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February 17, 2020

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‘The lives of young people are being put at risk by the Scout Association’, says Coroner

A report has claimed that The Scout Association is risking the lives of children and young people, through inadequate supervision during dangerous activities.

The Scout AssociationThis came after 16-year-old Ben Leonard, from Stockport, Greater Manchester, died after falling from the Great Orme in Llandudno, in August 2018, while on a trip with the Association.

In a Prevention of Future Deaths report, Assistant Coroner for North Wales and Central, David Pojur, revealed several safety breaches that put the young people in risk of, including:

  • No list of participants on the trip;
  • No risk assessment being carried out;
  • No full understanding of what a risk assessment was by the leaders.

Coroner David Pojur added that none of the scout leaders on the trip knew where Ben was when he fell and died. The three leaders on duty on the trip, Sean Glaister, Gareth Williams and Mary Carr, assumed Ben and his friends were with another leader when the incident happened.

Additionally, he said that the Reddish Explorer Scouts trip did not adhere to the Scout Association’s own policies, which The Scout Association has said it had strengthened since the death.

Mr Pojur was critical that the Scout Association failed to tell the inquest that the leaders had been placed on restricted duties after the death, as a result the inquest jury at Ruthin County Court was discharged after new evidence was revealed.

He told the jury they had been “misled” by not being presented with the information about the leaders.

A second inquest is due on 13 July, where the Chief Executive of the Scout Association is expected to be called to give evidence.

In his report, Mr Pojur, said: “The lives of young people are being put at risk by the Scout Association’s failure to recognise the inadequacies of their operational practice and the part this has played in the death of Ben.”

A statement from the Scout Association said: “We were truly saddened by Ben’s tragic death. This was a terrible event, and our deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends. We take this matter very seriously. We will be carefully considering the coroner’s concerns and will respond in detail. The safety of young people is our number one priority. Following this tragic event, we have strengthened our policies and procedures to ensure young people can enjoy activities safely.”

Ben’s mother, Jackie Leonard, described him as “a wonderful boy and a fantastic son and brother.”

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