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Scouting sex abuse cases are situations where youth involved in Scouting programs have been sexually abused by someone who is also involved in the scouting program (an adult scout leader, or more rarely, a fellow scout). In some instances, the victims have laid formal charges, resulting in specific legal cases.

Details by country


In 2004, a 48-year-old, former Scout Association of Australia leader in South Australia, Gregory John Kench, was charged with having sex with a 13-year-old boy two times. Kench was sentenced to 10 years in jail. This was his second conviction in five years for sexual abuse against Scouts. The offences occurred in 1991, 1992 and 1993.[1][2]

In September 2009, a 61-year-old man and former Scout leader in South Australia, was convicted of sexually assaulting an 11-year old boy. The abuse took place over four years in the 1980s. The man was not named to save his own teenage son from embarrassment.[3]


In 1997, John Adams, a former Scouts Canada leader, was sentenced in 1997 to 16 months in jail for sexually assaulting a young Ottawa, Ontario scout. The abuse occurred from 1979 to 1985, from the time the youth was 9 to 15 years old, and took place in the offender’s home and Scouts Canada properties.[4]

In 2001, Brian Durham, a former Kitchener, Ontario Scout leader, pleaded guilty to 27 counts of assault, sexual touching and counseling to commit sexual acts. Many more charges were dropped in exchange for his guilty plea. The offenses were committed against 20 children from January 1991 to March 2000. Separately, the court was handling six additional charges against Durham based on offenses he committed in 1973 and 1974, that fell under a now defunct act.[5] [6]


A 37-year old Norwich, England man who had been a former Scout leader pleaded guilty in 2009 to five charges of having sex with a child. The sexual activity started about 2004, when the child was 13 years old, and continued for three years. The offender, Julien Pike, was sentenced to four years in jail. In reaction to the case, an official of The Scout Association said, "The association is aware that Julien Pike has pleaded guilty to the charges laid before him. Pike was suspended from any form of contact with the movement as soon as we were aware of the arrest. The Scout Association carries out stringent vetting of all adults who work with young people." [7][8]


In 2003, John O’Leary, a 42-year old man and former Scout leader was sentenced to three years in prison. The Cork City resident and father of two was charged with having performed oral sex on an 11-year old Boy Scout more than 20 years earlier at Scout camps. The victim, who was not named, "...said he had gone through hell since he was sexually assaulted, suffering depression and having relationship problems. He said the day in court was a long time coming, and added that because of the abuse, he had been permanently stained for life.” [9]

In 2008, Wilson Reid, a 49-year-old Scout leader in Portadown, Northern Ireland, was arrested and charged with count of rape, three counts of indecent assault against a male child and one count of supplying intoxicating substances to a person under 18. These incidents took place in 1997 and 1998.[10]

New Zealand

A number of sex abuse cases have occurred in the scouting movement in New Zealand.

In 1996 Donald John MacFarlane was convicted and fined $15,000 for indecently assaulting two boys. He was a scout leader for one of the boys. The abuse happened in Southland between January 1972 and December 1974.[11]

In 1999 David John White, a scout leader in the Porirua suburb of Whitby, pleaded guilty to eight charges of indecently assaulting scouts at his home between 1984 and 1998. Two other scout leaders, Thomas Donahue and Neville Palmer from Whitby, were also prosecuted for indecent assault.[12]

Two Auckland scout leaders, Andrew John Pybus and Nigel Richard Fenemor, were jailed in 2005 for seven years for sexually assaulting two boys under the age of 16.[13]



In 2006, Alan Grant, a 42-year old man who had held Scouting leadership positions in Scotland for more than 20 years, admitted to abusing two 15-year old boys in his home in 2006. To entice the boys to visit his home, Grant had set up a “fake camp,” complete with fake parent authorization forms, and obtained the parents’ permission for the boys to attend. Instead, the boys were taken to his home and given alcohol before the abuse took place. He was sentenced to nine months in jail. In response, the Scottish Scouting Association representative said the organization’s background checks were as “robust’ as they could be.”[14]

Earlier in 2006, Paul Firth, a former Scottish Scout Association leader, was jailed for a "indecency involving boys as young as eight between 1974 to 1996" [15]

United States

There have been more than 2,000 US cases of abuse within the Boy Scouts of America prior to 1994 by Scout leaders, yet abuse is still occurring as evidenced by one abuse case as recently as 2005 to 2006.[16][17] In the 1980s, the Boy Scouts of America, the largest US youth organization with 4 million members, created a sex abuse education and prevention program entitled the Youth Protection program to help address the problem. The high risk of volunteer organizations, such as the Boy Scouts of America has been widely recognized.[18]

US abuse cases include:

