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Ethics – Smyth death reignites abuse reports

October 2018

Former barrister John Smyth QC, who had been accused of abusing boys attending Christian summer camps, has died at his home in Cape Town, South Africa.

Mr Smyth had been wanted for questioning over abuse claims concerning boys at Winchester College during the 1970s and 1980s, following an in-depth investigation carried out by Channel 4 News last year.

According to BBC News, his family said the cause of death appeared to be a sudden heart attack following a heart procedure last week, and asked to be ‘left alone’ to grieve in private.

However the news reignited the controversy. Victim advocate, Andrew Graystone, told BBC News Hampshire police had informed victims that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had, just a week previously, asked them to summon Mr Smyth back to the UK for formal questioning with a view to possible charges.

Mr Smyth was previously a senior member of Christian charity the Iwerne Trust and had also represented campaigner Mary Whitehouse. He ran camps in Dorset for young evangelical Christians during the 1970s and 1980s.

The Channel 4 investigation came after a report by the Iwerne Trust from 1982, which was not made public until 2016. This had claimed that Mr Smyth identified pupils from leading public schools and took them to his home near Winchester in Hampshire, where he carried out lashings with a garden cane in his shed.

According to the report, eight of the boys received a total of 14,000 lashes, while two more received 8,000 strokes between them over three years. The claims were not reported to the police until 2013. One of those claiming he had been abused by Mr Smyth is the Bishop of Guildford, Andrew Watson.