Two women have accused the Scouts of "silencing" them after they spoke out claiming they were sexually abused by their Scout leader.
The two women also claimed that Phillip Perks, from Dinas Powys in south Wales, was allowed to keep his position for around seven years after they informed a Scout commissioner about his alleged crimes.
Perks, known locally as Pinky, led Les Pugh’s Own Explorer Scout Unit in Penarth for two decades. He was arrested and questioned by police over allegations of sexual assault after his alleged victims reported him in March 2022.
The 55-year-old was found dead a few days later and his body discovered in the Scouts hut. It is believe he took his own life with an inquest yet to be held.
The women, who were teenagers at the time, also accused the organisation of "protecting" their attacker. Responding to the allegations, the Scouts said that the safety of young people in its care is its “number one priority”, with everyone working to a “strict code of practice”.
The two alleged victims said the abuse happened when they were both aged 16 and members of the Scouts.
Despite the allegations, Perks was kept on as a leader by Scouts Cymru until his suspension from the organisation days before his death.
Less than two years prior, in 2020, he had received Scouting’s highest award.
South Wales Police have confirmed the husband and father-of-two was being investigated on suspicion of sexual assault by touching. A force spokesman said he died while on bail “prior to a charging decision being reached by the Crown Prosecution Service”.
Alleged victims Anna and Katy – not their real names - said they have repeatedly asked the Scouts to tell all former and current members about their allegations against Perks, but say they have instead felt “silenced” and were made to feel “small”. They are now pursuing a civil claim against the Scouts in order to “obtain a sense of justice and closure”.
Hoping to ensure the safeguarding of young people, Anna said: “I’m just so worried that there are other people out there who have been abused by him. But it feels like there is a systematic attempt to silence us and get us to drop it.”
She added that both women had tried “time and again” to get the Scouts to inform people of Perks’ alleged crimes, but claimed their “stonewalling” had “perpetuated the abuse” and made them feel “small”.
“As soon as you realise that it’s not your fault, as soon as you realise that this was actually a predator, and that he did it to other people, it just completely changes your mindset.
“It’ll be difficult for people to reconcile the two people – the person who did wonderful things for scouting, and the abuser,” Anna said.
Katy said: “Whether he was alive or dead they should have told parents, surely they would want to know? It just feels like they’re protecting him, or his reputation.”
Anna and Katy said they were assaulted on separate occasions while they were in Perks’ care and they told each other about the abuse shortly after it happened.
They reported it at the time to a junior leader, who they believe was not trained to deal with such complaints, and said he “blindsided” them with an after school meeting in the field next to the Scouts hut, which Perks attended.
While Anna said she “went into full panic attack mode” and left, never to return to Scouts again, Katy felt pushed into confronting her alleged attacker.
Katy said Perks “just denied it all” and did not seem upset by their accusations, and said he claimed that if it had happened he must have done it in his sleep.
It is alleged a commissioner was told about Anna’s allegations in 2016. It is understood he denies this. He has since been suspended from his position and is the subject of an internal investigation.
The Scouts said it was unable to comment further on the circumstances around the commissioner’s suspension, but in an email sent to volunteers of Cardiff and Vale Scouts on Saturday 18 February it said he was suspended following Perks’ death and is being investigated for “failure to report an incident within the given timescales”.
The email, which was prompted by the PA news agency contacting the Scouts for comment, also said it “cannot be proven” currently that the historic complaints were made.
It asked volunteers not to engage in “speculation” or speak to the media, before reminding them to follow safeguarding procedures and report any issues immediately.
Tributes to Perks posted by the social media accounts of local Scouts groups after his death have this week been taken down.
The Scouts said its “number one priority” was the safety of young people in its care, with everyone working to a “strict code of practice”.
“We are aware of this case and are in communication with the two young women who have shared their story with you. We are taking the information they’ve given us very seriously,” the spokesperson said.
“This is a complex and detailed case and we have worked with the police on the issues raised, particularly around the issue of other potential victims.
“We are progressing our own internal investigations and we aim to have that concluded by March 2023.”
Solicitor Dino Nocivelli of Leigh Day said: “The lack of an apology from the Scout Association adds to the impact of the abuse on their lives.
“My clients want to obtain a sense of justice and closure from their civil cases that were not possible in the criminal justice system and I hope the Scout Association will work with us to finally address this and to ensure children are better protected in the future.”