  • Joe Gibson, a Scoutmaster in the St. Petersburg, Florida area, was convicted in June 1982 for molesting scouts on camping trips.[19]
  • Timur Dykes is a former Oregon Boy Scout leader who admitted to abusing a boy who was about 12 in the 1980s.[20] In a 2010 case involving Dykes, plaintiff Kerry Lewis, represented by trial lawyer Kelly Clark of Portland, won the jury trial and the largest punitive damages to date ($18.5m) awarded for sexual molestation in the Boy Scouts.[21]
  • Martin Turner, a 64-year old former Boy Scout leader in Texas, pleaded guilty in 2008 to two counts of indecency with a child by contact and one count of attempted indecency with a child by contact. He had abused two children in cases going back up to 40 years.[22]
  • David McDonald Rankin, a former Scoutmaster in College Park, Maryland, was convicted for sexually abusing teenage Scouts between 1984 and 1987. He forced Scouts to have sex with him, once threatening a youth with a knife.[23]
  • Gary Lee Gephart, a former Cub Scout leader in Oceanside, California, was convicted in 1996 for molesting three boys, ages 7 to 12.[24]
  • Howard W. Curtis, a 58-year old Haverhill, Massachusetts librarian and former Scout leader, pled guilty in May 2008 to two counts of raping a boy in his troop more than two decades ago. The 13-year-old victim was forced to engage in various sexual activities and was videotaped. During the trial, two other Scouts testified that Curtis also had abused them, but the statute of limitations had prohibited prosecution of their cases.[25]
  • James Hiatt, a former Boy Scout leader in Texas, was convicted in May 2008 of nine of 10 counts related to his fondling and sexual contact with a 12-year-old Scout. The abuse took place about 2003 to 2005.[26][27]
  • Gary Wade Brown, a former Boy Scout Leader in Orem, Utah, who in 2009 pled guilty to four counts of sexual abuse of a child and sexual exploitation of a minor, second-degree felonies, and one count of lewdness involving a child, a Class A misdemeanor. Seven additional charges were dismissed as part of a plea agreement. The abuse involved a 12-year old boy and took place between 2005 and 2006.[17]

1991 Washington Times investigation

In May 1991 the Washington Times published a major five-part investigation entitled “Scouts Honor” on sex abuse in the BSA. Staff from the newspaper had worked for two years preparing the series, reviewing internal and personnel records from the Boy Scouts; tens of thousands of pages of court records from more than 20 states; and more than 1,000 newspaper articles about abused Scouts; as well as interviewing more than 200 people, including molesters, families of victims, Scout leaders, sex abuse experts and lawyers. The newspaper restricted itself to reported cases of male Scout leaders abusing boy scouts prior to the introduction of its Youth Protection program. In summation they wrote “The Boy Scouts are a magnet for men who want to have sexual relations with children...Pedophiles join the Scouts for a simple reason: it’s where the boys are.”[18]

The series of articles drew on three historical sources:

  • Historical “confidential files” (formerly known as the “Ineligible Volunteer Files”) within Scout records, with details on 231 Scout leaders banned from Scouting for sexual misconduct from 1975 through 1984.
  • 50 lawsuits against the Scouts by families of molested boys from around the US.
  • A list from the BSA of more than 350 men banned for sexual misconduct from 1971 to 1986.

The newspaper discovered that at least 1,151 Scouts reported being abused by their leaders over a 19 year period: they published a detailed list of 416 cases from 1971-1990 where a US Scout leader who was arrested or banned from Scouting for sexual abuse of Scouts, adding that experts said the real number of abusers and victims was probably several times higher. The newspaper articles later formed the basis for a book by the main journalist involved, Patrick Boyle: Scout's Honor: Sexual Abuse in America's Most Trusted Institution.

The article series, written shortly after the inception of BSA's Youth Protection program, said "After decades of shying away from the problem, the Scouts have created what many child abuse experts call one of the best sex abuse education programs in the country. The program teaches boys, leaders and parents about resisting, recognizing and reporting abuse." [18]

Legal actions

A number of families of abused boys have brought law suits against the Boy Scouts of America. For example in the five years from 1986 to 1991 the BSA and their local councils paid or agreed to pay more than $15 million in damages to settle lawsuits over boys who were sexually abused by Scout leaders, a study of 50 lawsuits against the Scouts showed. According to the Scouts federal tax returns, payments to just one law firm in Miami working on abuse cases for the BSA totaled more than one-half million dollars; the BSA insurance reserve, from which the damages are paid, stood at $61.9 million.[18]

The actual payment total, said the Washington Times in 1991, is probably far higher because the Scouts sometimes agree to pay damages only if the payments are kept secret. Keeping any type of damage award confidential is very commonly required by insurers.

