Sunday 21 July 2019

Criminal probes begin over alleged abuse in Scouts

Complainants contact gardai directly to say they are victims

Gardai have launched a number of criminal investigations into allegations of abuse relating to Scouting Ireland. (Stock Photo)
Gardai have launched a number of criminal investigations into allegations of abuse relating to Scouting Ireland. (Stock Photo)
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

Gardai have launched a number of criminal investigations into allegations of abuse relating to Scouting Ireland.

The investigations were instigated on foot of complaints relating to "individuals associated with" the national scouting organisation.

A number of complainants are understood to have contacted Garda directly to report alleged abuse against a backdrop of controversy over Scouting Ireland's handling of complaints.

The Garda's protective services bureau is also working with Scouting Ireland and the child and family agency, Tusla, to assess which of the historic complaints held on file for decades warrant further investigation.

A review of historic cases by child safety consultant, Ian Elliot, revealed 71 alleged perpetrators and 108 alleged victims of abuse. He told an Oireachtas Committee that victims have been coming forward in increasing numbers.

Scouting Ireland told the Minister for Children, Katherine Zappone, last week that 80 people contacted the organisation to say they were victims of abuse.

It is understood of the 71 alleged perpetrators identified by Scouting Ireland's review team, many are dead and none of those who are still alive are involved in Scouting Ireland. Most of the cases date between the 1960s and 1980s.

Scouting Ireland will provide updated figures on the numbers of alleged perpetrators and alleged victims to the minister later this month.

Gardai declined to reveal how many complaints are being investigated or the number of individuals associated with Scouting Ireland who are involved.

A statement from the press office said: "An Garda Siochana has begun investigations into a number of complaints relating to individuals associated with Scouting Ireland."

The statement continued that gardai "are continuing to liaise with Scouting Ireland's review group and with Tusla in relation to these matters".

A man who was arrested and questioned in Cork last week about historic allegations of sexual offences had been the subject of a complaint that pre-dated the current controversy at Scouting Ireland. He was later released without charge.

Mr Elliot told an Oireachtas Committee that he had spoken to a number of victims, as well as reviewing the Scouting Ireland's files.

He said certain locations and activities seemed to feature prominently in victims' stories.

"In respect of the victims with whom I have spoken, it is obvious that residential camps and jamborees are high-risk activities as far as the victims are concerned.

"Abuse is frequently reported from those activities. In a way, it makes sense. When a child or young person is removed from the protective care to which he or she is subject in the home environment, that child or young person is more vulnerable and it is harder to put in place good signed safeguarding processes for those activities."

In a statement to the Sunday Independent, the Garda also appealed to victims to come forward, saying "each and every complaint" will be investigated "with professionalism and compassion. An Garda Siochana is appealing to any victims who have not yet come forward to make a complaint at their local Garda station or via the confidential historical abuse phone line at 1800 555 222".

Sunday Independent

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