Review of Scouting Ireland and calls for a Statutory Inquiry | Fieldfisher
Skip to main content

Review of Scouting Ireland and calls for a Statutory Inquiry

Hannah Unger



On 14 May 2020, the report in relation to Scouting Ireland's historical child sex abuse scandal was published. The Report titled 'The 'Historical Sexual Abuse in Scouting: A Learning Review' (the "Elliot Report") was commissioned by Scouting Ireland and was written and compiled by child protection consultant Ian Elliott. The Report found that there was a cover-up and a failure to report abuse within Scouting Ireland.

Key Points
Of note from the Elliot Report:
  • There was evidence that sex offenders at the top level of the legacy organisations (i.e. the bodies that preceded Scouting Ireland) operated in groups to protect each other, “preventing any attempts to hold an alleged offender accountable for their actions, if they were part of their group”.  
  • Volunteers who attempted to report abuse were put under pressure and told that certain senior officials were “too important” to be challenged.  
  • The overriding response to abuse allegations by former figures in positions of leadership “was to protect the organisation’s reputation". The existing practice was for alleged abusers to be asked to resign from scouting, leaving with “their good name in place”, without any report being made to the relevant authorities. Records showed in these situations the motivation was to protect the organisations’ reputation and prevent “negative publicity” with no attention paid to the protection of the vulnerable child. 
  • The previous record-keeping system of files related to alleged child abuse cases was “chaotic” and material was “often stored in the homes of key volunteers”. Despite repeated requests over the past two years for these files to be passed to Scouting Ireland’s headquarters in Larch Hill, “very little additional documentation has been surrendered”. 
  • There were a number of examples of individuals facing allegations leaving one legacy scout body to join the other one. In conclusion, Mr Elliott said the review of past cases “shows clear mismanagement and a gross failure to respond to risk” with known abusers persistently not held to account and allowed to remain in scouting bodies.
According to the Elliot report, all interviews took place outside of scout property and notes were taken with the agreement of the interviewee. All interviewees were asked if they would participate in the Review, but no compulsion could be placed on anyone to contribute. They were told that a report would be published at the end of the process, but that their identities would be anonymised and they would not be quoted directly in the report. It is unclear from the Report whether the interviewees had legal representatives with them during their interviews.
Statutory Inquiry
The Elliot review process did not have a statutory basis thus resulting in Mr Elliot being largely dependent upon the goodwill of the persons being interviewed. Whilst Mr Elliot acknowledges in his report the goodwill and cooperation of most members of the organisation, Mr Elliot commented as follows:
"It also must be said that in the opinion of the reviewer, some of those that contributed provided only a limited amount of information, and had more to tell, but did not see fit to do so within this process. Whether that is a result of memory loss or some other factor, cannot be determined. In some cases, the time periods involved stretch over decades."
The Department of Children and Youth Affairs has said consideration is being given as to whether a statutory inquiry into Scouting Ireland would uncover new information. The Department stated that the Elliot Report suggests that a statutory inquiry may face the same limitations as his review, some of those limitations being;
  • Several subjects whose actions were to be scrutinised by this process are now deceased;  
  • Historical cases which are the current subject of Garda investigations were excluded from the Elliot Report so as not to interfere with the criminal process;  
  • As set out above, there was also a widespread practice of senior volunteers holding Scouting Ireland documentation in their home. Some documentation was provided to Mr Elliot but others were not. Mr Elliot states in his Report that it is thought that such documentation may have been destroyed but that this cannot be proven.
The full text of the Elliot Report can be accessed here.

Areas of Expertise

Public and Regulatory