More than 250 people in the UK and Ireland have been convicted of child sexual abuse offenses committed while they were Scout leaders or in other positions of responsibility within the Scout movement, according to an analysis that raises questions about the organization’s protection procedures.
For decades Scouting has been promoted as an opportunity to experience adventure and acquire life skills, but a review of offenders shows that for many children it has been abused at the hands of someone who has been entrusted with their well-being.
The 255 cases include convictions for rape, indecent assault, voyeurism, and possession, creation and distribution of indecent / pornographic images.
The cases date back to the 1950s, but also include contemporary examples such as Oliver Cooper from Bognor Regis, who was jailed for six years in October last year on three counts of sexual assault, against two six-year-old girls, for taking indecent photographs of a boy and 13 counts of voyeurism. The crimes occurred just over two years ago.
Also last year, Graham Avison of Audenshaw, Greater Manchester, was jailed for five years and seven months in November after pleading guilty to four counts of indecent assault between 1991 and 1995 against a boy whom he began caring for by giving him small gifts such as chocolate bars.
Abbie Hickson, an associate on the Bolt Burdon Kemp (BBK) Lawyers Abuse Team, which compiled the interactive explorer abuse map, said: “The Scout Association must do much more to protect the safety of its scouts from future sexual predators. Today, there is an ongoing culture in which there is the potential for abuse to be inadvertently facilitated and not actively prevented.
“Much of their protection policy is based on the integrity of the Scout leaders themselves and depends on the individual choosing to adhere to it. It is important to remember that scout bosses who sexually abuse scouts are, by their very nature, highly manipulative, reserved, devious, and opportunistic individuals.
“There has to be a culture of transparency and trust and measures must be taken at all levels of the organization to actively prevent sexual abuse within Scouts. When complaints are made, they should be thoroughly investigated and lessons learned so that future abuse is prevented. Only then will explorers of today and tomorrow be protected from these sexual predators. “
BBK says the actual number of perpetrators and victims is likely even higher than that detailed on its interactive map, which was based on public records, newspaper articles and independently verified documents, since it only includes convictions. It does not include cases in which victims did not report the abuse or prosecutors did not press charges due to difficulties in proving the abuse after several years or because the alleged abuser had died.
An example not included is that of Lucy Pincott, 27, whose details have been made public for the first time. She says she was sexually assaulted multiple times by a young leader when she was 13 years old.
The Crown Prosecution did not press charges against his alleged abuser, but Pincott, represented by BBK, agreed to a £ 160,000 settlement with the Scout Association (the UK’s leading exploration body) last year, although he did not admit liability.
Pincott said: “I want exploration to continue. It can be a great thing for many young people. However, they must be kept safe from those who take advantage of them.
“Many people will never recover from the harm of pedophiles and other sex offenders, especially when they are not believed and the predators remain protected.”
A report on child sexual abuse in contemporary institutional contexts Released Tuesday by the independent investigation into child sexual abuse in England and Wales based on analysis of files between 2017 and 2020 from the Outreach and Barrier Service, which helps employers screen potential employees, noted that the alleged perpetrators they included leaders of “exploring or guiding abused children within those community groups.”
Scouting has also faced reports of child sexual abuse in other countries. Earlier this month, the Boy Scouts of America said it had reached an $ 850 million (£ 620 million) settlement with lawyers representing some 60,000 victims of child sexual abuse.
A spokesperson for the Scout Association said: “Nothing is more important than the safety of the young people in our care. In the UK, we have had over 10 million young members since our inception in 1907. We recognize that there have been incidents of abuse during that time. Any abuse of a youth is abhorrent, and we deeply regret anyone who has suffered from the abusers’ actions. “
“Keeping young people safe from harm is something we take very seriously. We have strong protection policies and procedures in place, which are publicly available, and we regularly invite questions and external reviews. This has included a review by the NSPCC in 2012 and a further independent review by Hugh Davies QC in 2015. The recommendations from these reviews have been implemented. “
In the United Kingdom, Rape crisis offers rape and sexual abuse assistance on 0808 802 9999. In the US, Rainn offers assistance at 800-656-4673. In Australia, support is available at 1800 Respect (1800 737 732). Other international helplines can be found at ibiblio.org/rcip/internl.html