Bereaved mothers call for independent governing body for Scouts after their sons' deaths

The mothers of two boys who died two decades apart have called for an independent body to govern the Scouts Association. North of England correspondent Kelly Foran sat down with them.

Two mothers of Scouts who died on camping trips have joined forces to call for a public enquiry into The Scout Association.

Jackie Leonard and Sharon Collins want the organisation to be externally governed after their young children died 20 years apart, in almost identical circumstances.

Scott and Ben are among 11 Scouts who went on camping trips and never came home.

The inquest heard no leader was with Ben when he fell.

Their mums are now connected through their grief, and their campaign for fundamental changes to the way the organisation is governed.

Ben Leonard, 16, from Stockport, Greater Manchester, had just purchased a copy of Pride and Prejudice from a charity shop in Llandudno when he went on a hike with his Scout group.

He was on a trip with Reddish Explorer Scouts in August 2018 when he suffered a serious head injury after falling from a cliff on the Great Orme in North Wales.

Following a two-month inquest at Manchester Civil Courts of Justice, a jury found Ben was unlawfully killed by the most senior Scout leader on the trip and an assistant Scout leader.

The jury also found that this was contributed to by neglect by The Scout Association.

Jackie said: "This is why they need to have a regulatory model like Ofsted, like the schools, to oversee outdoor activities.

"If you're taking children on outdoor activities and things like that they need to be properly audited and regulated.

"There's over half a million young people and children that they're looking after and come under the Scouts.

"I’m not saying that we should get rid of the Scouts or anything like that because they can do a lot of good."

Scott was 11 when he went on a camping trip at Ashworth Valley. He went for a morning walk with a group and one leader and fell 60ft down a ravine.

Scott Fanning died aged 11 after falling from a cliff during a Scout's trip in 1998

Sharon tells ITV News: "I said to one of the other adults that was there on the day I said, 'I'm really quite worried about letting him go for the weekend'. And then he said, 'Sharon, nothing can go wrong'."

His mother Sharon contacted Jackie when she saw on the news what happened to her son.

"They need to use what happened to the boys previously as as examples of learning. And that should form part of the training. And don't just forget about them as if their lives didn't matter, because the lives did matter."

Jennie Price, chairwoman of The Scout Association Board of Trustees, said: “We take today’s conclusion extremely seriously. We want to restate our wholehearted apology to Ben Leonard’s family and our deepest sympathies continue to be with his family and friends.

“As an organisation we are committed to learning. The jury heard how in this instance the local leaders did not follow our safety rules and processes. As a result of Ben’s tragic death in 2018, we have already made many changes to our risk assessments, safety rules, training and support we give our volunteers.”

She added: “Keeping young people safe from harm remains our number one priority at scouts. We emphatically refute allegations made in court about any criminal action on behalf of The Scout Association.”

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