Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Scouts release child abuse files

Lawyer Kelly Clark with some of the documents released by the Boy Scouts of America relating to sex abuse within the organisation (AP/Greg Wahl-Stephens)

The Boy Scouts of America has released decades of so-called "perversion files", showing how a range of authorities - from police to pastors - quietly allowed scoutmasters and others accused of molesting children to go free.

In many instances - more than a third, according to the Scouts' count - police were not told about the reports of abuse. Even when they were, sometimes local law enforcement did nothing, seeking to protect scouting's reputation.

The confidential papers, released by order of the Oregon Supreme Court, are a window on a much larger collection of documents the Boy Scouts began collecting soon after their founding in 1910. The files contain details about proven abusers but also unsubstantiated allegations.

At a news conference, Portland lawyer Kelly Clark criticised the Boy Scouts for their continuing legal battles to keep the full collection of files secret. The files released were collected between 1959 and 1985, with a handful of others from later years.

"You do not keep secrets hidden about dangers to children," said Mr Clark, who in 2010 won a landmark lawsuit against the Boy Scouts on behalf of a plaintiff who was molested by an assistant scoutmaster in the 1980s.

In a statement, Scouts spokesman Deron Smith said: "There is nothing more important than the safety of our scouts." Mr Smith said there have been times when Scout responses to sex abuse allegations were "plainly insufficient, inappropriate, or wrong", and the organisation extends its "deepest and sincere apologies to victims and their families".

The Scouts in September said they would look into past cases to see whether there were times when abusers should have been reported to police.

In one case from the files, a distraught mother walked into a Louisiana sheriff's office in 1965 and said a 31-year-old scoutmaster had raped one of her sons and molested two others. Six days later, the scoutmaster sat down in front of a microphone in the same station and confessed.

He admitted to raping a 17-year-old boy on a camping trip and otherwise sexually molesting two other boys. The victims corroborated his confession. "They just occurred," the scoutmaster said. Seven days later, the decision was made not to pursue charges against him.

The man "was asked to leave the parish, and if he was caught around or near any boy or youth organisation, he would be sent to state prison immediately", a scouting executive wrote to national headquarters. "We are indeed sorry that scouting was involved."

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