Scouts: Millions paid out over UK abuse in last 10 years, say lawyers

Posted: 15th June 2023

Millions of pounds have been paid out in the last ten years to people who were abused in the Scouts, lawyers say.

BBC File on 4 contacted 13 law firms who specialise in child abuse claims, and data from the eight that responded revealed more than £6m had been paid out in compensation in the last decade.

Some 166 cases were settled over the same time, while more female survivors were now coming forward, lawyers said.

The Scout Association said it was “deeply sorry” anyone suffered abuse.

It comes as two women, who both say they were abused in the Scouts, have started a campaign asking the organisation to change its safeguarding policy.

Historical cases

File on 4 contacted 13 firms who specialise in abuse claims, all in the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers.

According to data from the lawyers who responded, at least 260 claims were taken on against the Scouts in the last ten years, and 166 cases were settled. Some 50 had been unsuccessful and others were still ongoing.

The BBC asked the Scouts how much money it had paid out in the last ten years.

The association said it had not been able to get to a definitive number because much of the information related to historical cases and was spread across numerous insurers – but the number of payouts broadly matched what they were aware of.

According to the association, 96% of claims related to offences that happened prior to 2013 – with many from the 1960s to 1990s. But some have happened more recently, including in the last few years.

Hundreds of thousands of children across the UK are signed up as members of the Scout Association, whose programmes include Squirrels, Beavers, Cub Scouts, as well as Scouts and Explorer Scouts for older children.

Abbie Hickson, from Bolt Burdon Kemp solicitors, says her firm has settled more than 100 abuse claims in the last ten years.  She said a key problem was “safeguarding policy relies much on the integrity of the adult involved”.

“Scout leaders who sexually abused children in their care are by their very nature highly manipulative, secretive, devious and opportunistic individuals. And their very aim is to separate a child from the group in order to facilitate that abuse.”

Dino Nocivelli, from Leigh Day solicitors, has spent the last 20 years representing abuse survivors. He said the number of female complainants was rising.

Young women were able to join the Venture Scouts from 1976. Then, in 1991, girls were allowed to join across all age groups – but it wasn’t until 2007 that it became compulsory for Scout groups to accept girls.

“In the last 12 months, a number of women and girls have contacted me about sexual abuse in the Scouts,” Mr Nocivelli said. “This is not an issue from the 60s, 70s, 80s. This abuse is happening in the 2000 and the 2010s and sadly the 2020s.”

Sheanna Patelmaster, 27, and Lucy Pincott, 29, both say they were abused when they joined the Scouts, in 2007.

Sheanna was 13, and her leader was 24. She says he noticed she was having an unhappy time at home and offered to let her stay at his house one night a week after Scouts.  It was there, she says, he sexually assaulted her on numerous occasions.

Lucy was also 13 when she says she was groomed by a young leader. He bought her necklaces and he would often arrange to meet her before Scouts.

It was at one of these meetings that Lucy says she was forced to have sex with him. She says the sexual abuse continued for nine months in the grounds where the Scout meetings took place and on camps.

Lucy says other adult volunteers were aware of what was going on but failed to report the abuse. She subsequently sued the Scout Association for failing in their duty of care. It didn’t accept liability but settled out of court, paying Lucy £160,000.

Sheanna and Lucy have now set up a petition asking the Scouts to change their safeguarding policies.

They want a paid safeguarding lead officer in every Scout county in the UK, who would be responsible for monitoring the conduct of volunteers and ensuring allegations of abuse are properly reported. They are calling for both the Scouts and Girl Guiding to be subject to an inspection regime, similar to Ofsted.

The campaign, called Yours in Scouting, includes a call for personal testimonies from anyone who has suffered abuse in the Scouts.

In a statement, the Scout Association told the BBC: “Any form of abuse is abhorrent and we’re sorry for Sheanna and Lucy’s terrible experiences.”

It added: “In the UK almost half a million young people enjoy Scouts every week and nothing is more important than their safety. We have robust safeguarding policies, training and procedures in place.  These are now reviewed every other year by the NSPCC.”

Source: Scouts: Millions paid out over UK abuse in last 10 years, say lawyers – BBC News

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