The BBC reported yesterday that there has been an increase in the number of victims bringing civil claims against the Scout Association in relation to child sexual abuse since the allegations surrounding Jimmy Savile emerged in 2012.
The Scout Association, which was formed in 1907, has reportedly had to pay out around £500,000 in damages to Claimants since October 2012. Yesterday, it issued an apology to all those who had suffered sexual abuse during their time in the Scouts and said that the safety and support of young people in scouting was its “number one priority”.
The BBC has highlighted two cases of sexual abuse carried out by scoutmasters, where the abuse was not reported to the police despite it being known to the Scout Association. One of these cases concerns Martyn Tucker, a former scoutmaster who was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment in May after pleading guilty to 26 sex offences against young boys in the 1960s & 1970s.
Shockingly, during the criminal investigation the police discovered evidence at the Scout Association’s Headquarters of allegations of abuse made by boys which had never been brought to the attention of the authorities.
Whilst the Scouting Association admitted the failings, deeming them “inappropriate and unacceptable responses” and made reference to its written code of conduct which has for 20 years required adults to report suspected child abuse to the authorities, it is clear that further action is needed.
At present, there is no legal obligation for institutions to report suspected and known child abuse and Slater and Gordon Lawyers have been actively involved in a campaign to change the law in this regard. Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse would make it a criminal offence for institutions who are engaged in regulated activities not to report to the authorities all suspected and known child abuse. As an institution involved in carrying out a ‘regulated activity’ the Scout Association would be affected by this change in the law and we at Slater and Gordon Lawyers believe that it is a step in the right direction in preventing further instances of abuse. UK Government consultation on Mandatory Reporting is due commence shortly.
A number of these types of cases typically involve abuse by scoutmasters, however in such cases civil claims can be brought directly against the Scouting Association on the basis of vicarious liability.
Vicarious liability allows an institution to be held responsible for the wrongful acts of an abuser. In the past, it was necessary to show that the abuser was an employee of the relevant institution, however the Courts have expanded the law in this area and it is now sufficient to show that the relationship was “akin to employment”.
Quite often, scout masters are not directly employed by the Scouting Association but carry out their duties on a voluntary basis. This change in the law is therefore a positive step for victims of abuse as it means that sexual abuse cases now fall within the test for vicarious liability and civil claims are capable of being brought.
Slater and Gordon Lawyers have a specialist team of Sexual Abuse Lawyers with extensive experience in pursuing civil claims against the Scout Association and are representing a number of abuse victims.
We are currently representing sexual abuse victims in a civil action against the Scout Association in respect of abuse by former scout-leader, Peter John Halliwell, who was sentenced in March to 3 counts of indecent assault at Manchester Crown Court. If anyone has any further allegations against Halliwell whilst he was a Scoutmaster they should contact us or the police.
If anyone would like to discuss this article or has been the victim of abuse, either within the Scout Association or elsewhere and would like to speak to a member of our specialist abuse team we are more than happy to speak to them free of charge.
Call freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we’ll be happy to help. Our contact centre is open 24 hours 365 days a year. Any communication will be dealt with in the strictest confidence.
Jessica Standley is a Personal Injury Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers specialising in abuse cases.
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