Review finds 71 Scouting abusers used camping trips in 60s, 70s and 80s

Review of the organisation identifies 71 alleged abusers and 108 cases so far

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone has told an Oireachtas committee that an audit of Scouting Ireland’s records has found evidence of 108 alleged child abuse victims. Video: Oireachtas TV

 

The number of alleged child sex abuse cases uncovered in an ongoing review by Scouting Ireland is expected to be “considerably” higher than the 108 identified so far, the organisation’s child protection manager Ian Elliott has warned.

The review of past abuse in the organisation identified 71 alleged abusers, who were primarily active between the 1960s and 1980s.

Many of those coming forward to tell of their alleged abuse said the incidents had taken place on camping trips.

Where alleged perpetrators were still alive, Scouting Ireland said it had made reports to An Garda Síochána and the State’s child protection watchdog, Tusla. In the majority of cases the alleged abusers were deceased, and none of them were still involved in Scouting Ireland, the organisation said.

The organisation had identified 14 alleged abusers who are thought to have abused multiple children, and sources familiar with the internal review said that of the small number of alleged sex abusers who are still alive, several are serving time in prison.

Safeguarding expert Ian Elliott, who has been conducting the review into past abuse in the Scouting Ireland, said he expected the number of known victims to increase ‘quite considerably’.
Safeguarding expert Ian Elliott, who has been conducting the review into past abuse in Scouting Ireland, said he expected the number of known victims to increase ‘quite considerably’.

The revelations of the extent of historic abuse in the youth organisation, which has 40,000 juvenile members working with 13,000 adult volunteers, were disclosed by Minister for Children Katherine Zappone to the Oireachtas committee on children and youth affairs on Wednesday.

Historic records

Mr Elliott, who has been conducting the review, said the cases of alleged child sex abuse were identified from an audit of historic records, interviews with former members, and from abuse victims who had come forward to the organisation in recent months.

It is very distressing to think that such a high number of sex offenders were able to gain access to children

He told the committee he expected the number of known victims to increase “quite considerably” as the review was still ongoing, and victims were contacting the organisation at an “increasing” rate.

Scouting Ireland officials believe the disclosure of the initial 108 cases of past abuse would likely result in further victims coming forward.

Maeve Lewis, executive director of abuse survivors charity One in Four, said the number of identified past abuse cases was astonishing.

“It is very distressing to think that such a high number of sex offenders were able to gain access to children through an organisation that had been trusted by generations of parents,” she said.

Scouting Ireland has been embroiled in controversy over safeguarding standards since the start of this year, when The Irish Times revealed a confidential report had found the organisation’s handling of a rape allegation, concerning two adult volunteers, had been “deeply flawed”.

Ms Zappone has twice suspended the organisation’s State funding in recent months over a lack of confidence in its governance following the scandal.

‘Deeply sorry’

In a statement following the committee hearing, Aisling Kelly, chair of the organisation’s new board, said Scouting Ireland was “deeply sorry for the hurt that has been caused by the actions of some past members”.

She said evidence from past cases had shown “neither the offenders nor the victims were always dealt with appropriately”.

“We cannot change the past, but we can make sure that this organisation is a safe environment for all our members now and into the future,” she said.

The organisation’s board would be exploring the possibility of setting up a “general compensation fund” so victims of abuse did not have to seek redress through the courts, Ms Kelly told the committee.

The organisation was also putting together a victims’ policy for how to best respond to abuse survivors.

“Money has been ring-fenced in relation to giving the necessary supports to victims, so the victims are being funded in relation to counselling if that’s required,” she told the committee.