Thursday 19 September 2019

Gardaí expect further arrests as probe into abuse in scouting movement widens

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Ralph Riegel

Gardai expect further arrests in a widening investigation into allegations of historic abuse within Ireland's scouting movement.

The revelation came as a man in his late 60s was released without charge after being arrested for questioning about an allegation of sexual assault at a scout camp in the early 1980s in the south west.

The allegation, lodged by a man now in his 40s, involved a claim of sexual assault conducted while the complainant was just a boy.

The man has alleged the incidents occurred over several years from 1983.

Gardaí questioned the man for almost 12 hours before releasing him without charge.

A file on the matter will now be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

A Garda source pointed out that their investigation was underway long before the shock caused by the publication of the report by child protection expert, Ian Elliot, into historic abuse allegations within Ireland's scouting movement.

The man arrested - well known within both scouting and business circles in the south - is understood to have vehemently denied the allegation.

He has been associated with first the Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland (CBSI) and its successor, Scouting Ireland, for over 30 years, holding positions both at troop and organisation level.

While the man does not hold any current position, he is still involved on the periphery of scouting.

The Irish Independent understands that at least a dozen investigations are now being conducted by Gardaí nationwide into allegations of sexual assault involving former scouts.

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone last week warned that both her office and Scouting Ireland were "flooded" with inquiries following the publication of the Elliot review.

These inquiries had flooded in from adults alleged they had been abused as children at scout events dating from the 1960s to the 1980s.

The Elliot review of abuse allegations within the scouting movement found indications of 71 alleged abusers as well as 108 victims dating from the 1960s through to the 1980s.

It is unclear if the individual arrested by Gardaí is one of the 71 names indicated in the review.

The review indicated that 14 of the alleged abusers had multiple victims.

The Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs was told that reports have been submitted, on the basis of the review findings, to both the Gardaí and Tusla.

Ms Zappone, who previously suspended funding for Scouting Ireland amid concerns over how it was handling the issue, said she had been assured that Scouting Ireland was committed to enforcing the highest possible level of child protection and safeguarding standards.

She acknowledged the youth organisation now faced "a very difficult time" and said she would remain in close contact with its board.

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