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Scout leaders resist opening of 'perversion files'

They call them "perversion files", and more than 5,000 alleged child molesters aren't the only ones hoping to prevent their hitherto-secret contents ever being opened up.

Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is at the centre of a legal crisis as it attempts to block publication of documents that name and shame the extraordinary number of adults expelled from the organisation amid accusations of sexual misconduct.

Lawyers are fighting efforts to force disclosure of the files, which detail thousands of proven and unproven cases of abuse by scoutmasters and other volunteers.

The potential scale of the scandal was laid bare at the weekend by Richard Turley, a convicted paedophile and former scoutmaster who was able, over two decades, to abuse at least 15 boys in his care. At one point, he kidnapped a boy in a stolen aeroplane, and repeatedly raped him.

"It was so easy," Turley said, alleging that scouting officials not only failed to stop him, but sometimes helped to cover his tracks. A call to police in 1975, when he was first found to have abused young scouts, "probably would have put a stop to me years and years and years ago", he said.

Even after spending 18 months in a psychiatric hospital as a "mentally disordered sex offender", Turley (58) says he was allowed to rejoin the Scouts "and offend against the boys".

His story was uncovered by reporters who found Turley working at a motel in Alberta.

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Documents suggest that the laissez-faire attitude adopted towards Turley was in keeping with official scouting policy, which appears to have been designed to keep cases of child abuse out of the headlines. A confidential memo written by the organisation's leadership in 1972 said that scoutmasters accused of paedophilia ought to be quietly asked to leave, rather than reported to the police.

In Oregon, the State Supreme Court is considering a media request to force BSA to open 1,200 documents detailing alleged incidents of sexual abuse by scoutmasters. They were disclosed at a trial that resulted in a $20m judgment against the organisation.

A BSA spokesman said that official policy has been updated since the 1970s, with tighter screening and controls.

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