantities of whitewash. 

Marise Hargreaves

Marise Hargreaves 

This is why the church cannot be allowed to continue investigating and judging its own. This has not been a fair, balanced, independent process given the reply by the complainant who again is sidelined as an inconvenient truth. It is an exercise in face saving and preservation of the hierarchy yet again. The only lessons learned is how to put together yet another statement which has a lot of words but no substance. Reply

Michael O’Sullivan

Michael O’Sullivan

How is it that the Archbishop of Canterbury seems to be going about suspending people left right and centre for things they may or may not have done – I’m thinking his illustrious predecessor Lord Carey and, for example, the Bishop of Lincoln- when he’s clearly up to his ears in it himself? Reply

Stanley Monkhouse

Stanley Monkhouse 

I wonder how Private Eye was able to print this over a week ago. Lambeth Leaks?

David Lamming Reply to  Rowland Wateridge

As an exemplar of a comprehensive chronology, see pages 7-19 of the Pearl Review on Bishop Hubert Whitsey, A Betrayal of Trust (currently “taken down temporarily [from the website] because a legal issue concerning the report has been raised which needs to be considered carefully”: see the note dated 11/11/2020 on the News and Media pages of the C of E website. Rather like shutting the door after the horse has bolted since many people will doubtless have already downloaded the full report.) 

Rowland Wateridge

Rowland Wateridge 2 hours ago Reply to  David Lamming

I know it sounds blasé, but such detailed chronologies are bread and butter routine for lawyers handling complex child and vulnerable adult abuse cases. This, to my mind, is the principal criticism of the Church’s hopeless bungling of the Bishop Bell case by trying to handle something in-house which was entirely beyond their capabilities. It should have been outsourced, or someone with the necessary experience brought in. There was, and is, no shortage of such expertise. I don’t want to labour the point, but there are comments on this thread about the present complaint which fall as the chronology is… 

Rowland Wateridge

Rowland Wateridge Reply to  Anthony Archer

Second reply: As late as 2015, possibly later, Smyth was living a publicly ‘respectable’ life in South Africa. He is known to have visited the UK in those years. This video of him appearing on South African public television in late 2014, possibly 2015, is revealing: full of aplomb and self-confident, and the deference of the TV interviewer to Smyth is striking:

htpps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-huJL5tdekLast edited 11 hours ago by Rowland Wateridge Reply

Rowland Wateridge

Rowland Wateridge Reply to  Rowland Wateridge

The link does not appear to work, so this is a second attempt. I urge people to watch this video – it’s very revealing indeed. Smyth does mention his legal colleagues back in England as though nothing at all had happened as late as 2015. It’s significant that he himself had survived a charge of manslaughter in Zimbabwe years earlier. He left Harare in 2008.


Matthew Ineson

Matthew Ineson 

Of course Welby was cleared. Why? Because once again the CofE is marking its own homework, the investigation was conducted by the CofE. There is no way they will find him guilty of anything…because reputation is much more important than victims. Always has been, always will be.
Why wasn’t the investigation conducted by someone outside of, and totally independent of, the church? Because the church wouldnt dare allow it in case the truth wer
e exposed.

Rowland Wateridge 

May I, as my final contribution, add here something which I have posted on the corresponding ‘Surviving Church thread:

I’m going to boldly assert that people might have got hold of the wrong end of the stick about this latest ‘investigation’. I may be wrong, but my understanding is that it relates to past events and not current or future safeguarding failures. Smyth’s death in 2017 put an end to the latter, so a complaint made on those grounds in 2020 would not succeed.
Past misdemeanours can be misconduct and a matter for a CDM, but I don’t think the complaint was made in that way. There are, unsurprisingly, quite high hurdles (‘a proper interest in making the complaint’) in a CDM brought against an archbishop.
Much of the problem for the public at large, clergy and laity alike, is that we are never told any details other than a bald ‘guilty’ or ‘not ‘guilty’ outcome. People can, and I fear do, sometimes make wrong assumptions. If I have done so in this post, I will be happy to be corrected.

