Scout Association says sorry over historical abuse of children

More than 50 people have instructed lawyers about historical abuse claims

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The Independent Online

The Scout Association has said it is “deeply sorry” over the abuse of children during their time in the movement.

The association said 36 civil lawsuits relating to historic cases of child abuse had been brought against it since October 2012, resulting in compensation payments totalling about £500,000.

“We apologise to all those who have been abused during their time in Scouting,” it said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The safety and support of young people in Scouting is our number one priority. Any abuse of young people is abhorrent and we are deeply sorry for anybody hurt by the actions of abusers. We strive to ensure these abuses do not take place.

“To our great regret, some individuals who seek to abuse young people have used their positions to violate the founding principles of Scouting and have breached our stringent processes.  Subsequently, this small minority have abused a young person or persons.”

The statement was issued in response to a report on BBC News which claimed more than 50 people had instructed lawyers about historical abuse claims against Association following the scandal involving Jimmy Savile.

Lawyers involved in the cases told the BBC that the association and individual scoutmasters had already paid a total of £897,000 in damages.

The association’s statement said the report was “factually incorrect”.

However it said there had been an increase in reported historic cases since the Savile affair broke, noting there had been a total of 48 civil actions relating to child abuse taken out against the association since it was founded in 1907.

David McClenaghan, a lawyer who represents child sex abuse claimants, told BBC News that the number of children who had been abused in the Scouts was far higher than 50.

“I know from my own experience from seeing police files on investigations into sexual abuse within the Scout Association that many of those people who have been victims of abuse choose not to bring compensation claims forward," he said.

“It's only a very small fraction of people that go on to bring a case against the Scout Association. In terms of figures, 50 is absolutely the tip of the iceberg and the reality is that there are many, many more people who have suffered abuse in the Scout Association.”

One alleged victim, who the BBC said was paid £45,000 compensation in 2011, said he was abused by a scoutmaster in the 1980s.

“I was sickened and disgusted by it. I wanted it to stop but I couldn't make it stop,” he said.

“I had no-one I could speak to and I didn't know what to say. Perhaps he was clever in choosing people who he knew wouldn't be in a position to talk about it.”

The police investigated his case but the scoutmaster killed himself before his trial began.