Titus Trust reports ‘small payment’ to Smyth abuse victims in its latest accounts

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The Titus Trust says in its latest accounts filed with Companies House  in London that it made ‘a small payment but without any admission of liability’ to victims of the serial abuser John Smyth.

In its accounts for the year to September 30th 2019 filed on June 17th, the Titus Trust says under ‘Legal Matters’: ‘In the previous financial year three individuals notified the Trust that they might take legal action against the Trust in relation to historical abuse by the late John Smyth QC. After ongoing legal discussions the Trust agreed a settlement in March 2020 with the three individuals, including a small payment but without any admission of liability. Consequently, there is a provision in the accounts to cover the expected settlement and associated legal costs.’

High-flying barrister Smyth was chairman of the Titus Trust’s forerunner body, the Iwerne Trust, in the 1970s and early 1980s. He engaged in savage beatings of boys and young men he groomed through the Iwerne evangelical Christian camps for pupils from the elite English boarding schools. Having evaded justice for his abuse in Britain, he abused boys at camps he ran for school children in Zimbabwe in the 1990s.

The Church of England is conducting a lessons learned  review of its handling of the Smyth abuse scandal, due to be published next year. The current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby,  was a Iwerne ‘dormitory officer’ in the 1970s and has said he did not know about Smyth’s abuse before 2013.

The Trust acknowledged in its latest financial statement: ‘Substantial professional fees have been incurred on this and other governance matters during the financial year and the Trustees set aside monies from reserves in 2018 to cover these costs which are not expected to be repeated in future years.’

The statement added: ‘On this basis the Trust’s supporters can have confidence that their ongoing financial support is being used directly for the support of the Trust’s Christian ministry.’

The 2019 accounts reveal that the Trust spent £235,795 on legal, public relations and accountancy costs compared with £144,025 in 2018.

In May, Titus Trust announced the closure of the Iwerne camps. This followed the resignation of the Trust’s chairman, the Revd Simon Austen, in April.

To handle the public relations side of its dispute with Smyth’s victims, the Trust has hired London West End agency, Alder UK, whose managing director, Tim Toulmin, is a trustee of the influential LGBT lobby group, Stonewall.

Julian Mann is an evangelical journalist based in Morecambe, Lancashire, and author of Christians in the Community of the Dome