Scouts train to root out paedophiles

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The Independent Online
MORE THAN a million volunteers working for uniformed children's organisations are to be given training in a new scheme to protect children from paedophiles.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) has set up the scheme to train Scout leaders and St John Ambulance staff in detecting when a child is being abused. The charity said the move was in response to requests from youth organisations which recognised that infiltration by paedophiles had become a serious problem.

Enid Hendry, NSPCC head of training, said: "Our ultimate aim is to extend as much protection as we can to the millions of children belonging to these groups. We know that many are well-run but we have to be aware that paedophiles will always home in on places where children congregate."

NSPCC investigators were involved in a police inquiry into the paedophile infiltration of a breakaway Scout association that had led to the abuse of up to 300 boys.

One of the ringleaders, ex-Scout leader Dennis Ward, was jailed yesterday for four years, knowing he might die in prison from an undisclosed illness. Ward, 66, who took part in the "systematic abuse" of a vulnerable boy of 13, has been told he has only 24 months to live.

Despite this, the gaunt, white-haired pensioner, a member of a network believed to have preyed on youngsters as young as eight for more than 30 years, showed no reaction at Snaresbrook Crown Court, London, as Judge David Radford said: "What you did ... has besmirched the good name of the Scout movement, making it harder for genuine and selfless Scout leaders to fulfil their role without the risk of parental and public suspicion and concern," he told Ward, of Plymstock, Plymouth.

Although he had pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit buggery, this had come late in the day and earned him little credit, the judge told Ward, who helped to run the 22nd Waltham Forest Baden-Powell Scout Group.

Ward's illness was not detailed in court. The judge told him: "[The boy] had every right to look to you and your co- conspirator, as Scout leaders, for protection. Instead, you grievously abused your position."

The court heard three other men, all Scout leaders, who have admitted their part in the paedophile ring's activities, will be sentenced later this month.

Maureen Carson, head of the NSPCC's London investigation unit, said: "The vital lesson to be learnt is that paedophiles are highly skilled, professional conmen. They ... will try every trick in the book to get parents to trust them."

Yesterday a spokeswoman, for the Scout Association - distinct from the Baden-Powell group - said the NSPCC had "the finest training in the area of child protection in the country". The association is recruiting 70 child protection co- ordinators who will be trained by the NSPCC at Leicester. They will then instruct leaders of the 10,000 Scouting groups in a policy that demands at least two adults are present in any Scouting activity; bans adults from sharing sleeping accommodation with children; and warns leaders not to have inappropriate physical contact, or make suggestive gestures.

The St John Ambulance also has child protection officers receiving NSPCC training.