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Boy Scouts to hand over secret sex abuse files

A judge overseeing a lawsuit by the family of a California boy molested by his troop leader has ordered the Boy Scouts of America to hand over confidential files containing accusations of sexual abuse by its leaders throughout the country.

The Santa Barbara County Superior Court judge said last month that the Irving, Texas-based organisation must turn over the last 20 years' worth of records by February 24, with victims' names removed, the Los Angeles Times reported. The files will not be made public.

Known as "ineligible volunteer files", the documents have been maintained since the 1920s and are intended to keep suspected molesters and others accused of misconduct out of Scouting.

Scouts chiefs have resisted releasing them and will not discuss their contents, citing the privacy rights of victims and the fact that many files are based on unproven allegations.

They deny that the files have been used to conceal sexual abuse.

"These files exist solely to keep out individuals whose actions are inconsistent with the standards of Scouting, and Scouts are safer because of them," Deron Smith, the public relations director of Boy Scouts of America, told the Times.

The Santa Barbara case is significant because it seeks to unlock files that have never been turned over by the Scouts, including all since 2005. It also alleges wrongdoing that took place relatively recently, even as the Scouts have stepped up protective efforts.

The trial is scheduled for April, nearly five years after the boy, then 13, was molested by volunteer troop leader Al Stein at a Boy Scouts Christmas tree sale in Goleta.

Stein pleaded no contest to felony child endangerment in 2009 and was sentenced to two years in prison, but was paroled early and is living in a Salinas motel with other sex offenders, his lawyer, Steven Balash, told the newspaper.

The victim's mother claims that David Tate, then the Los Padres Council Scout executive, asked her not to call police after she reported her son's claim of abuse.

"He said that wasn't necessary, because the Scouts do their own internal investigation," said the woman. "I thought that was really weird... I thought it was really important to call the sheriff right away."

The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, says the Scouts knew or should have known that Stein had put the boy at risk and cites Mr Tate's reluctance to call police as evidence of an effort to conceal widespread sexual abuse.

Mr Tate, now a top Scouts official in New York, declined to comment.

The boy's lawyers contend the files will expose the Scouts' "culture of hidden sexual abuse" and its failure to warn boys, their parents and others about paedophiles in the ranks of one of the nation's oldest youth organisations.

"They have created these ticking time bombs who are walking through society, and nobody knows their identities except the Scouts," said Timothy Hale, one of the boy's lawyers.

Some of the estimated 5,000 files have surfaced in recent years as a result of lawsuits by former Scouts accusing the organisation of failing to exclude known paedophiles, detect abuses and report offenders to police, and allowing predators to remain at large.

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