Boy Scouts 'perversion files' go public

2012-06-14 21:38

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Portland - A court in the US has approved the release of so-called "perversion files" compiled by the Boy Scouts of America on suspected child molesters within the organisation over two decades, giving the public its first chance to review the files on 1 200 people.

The files, gathered from 1965 to 1985, came to light when they were used as evidence in a landmark Oregon ruling in 2010 that the Scouts had failed to protect a plaintiff who had been molested by an assistant scoutmaster in the early 1980s.

The Scouts were ordered to pay the man $18.5m.

The case drew attention to the organisation's efforts to keep child molesters out of its leadership ranks. In recent years, the Boy Scouts have faced numerous lawsuits from men who say they were molested as children by scout leaders.

The 20 000-page files contain accusations against scout leaders that ranged from child abuse to lesser offences that would prohibit them from working in the organisation.

The Boy Scouts fought to keep the files sealed, arguing that opening them could unfairly affect those who were suspected, but never convicted of abuse.

Media organisations, including The Associated Press, The Oregonian and The New York Times, challenged the Scouts' effort to keep the files under seal, arguing that their introduction by attorneys in the suit makes them public record. A judge agreed.

The files are part of a larger trove of confidential documents the Boy Scouts began compiling several decades ago on people flagged as being possible molesters.

By 1935, a New York Times article said the organisation had 2 910 "cards" on men who were unfit to supervise young boys.

Scouts' executives had no written guidelines on the subject until a 1972 memo urged them to keep such files confidential "because of misunderstandings which could develop if it were widely distributed".

"Scouts are safer because those files exist," the Boy Scouts said in a statement released on Thursday.

"While we respect the court, we are still concerned that the release of two decades' worth of confidential files into public view, even with the redactions indicated, may still negatively impact victims' privacy and have a chilling effect on the reporting of abuse."

In the 2010 case, the jury decided the Boy Scouts were negligent for allowing former assistant scoutmaster Timur Dykes to associate with scouts, including plaintiff Kerry Lewis, after Dykes admitted to a scouts official in 1983 that he had molested 17 boys, according to court records.

Lewis' attorneys argued that the scouts should have opened the perversion files decades ago.

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