Titus Trust settles with abuse victims at Christian holiday ‘bash camps’

Harriet Sherwood Religious correspondent
Photograph: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

A Christian organisation whose forerunner ran holiday camps at which boys were beaten sadistically has reached a settlement with three men and acknowledged that “lives have been blighted”.

The Titus Trust has expressed “profound regret” for the abuse carried out by John Smyth QC and has apologised for “additional distress” caused by the way the trust responded to the allegations.

The abuse scandal at the so-called “Bash camps” in the 1970s and 80s embroiled Justin Welby, who is now the archbishop of Canterbury, and who worked at the Christian holiday centres in the 1970s.

After allegations of abuse and its cover-up emerged three years ago, Welby said he knew Smyth but had been “completely unaware” of any abuse at the time. He apologised on behalf of the Church of England, which later ordered an independent review into the allegations.

The Christian holiday camps were organised by the Iwerne Trust, whose activities were later taken over by the Titus Trust. Smyth was chairman of the Iwerne Trust from 1974 until 1981.

In a statement posted on the Titus Trust’s website, it said a settlement had been reached with three men “who have suffered for many years because of the appalling abuse of John Smyth”. It went on to apologise for the “guarded language” it used in earlier public statements.

In 1982, the Iwerne Trust commissioned an internal investigation. It found that boys were given “horrific beatings” while naked or semi-naked, mostly in Smyth’s garden shed, but the report was kept secret.

The former QC moved to southern Africa, where he died in August 2018, soon after Hampshire police had requested him to return to the UK for questioning.

In a statement in response to the Titus Trust’s settlement, a group of Smyth’s victims called for the trust to disband. It said the trust had protected its own interests and failed to offer care and support to victims.

The Titus Trust said it had implemented the recommendations of an independent review into its safeguarding practices, and a forthcoming independent “cultural review” would “enable us to look honestly at our culture”.