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US scouts brace for controversy

LOS ANGELES — The Boy Scouts of America could face a wave of bad publicity as decades of records of confirmed or alleged child molesters within the US organisation are expected to be released in coming weeks.

Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times reported the organisation failed to report allegations of sex abuse of scouts by adult leaders and volunteers to police in hundreds of cases from 1970 to 1991. In some cases, the Boy Scouts helped the accused “cover their tracks”, the paper said.

The story was based on a review of 1,600 internal Boy Scouts case files the newspaper said it obtained that detailed accusations against confirmed or alleged child molesters within the youth organisation.

About 1,200 “ineligible volunteer” files dating from 1965 to 1985 are set to be publicly released under a June order by the Oregon Supreme Court, including some already reviewed by the newspaper.

Those files played a key role in a 2010 civil trial in which an Oregon jury found the Boy Scouts liable in a 1980s paedophile case and ordered the organisation to pay nearly $20 million in damages.

The files will be released within three to four weeks, said Paul Mones, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiff in the Oregon case.

In the wake of revelations about systemic child sex abuse within the Catholic Church and the recent Penn State sex abuse scandal, the files threaten to damage the reputation of one of America’s most trusted institutions.

Mones said the allegations revealed in the Oregon case are not necessarily comparable to the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal.

The Boy Scouts of America said in a statement on Sunday that while it regrets past incidents where scouts were sexually abused, its current policies require even suspicions of abuse to be reported directly to law enforcement. (Reuters)

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