John Smyth Independent Case Review

Read the latest statements and updates from Scripture Union's John Smyth Independent Case Review.

Statement by Scripture Union in relation to Titus Trust and Mr James Stileman

On 25th March, Scripture Union published the Executive Summary of the Independent Review commissioned by us to review our links with the abuse committed by John Smyth. Since then we have become aware of evidence that indicates that various statements in the Executive Summary relating to the conduct in 2014-15 of Titus Trust and, specifically, its then Operations Director, James Stileman, are not correct or are potentially misleading. Details of the relevant errors and issues are set out in this statement.

John Smyth Independent Case Review

Executive Summary published (25 March 2021)

The Scripture Union England and Wales John Smyth Independent Case Review is now complete. We are extremely grateful to those victims and other parties who have taken the time to be interviewed or contribute information to this process.  

We remain deeply saddened by the accounts of abuse suffered by the victims of the late John Smyth, a trustee of Scripture Union from 1971 - 1979. That such acts were carried out by an individual associated with Scripture Union is a matter of profound and sincere regret for us.  

We are very much aware of the pain caused by these events, and deeply regret the additional hurt and prolonged trauma caused by historic failings in the handling of the allegations and knowledge of the abuse. We recognise that this has extended the suffering of victims and their families and are very sorry for any ways in which SU’s handling of the case contributed to this.  

The review finds that Scripture Union did not operate the Iwerne Camps. However, it does identify some significant failings, most of which relate to activity during the early 1980s, in SU’s handling of the allegations and knowledge of the abuse. While the Review is broadly positive about SU’s actions in more recent years, there are also some specific concerns relating to the handling of information in this period. 

Our safeguarding practices today are significantly improved since the time in which these events took place, and the Report acknowledges this. The Trustees’ intention in commissioning this review was to ensure that lessons are learned from these events and the Reviewer has made recommendations for action. The safeguarding and protection of those in our care continues to remain of the highest priority and the Scripture Union Executive Team will work through these recommendations in detail in order to ensure that best practice is maintained.  

The Executive Summary is available to download here and we have also compiled some answers to questions that might be raisedThe Executive Summary which has been produced and signed off by our independent Reviewer, is a substantial document that presents the material findings and recommendations of the review that relate to Scripture Union or are otherwise within the Terms of Reference of the review. The full Report contains additional material that may assist the independent review commissioned by the Church of England. We will liaise with those conducting that review with a view to making the full Report available to them, as recommended by our Reviewer. 

We recognise that the publication of this Executive Summary will be difficult for those who experienced the abuse of John Smyth, and have made further counselling support available for those affected. To maintain anonymity, anyone wishing to claim this support should ask their therapist to contact us at [email protected] where they will be able to claim for up to six sessions. We will ask them to confirm that they are a BACP accredited therapist, and to declare that they are working with a client who has disclosed themselves as a victim of John Smyth. If you are not a victim but are affected by any of the issues raised by the documents, thirtyone:eight provide a free and confidential listening service at 0303 003 1111. 


If you have any further questions regarding this review, please contact [email protected] 

John Smyth Independent Case Review (23 March 2021)

We have now received a final report from the independent Reviewer. We intend to publish the Executive Summary here on Thursday 25th March 2021.

Independent review into John Smyth case - progress update (9 December 2020)

The lessons learned review into Scripture Union's past contact with John Smyth continues to progress. We expect this process to be concluded in the first part of 2021.

Independent review into John Smyth case - review in progress (8 January 2020)

The lessons learned review into Scripture Union's past connections with John Smyth has begun and we are expecting the results in Spring 2020. We are keen to ensure that learning from these past experiences shape and influence our safeguarding practices as we continue to prioritise the safety and wellbeing of those in our care.


Independent review into John Smyth case - clarifying statement (27 August 2019)

Scripture Union wish to clarify our position regarding the Church of England’s review into their handling of allegations relating to the conduct of the late John Smyth. Whilst we are not co-participants in their review, we have not refused to cooperate and remain in communication with the Church of England on the matter. We believe that it is appropriate that we consider the matter further ourselves and so, as previously announced, we will be commissioning an independent review to learn lessons from our past connections with John Smyth. We are confident that this approach will lead to more effective learning for SU than would have been achieved by us participating in a Church of England review.

The safety, protection and care of children, young people and vulnerable adults in our care today remains our highest priority. As previously stated, we are deeply saddened at the abuse suffered by many at the hands of John Smyth and are continuing to contribute to the counselling support available for anyone affected by his actions.


Independent review into John Smyth case (14 August 2019)

We remain deeply saddened by the accounts of abuse suffered by the victims of the late John Smyth, a trustee of Scripture Union from 1971 - 1979. That such acts were carried out by an individual who had been associated with Scripture Union is a matter of profound and sincere regret for us. 

We maintain high standards of safeguarding for the children and young people in our care and continue to handle all cases with the utmost seriousness. Our commitment is to learn from what has happened in the past and continue to develop our safeguarding policies and practices. We have contributed to arrangements for independent counselling support for those affected by this case.

Having reviewed the Terms of Reference for the Church of England review, we decided not to participate and instead intend to conduct an independent review to learn lessons from our past connections with John Smyth. Initial extensive searches of our records show very little relevant information regarding the way in which the Iwerne camps were conducted in the 1970s and 80s.


Counselling support (updated February 2019)

Scripture Union partners with the Church of England to provide independent counselling support for alleged victims/survivors of abuse by John Smyth.

Scripture Union is deeply disturbed by news reports of abuse of boys and young men by John Smyth. Since these events were reported in the media we have discovered that John Smyth was a trustee of Scripture Union from 1971 to 1979. That such abuse should have been committed by an individual connected to Scripture Union is a matter of profound and sincere regret for us and something for which we apologise wholeheartedly. Details of independent counselling support and how to access it can be found here.

Scripture Union understands that the Hampshire Police have concluded their criminal investigation into the abuse without bringing charges against anyone but that civil proceedings against a third party are now pending. Scripture Union is not aware of the detail of these proceedings or when they are likely to be concluded. Scripture Union intends to conduct an independent review with a view to endeavouring to learn lessons from its connection with John Smyth and ensuring that these lessons are reflected in its safeguarding policies and practices.

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