The Church of England has hushed up more than its fair share of abusers but few as hypocritical as John Smyth QC, writes PETER FROST.

John Smyth QC (above) was the subject of a recent Channel 4 documentary. The Morning Star and most of the rest of the media reported that Smyth, a barrister, part time judge and evangelical Christian leader had been accused of serious sadomasochistic physical abuse of public school boys.

The allegations were that he committed serious physical beatings on boys at a Christian holiday camp and in a garden shed in his home in Winchester. Both Smyth and the boys were naked during the beatings which Smyth claimed would make them better Christians.

The savage beatings — some over a hundred strokes — were administered with a cane and often left the boys with bleeding wounds that required them to wear a nappy until they healed.

The Bishop of Guildford, Andrew Watson (below), has accused Smyth of giving him such a violent and shocking beating as a young man.


Many of the alleged beatings took place at Iwerne Christian camps which had close links with the Church of England and where Justin Welby (below), now Archbishop of Canterbury, worked alongside Smyth in the late 1970s.


Channel 4 News discovered that the Iwerne Trust, which oversaw the Christian camps, was informed of the allegations as early as 1982 but decided not to inform police. Instead the errant evangelist and lawyer was asked not to work with young people and shipped off to the colonies.

It was a familiar pattern of how many Christian churches in Britain have dealt with paedophile clergy.

As well as the Iwerne Trust, the Christian group that Smyth chaired, Winchester College — the oldest public school in Britain — attended by some of his alleged victims and a number of leaders of high-profile evangelical organisations did not report the claims to police at the time.

Instead Smyth slipped away to Zimbabwe where in 1986 it is alleged he set up a mission which held summer camps for boys from leading schools. Naked Christian beatings seemed to feature at these camps too.

Smyth was arrested in 1997 during an investigation into the death of a 16-year-old boy found drowned and naked in a camp pool. Eventually a case of culpable homicide against Smyth was dismissed.

What has not been so widely reported is Smyth’s role acting for Christian morality and anti-homosexual rights campaigner Mary Whitehouse (below).


He conducted her successful Old Bailey private prosecution for blasphemy against Gay News and its editor, Denis Lemon, over the publication of James Kirkup’s poem The Love that Dares to Speak its Name.

He also initially acted for Whitehouse in her failed prosecution of the National Theatre production of  Howard Brenton’s play The Romans in Britain.

After various scandals in Zimbabwe, Smyth fled to Cape Town, South Africa where he ran the Justice Alliance of South Africa, a rabidly homophobic pressure group.

Smyth unsuccessfully opposed same-sex marriage in South Africa — he told Judge Albie Sachs: “There is no escaping the fact that in both testaments homosexual acts are condemned in very strong language.”

Smyth (seen below being confronted by a TV reporter) is still living a free man in Cape Town despite calls for him to return to Britain and face his accusers and justice.


This article first appeared in the Morning Star 12 May 2017.


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