02/02/2017 18:29 SAST | Updated 02/02/2017 18:50 SAST

South African Justice Campaigner Accused Of Serious Assaults In UK Over Decades

The youths were allegedly assaulted during the 1970s and '80s, some receiving thousands of lashes.

Justice Alliance SA

A documentary being screened in the UK this week names the head of the Justice Alliance of South Africa as the perpetrator of severe assaults on young men and boys over decades, reported The Times on Thursday.

An investigation by the UK's Channel 4 News found that John Smyth "a prominent Anglican evangelical and former colleague of the Archbishop of Canterbury is alleged to have severely assaulted boys and young men for decades", said Channel 4. "The alleged abuse was carried out by prominent QC and part time judge called John Smyth, who was chairman of the Iwerne Trust, a charity closely linked to the church which ran Christian holiday camps for public school students."

During the 1970s and '80s, Smyth allegedly beat youths he met at the camps, inviting them to his home and beating them with a cane in his garden shed. Some reported having thousands of lashes over several years, said Channel 4 News.

When approached by Channel 4 News about the claims Mr Smyth said: "I'm not talking about that. I don't know anything about that."

Smyth was a barrister and part time judge and now runs the Justice Alliance from his home in Bergvliet‚ in the southern suburbs of Cape Town, reported The Times.

The BBC reported that the Archbishop apologised "unreservedly" after claims of physical abuse by a former colleague were not reported for over 30 years. The Most Reverend Justin Welby worked at the charity's summer camps where the public school boys were said to have met Smyth, but said he was unaware of the allegations until 2013. Smyth declined to comment to the BBC.

"Archbishop's apology comes after a six month investigation by Channel 4 News, in which we tracked down and spoke with many of Smyth's alleged victims. One man told us that he and other boys were beaten so violently by Smyth that they had to wear nappies to staunch the bleeding," said Channel 4 News.

"We recognise that many institutions fail catastrophically, but the Church is meant to hold itself to a far, far higher standard and we have failed terribly," said the church's statement, reported by the BBC. "For that the Archbishop apologises unequivocally and unreservedly to all survivors."

The Channel 4 News piece, 'An Ungodly Crime?" was due to be aired on Channel 4 News on Thursday and Friday evening.