In August 2007, the Washington state Supreme Court ordered the BSA to hand over documents concerning sexual abuse by Scout leaders. These documents show that the organization has removed about 180 of its leaders each year (about one every other day). [28]

In 2010, a report said that in the US, the Scouts were reported to have settled about 60 similar cases out of court over recent years.[21]

Scouting related activities where sexual abuse had occurred

Records showed that abuse incidents were most likely to occur during campouts or while boys are sleeping over at the abuser’s home. Some of the traditions, situations and ploys that abusers had turned into conduits for sex are:[18]

  • Campouts: According to Kenneth Lannings, "A skilled pedophile who can get children into a situation where they must change clothing or stay with him overnight will almost always succeed in seducing them".[29]
  • Sexually related games
  • Misuse of authority and loyalty
  • Initiation rites
  • Trips alone
  • Sleepovers
  • 'Awards'

To prevent abuse, all of the above activities are banned or restricted by the BSA's Youth Protection program

Response by the BSA

Scouting was among the first national youth organizations to address the issue of sexual abuse of its members and in the 1980s developed its Youth Protection program. The goal of the YPP is to educate youth, leaders and parents about the problem as a whole, and to introduce barriers to pedophiles using the Scout program to reach victims. Despite these efforts, sex abuse cases still occur within the Boy Scouts.

See also


  1. "Scout Leader Jailed for 10 Years for Sex Abuse", ABC News, Australia, Sept 30 2004.
  2. "Scoutmaster jailed for abusing boy", Sydney [Australia] Morning Herald, Sept. 30, 2004 5:00PM.
  3. "Scout Leader Overstepped Mark with Boys", ABC Perth, Sept 17 2009.
  4. "Sex abuse victim sues scouts Canada", by Tony LofaroThe Spectator, Hamilton, Ontario, March 13, 1997. Abstract available.
  5. "Ex-scout leader abused 20 children over 30 years", Toronto Star, Jan 20, 2001.
  6. "Former scout leader set to appear",Waterloo Record, Oct 24 2000.
  7. "Scout leader jailed for boy abuse", BBC News, Nov 29 2009.
  8. "Norwich Scout Leader Accused of Child Sex Offenses", Evening News 24, Norwich, England, July 21, 2009.
  9. "Former Scout Leader Jailed for Child Abuse", RTÉ News, Dublin, Ireland. 13 Feb 2003.
  10. "Ex Scout Boss Held in Kid Abuse Claim", Galloway Gazette, June 26, 2008
  11. Claridge, Anna (2003-01-28). "Cyf "Child, Youth and Family" Pobe [Probe?] Manager's Sex Abuse Record". The Southland Times.
  12. "Sex Abuse Victim Rejects Scout Leader's Apology". Waikato Times. 1999-04-09.
  13. "Scout Pair Jailed for Child Abuse". The New Zealand Herald. 2005-02-09. Retrieved 2008-06-20.
  14. "Scout Leader Jailed for Boy Abuse", BBC News, 5 Dec 2006.
  15. "Scout leader jailed for sex abuse". BBC News. 2006-06-29. Retrieved 2010-05-23.
  16. Outline of Patrick Boyle book Scouts Honor. University of Maryland website.
  17. 17.0 17.1 "Former Orem Boy Scout Leader Sentenced", by Janice Peterson, Daily Herald, Provo, Utah, Aug. 18 2009.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 Patrick, Boyle (1991). "Scouts Honor". The Washington Times.
  19. "Scout Leader Sentenced 15 Years for Molesting", Sarasota Herald Tribune, June 13, 1982.
  20. "Files Logging Scout Abuse Are a Focus in Civil Trial", by William Yardley, March 17, 2010, NY Times.
  21. 21.0 21.1 "Sexual abuse scandal rocks Boy Scouts of America after $18.5m payout: Organisation accused of cover-up as it seeks to keep thousands of 'perversion files' secret", by Chris McGreal,, 29 April 2010 20.02 BST. Retrieved 2010-07-15.
  22. "Former Scouts Leader Sentenced for Indecency with a Child", Texas Cable News, Dec 22, 2008.
  23. "Former Scout Leader Sentenced for Abuse", Associated Press via Lewiston [ME] Journal and Google, Feb 9 1988.
  24. "Ex-scout Leader Gets Maximum for Molestations", Los Angeles Times, Aug 10 1996.
  25. "Ex Boy Scout Leader Admits to Rape", by Sally Jacobs, Boston Globe, May 8, 2008.
  26. "Scout Leader Sentenced to 60 Years for Child Sex Assault", KSAT-TV, San Antonio, May 30, 2008.
  27. "Ex Scout Leader Guilty of Sex Assault", Express News, May 29, 2008.
  28. "Boy Scouts' secret "degenerate" files revealed". London: Yahoo news / Planet Out. Retrieved 2007-10-02.
  29. Kenneth V. Lanning, Child Sex Rings: A Behavioral Analysis, 1987.

Additional reading

External links

  • 1994 Article on CBS News and other reporting of sex abuse within scouting, in the American Journalism Review, March 1994 [1]
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