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Former barrister accused of telling teenager boy to self harm to rid himself of gay ‘sin’

Joseph McCormick February 9, 2017
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A former barrister has been accused of telling a teenage boy to self harm in order to rid himself of “sinful” homosexual feelings.

John Smyth, a former QC, allegedly forced then schoolboy ‘David’, who didn’t give his name in a report with the Guardian to protect his anonymity, to “do anything to give myself pain.”

He said he was driven to a “dark place” by frightening “frightening and blunt” warnings about homosexuality.

The man, now in his 50s, says he came into contact with Smyth when he was a pupil at Winchester College.

The accusations come as Andrew Watson, the bishop of Guilford, said he had been beaten by Smyth.

The former QC has been accused of violent beatings by several men who met him in their teenage years, and an investigation has been opened by Hampshire police.

Allegations were also made, according to the Guardian, back in 1982, and that they were not informed by the police despite being investigated by the Twerne Trust and Winchester College.

The latest to come forward, David, says he was part of the college’s Christian Forum, and had been a “regular visitor to [Smyth’s] house, where he offered me ‘spiritual guidance’.”

The man says the former barrister expected the boys to tell them “everything”, and that he had come out to the former QC as gay.

He says Smyth told him that “Jesus would give me the power to resist” his homosexual urges.

“Smyth responded to my anxieties with graphic descriptions of the joys of heterosexual sex and a stark warning that homosexuals could neither enter heaven nor live among the righteous on earth. It was a frightening and blunt message,” David tells the Guardian.

“Smyth instructed me to pinch, squeeze or do anything to give myself pain when sinful thoughts arrived. He taught me to harm myself and his demonstrations left me bruised.

“Emotionally, I was in a dark place. I frequently spent a good portion of my ‘spiritual counselling’ sessions with Smyth in tears yet there was no let-up from Smyth. I felt isolated, unable to speak to anyone else. I became depressed and my work suffered.”

After the encounters, David says he “hit rock bottom”, and that his housemaster knew he was down, but that he did not “admit the real cause of my anxiety”.

He also accused the Church of England of still continuing the practice of “literalistic interpretations of scripture”.

“Smyth’s actions may have been at the more extreme end of the scale, but the narrowness and lack of compassion remains common in mainstream Christian fundamentalism, especially in its approach to homosexuality,” says David.

The school has responded to the accusations saying it did the best it could “in accordance with the standards of the time”.

It added: “That John Smyth went on to abuse further, reveals the inadequacy of those standards.”

David has since reported his accusations to the police.

Related topics: abuse, barrister, Church

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