The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has released a “full, personal apology” to all victims of the “horrendous abuse” they were subjected to by a senior lawyer at Christian holiday camps during the 1970s and 80s.

The statement from the UK’s most senior bishop addressed reports of abuse perpetrated by QC John Smyth, who died in 2018, on teenage boys at Christian camps attended by individuals from British public schools and universities. 

A secret report produced by the Iwerne Trust, which ran the camps when the abuse occurred, laid out “horrific” beatings experienced by victims and accused public schools of failing to report the allegations.

“I want to offer a full, personal apology. I am sorry that this was done in the name of Jesus Christ by a perverted version of spirituality and evangelicalism,” the Archbishop of Canterbury said on Thursday.

The Church has a duty to look after those who have been harmed. We have not always done that well.

This is the second time that Welby has issued a public apology to the victims of members of the clergy, having previously pledged to tackle institutional abuse within the Church of England.

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Alongside his apology to individuals who suffered abuse, Welby has stated that the “National Safeguarding Team will investigate every clergy person or others within their scope of whom they have been informed who knew and failed to disclose the abuse.”

Smyth never faced criminal charges for the allegations of abuse at UK camps, moving to Zimbabwe in 1984. He was later charged in that country, in connection with the death of a 16-year-old at a camp and over the alleged abuse of five boys. However, the case against him in Zimbabwe was dismissed. He eventually relocated to Cape Town, South Africa, where he died of a heart attack in August 2018.

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