Janet Fife

Janet Fife 1 hour ago Reply to  Rowland Wateridge

Rowland, the complainant has asked me to reply as follows:

“Part of the complaint did refer to past behaviour, particularly Welby’s failures to investigate or stop Smyth in his tracks, and bring him to justice. I have been told that past behaviour cannot be looked at under the current Practice Guidelines. The “wider issues” relate to the fourteen untruths ( er……lies ?) that Welby said on the Channel 4 interview. Again, I was told, this is not a safeguarding matter. However, I argued that his failures and cover up of Smyth was not a one-off in 2013, but was repeated with cover up and failure to investigate his friend Jonathan Fletcher in 2016. This is a pattern of behaviour. Would he repeat it ? The Core Group was not prepared to address this, boldly asserting he is not currently a safeguarding risk. With regard to his inability to tell the truth, I asked whether he would tell the truth in the future. I was told this was not a safeguarding issue, but would be subject to “learnings” in the future ( and I think the Lambeth statement makes a nod to this with the phrase “striving to keep developing and learning in his own ministry”). Yes, so in one sense you are absolutely right: the Core Group would not look at the past, they just addressed “is the Archbishop currently a safeguarding risk ?” And decided not. However, they were not prepared to address the issue of “the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour” and deemed his failure to give a full, frank disclosure of his knowledge and actions over Smyth as of no concern to them. I will add a PS: three NST people asked why I had not taken out a CDM, as that would have been more effective. I have been offered help filling out the forms. I may do so”


A telling sign when the CEO of a professional safeguarding organisation (dependent on CofE for much of its work) calls out CofE structure for dishonesty and injustice.

Tweet by CEO thirtyone:eight

In a structure with almost no accountablity (variable and ineffective at best) how does this vital component become part of necessary culture change? As part of my submission to the Interim Support Scheme I am calling for published apologies from a raft of senior figures for their cruelty and dishonesty, and their complicity with the dissembling by the Church’s agents, and for frankly rotten sets of behaviour.

This may be one of the ways forward – a procession of apologies across much of the senior layer published in Church Times. Survivors gradually bringing accountability to a structure – to hopefully shift the chaos, dysfunctionality and quiet corruption which we see yet again in the car crash of the Welby core group. And which so many of us are familiar with. These infamous core groups operate like a kind of Star Chamber with foregone conclusions. But I suspect the latest attempt to shield Archbishop Welby from questions might now be considered a home goal by Lambeth Palace advisors who have made an omnishambles of this cul-de-sac situation.

We have to find a way to hold individuals who consciously hide behind dysfunctional processes to account. Bishops are clearly not going to hold themselves voluntarily to account, and Lead Bishops are not able to tackle the problem. Complaints are a waste of time. The NST, unfit for purpose, protects the hierarchy within a fortress of bewildering confusion, and perhaps hope that bishops will address their own culture. So survivors must take the lead. As burnt out and exhausted as many of us are – we will have to do the necessary work of continuing to fight through the fog and corruption, until the bishops’ house becomes the culture it should already have been.

As example, a letter was signed by 7 of us about one senior figure, and sent to the Lead Bishops, Chair of the NSP, and Director of Safeguarding. Further letters were sent in connection with this complaint by two others. Those supplementary letters were if anything written in stronger tones than the original. Response? A ‘holding’ acknowledgement sent four months ago – and nothing since. This kind of protection enables senior figures to hide behind a cordon sanitaire.

My own view is that change is unlikely until figures across the top of the Church resign. There has been too much lack of integrity, too much investment in reputation management, and too much wilful reliance on bad process – over and above basic decency and honesty.

