Scouts kept files on paedophile suspects

The files contained allegations of disturbing incidents, such as a case where a male scoutmaster had written love letters to a 12 or 14-year-old boy Scout.SCOUTS in New South Wales kept ”behavioural” and unofficial ”red” files on suspected paedophile Scout leaders detailing allegations that had not always been reported to police, say former Scout officials.
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The existence of the files, dating from the 1960s to the 1990s, was confirmed by the former chief executive of the Scouts Australia New South Wales branch, Peter Olah, and a former district and regional commissioner, Des Hocking, this week.

The branch had earlier this week denied it had any official or unofficial red files, saying they only kept a record of ”administrative matters arising during the provision of the Scouting program, which were not published but were available to police or any appropriate authority if needed”.

But a Scouts NSW spokeswoman said the organisation passed on claims about the files uncovered by The Saturday Age to police.

The revelations come as Scouts in the US were revealed to be keeping secret ”perversion files” on hundreds of suspected paedophiles.

The allegations about similar files being kept in Australia were uncovered after The Saturday Age investigated how a suspected paedophile scoutmaster in the Hunter Valley was allowed to maintain contact with boy Scouts – some of whom he abused – despite being the subject of complaints.

This week Mr Hocking confirmed the keeping of red files was common among commissioners. Mr Hocking, who retired from Scouts three years ago, revealed the practice while explaining how Scouts had failed to quickly expel the paedophile Steve ”Skip” Larkins, who abused Scouts in the 1990s. Larkins was suspended in 2000 despite concerns being raised about him years earlier.

Mr Hocking said Scout leaders suspected of paedophile behaviour and named in his own ”red files” were not reported to police because there had not been distinct criminal acts.

But the files still contained allegations of disturbing incidents, such as a case where a male scoutmaster had written love letters to a 12 or 14-year-old boy Scout in the mid to late 1990s.

Another dealt with complaints about a young Scout leader notorious for grabbing the underwear of girl Scouts.

He did not report the letter writer to the police because it was a ”stupid misdemeanour”.

”We had no evidence it had gone beyond a letter of infatuation. You couldn’t cut someone’s head off for it,” he said.

Mr Hocking said both of the Scout leaders detailed in the files had received official warnings and left the region. But he was unhappy to learn that the letter-writer had received a Scouting award in another region.

He said he burnt his red files after he left Scouting because he did not want them turning up at a dump and being read.

Mr Olah said the organisation had a ”half drawer” of files detailing ”suspicions” about leaders when he started in the head office in the late 1990s.

He handed them to police soon after starting as chief executive in 1999-2000. ”There was stuff going back to the 1960s and most of those were people [who were complained about] who were either convicted or long dead,” he said. Another former Scouting official, Charles Watson, said he was unaware of ”red” files but noted that headquarters had been sent reports about suspected paedophiles which should still be archived.

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