Scripture Union apologises for 'errors' in John Smyth report

John Smyth is confronted by Channel 4's Cathy NewmanChannel 4 News

Scripture Union has admitted to "errors" in its recent executive summary of an independent review into the charity's links with abuse by John Smyth.

The executive summary highlighted failings by Scripture Union (SU) to disclose what it knew about the abuse taking place.

In a statement on Monday, SU said that it had since become aware of evidence suggesting that some of the statements in the executive summary concerning the conduct of the Titus Trust and its then Operations Director, James Stileman, between 2014 and 2015 "are not correct or are potentially misleading".

"We are also aware that the publication of the Executive Summary has caused damage to the ministry and reputation of Titus Trust and Mr Stileman," a statement from SU trustees said.

At one point, the original summary describes information-sharing with the police and statutory agencies as "inappropriately limited".

SU now says that further review of the trust's dealings with the police "confirms that it has no reason to consider that Titus Trust behaved inappropriately in relation to these interactions".

The charity said that further independent evidence showed that Titus Trust had received legal advice at the time informing it that no referral to a LADO, or local authority designated officer, was required and that the content of a serious incident report to the Charity Commission in 2014 was in conformity with the legal advice that it had received.

"We recognise that there are inaccuracies and potentially misleading statements in the Executive Summary in relation to the sharing of information with Scripture Union," SU said.

"The Trustees of Scripture Union apologise for these inaccuracies in the Executive Summary and any damage caused by them to either of Titus Trust and Mr Stileman and we are pleased to put the record straight."

The trustees further expressed "regret" that neither Titus Trust nor Mr Stileman were interviewed as part of the independent review, and apologised to victims for any additional distress.

"We acknowledge that, had Scripture Union given Titus Trust and Mr Stileman the opportunity to comment on the factual accuracy of the Executive Summary prior to its publication, this would have provided an opportunity for the errors to be corrected at that time," the statement reads.

"We also apologise to the victims of John Smyth for any additional suffering caused by the errors and the need to correct them.

"We remain appalled and saddened that this abuse took place, and deeply regret the suffering this has caused the victims and their families and are committed to dialogue with the victims to identify ways in which we can support them.

"We are also keen to ensure that our current practices continue to be shaped and improved by lessons learnt so that we can serve and protect those in our care to the best of our ability."

Commenting on the revision, Mark Meynell, director of Langham Preaching, said it was an "important clarification and exoneration".

"Getting acts straight matters, [though] of course #fletcherculture issues remain," he said on Twitter.

Responding, Fletcher victim Lee Furney said, "Unfortunately, the methodological error in the SU report has been paralleled in the corrections by not cross-checking them with victims and advocates. We have much learning to do in the vital area of ministry."

FIEC leader John Stevens said it was good to see SU show willingness to correct the mistakes.