Richard W. Symonds to  Gilo

The words of ‘Gilo’ remind me of what Revd Graham Sawyer said at the IICSA in July 2018:

“The sex abuse that was perpetrated upon me by Peter Ball pales into insignificance when compared to the entirely cruel and sadistic treatment that has been meted out to me by officials, both lay and ordained. I know from the testimony of other people who have got in touch with me over the last five or 10 years that what I have experienced is not dissimilar to the experience of so many others and I use these words cruel and sadistic because I think that is how they behave. It is an ecclesiastical protection racket and [the attitude is that] anyone who seeks to in any way threaten the reputation of the church as an institution has to be destroyed”

Richard W. Symonds to  Gilo

“As part of my submission to the Interim Support Scheme, I am calling for published apologies from a raft of senior figures for their cruelty and dishonesty, and their complicity with the dissembling by the Church’s agents, and for frankly rotten sets of behaviour. This may be one of the ways forward – a procession of apologies across much of the senior layer published in Church Times” ~ ‘Gilo’

I call upon all ‘Lords Spiritual’ [active Bishops and Archbishops] to offer their resignations en masse to the Supreme Head of the Church of England Her Majesty The Queen – just as the Bishops of Chile offered their resignations en masse to the Pope in 2018:





Matthew Ineson

Dec 22 2019 – “Church Safeguarding – Not a prayer” – Private Eye

download (31)

Church House Westminster


Update on Safe Spaces following media report

The Church of England issued the press release below today. It appears to be in response to an article in Private Eye which was tweeted here yesterday.

Update on Safe Spaces following media report

A spokesperson for the National Safeguarding Team said: “Safe Spaces is planned as a vital support service for survivors of church-related abuse across the Church of England and the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

“The delay in progressing the support service, first officially discussed in 2014, is a matter of regret which the Church of England acknowledges and apologises for. But since the appointment of a project manager and the creation of the Safe Spaces Management Board last year eight survivor representatives from across both Churches are involved in ensuring we find the right organisation to deliver the project.

“Their knowledge, skill and personal experience in shaping the model for Safe Spaces alongside their commitment and support for the procurement process is integral to finding the right organisation to deliver the project.

“All grant money from both churches and ATL has been ring fenced for the project and no money from the £592,000 grant has been spent to date, and no new company has been set up. Pre set-up costs, procurement, project management and development are separate to this and the cost is being shared across both Churches.

“Following an initial procurement process, the Board has agreed that it would not be recommending the appointment of a preferred supplier to deliver the project; this decision was taken in partnership with the survivor representatives.

“Over the coming weeks the Board in partnership with survivors will agree the next steps and the best way forward. Survivor voices remain central to any future success of this new service and their welfare and support is an absolute priority for the Church in its continuing safeguarding work.

“Both churches are committed to supporting survivors of church-related abuse and providing an independent national service for survivors of any form of church-related abuse.”

Janet Fife

‘since the appointment of a project manager and the creation of the Safe Spaces Management Board last year eight survivor representatives from across both Churches are involved in ensuring we find the right organisation to deliver the project.’ I’m glad they are involving survivors in this, although I suspect they aren’t asking some who have been most vocal. I’m sure Matt Ineson would have something to say – and until the Church is ready to hear him, and Gilo, and “Graham’, and others, it won’t get very far. But as the project manager and board were appointed ‘last year’ –… Read more »

Martin Sewell

The Church seems to have lost the plot on this. One cannot hear of the delay and the associated costs without a rising sense of anger. Questions must be asked and more importantly – answered. This is not said in a vindictive sense but simply to seek an answer to the plainest of questions. “ How did the main thing cease to be the main thing?” The need was there, the victims known, the resource was available. It ought to have been possible to scope and deliver something for survivors within a year, by any team of competent managers. If… Read more »

Fr. Dean Henley

Presumably when she was the Chief Nurse the Bishop of London must have overseen projects far bigger than this one. Why has everyone involved been so inept, had no sense of urgency given their rhetoric on safeguarding. Old school politicians such as Lord Carrington resigned when there were serious failings such as this; why haven’t senior bishops resigned over this pitiful episode? Thank God for Private Eye and a free press!

This doesn’t look good. Depressing really. Am I a fool to be surprised at the prevarication, the EIG involvement and the procurement story, especially 2buy2. “They talk of vanity every one with his neighbour: they do but flatter with their lips, and dissemble in their double heart.” Why not let the survivors run the project completely? OK, I know why not.