Scouts 'think they're above the law,' Ben Leonard's parents say

'I think the Scouts were more worried about their reputation from the word go than about Ben,' Ben's mother Jackie said.

A jury has now found Ben Leonard was unlawfully killed and it was contributed to by neglect from the Scout Association, as Kelly Foran reports

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 falling from a cliff on the Great Orme in North Wales.

It has taken more than five years for his family to get answers.

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.

Ben’s family say The Scout Association lied to them from the start.

His mother, Jackie, said it was like Ben didn’t matter.

“From the actual planning of the trip, or should I say no planning, through to what happened after he died. We were told lies and things were hidden from us,” she said.

“I think the Scouts were more worried about their reputation from the word go than about Ben. The way they’ve treated us is disgusting. Their solicitor in the first inquest said, in front of us: ‘The Scouts look after about 600,000 children, this is one death.’ Like he didn’t matter.”

“The Scouts were more worried about their reputation,” Ben’s mother told ITV News

Ben and two friends had separated from the other Scouts and were not accompanied by any of the three Scout leaders on the trip when he fell from the cliff edge.

There was also no suitably qualified first aider among the Scout group.

The teenager suffered massive head injuries and despite an air ambulance being called, along with paramedics, Ben died the same day as his fall.

The first inquest was aborted after the coroner ruled the Scouts had failed to provide the court with full information and “created a misleading impression”.

A second inquest was also abandoned for legal reasons.

On the opening day of the third inquest, The Scout Association publicly apologised and accepted responsibility for the death of the teenager for the first time.

Asked if anyone had ever apologised to the family before now, Jackie said: “Never. Not one of them. That’s all we ever wanted, for someone to say we took Ben away and he didn’t come home, but they never did that. Nobody even acknowledged that.”

Jackie Leonard said their apology was five-and-a-half years too late and the treatment of her family had been “disgusting”.

Ben’s father David said he has never understood why The Scout Association treated the family this way.

“We’ve still not got an official death certificate until the inquest finishes. It’s little things like that that mean you don’t have any closure,” he said.

Ben’s father said he was relieved that the case was finished “after a long time”

The Scout Association has now been referred to the police for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Ben’s family back any future proceedings.

Jackie told ITV News: “If the coroner thinks that somebody lied in the court that should be looked at. I think the Scouts, because they have a royal charter and they’re allowed to govern themselves, they think they’re above the law. That shouldn’t be allowed.”

The coroner has asked for an inquiry into getting The Scout Association to be regulated by an outside organisation.

“They need to stop anything like this happening again. There are families that have lost boys in the past – and they’re just forgotten about.”

Through teary eyes, Ben’s father recalls how his son was the only one that got his jokes.

He hopes the inquest will bring some closure.

“It’s been such a long time. He can rest now. His name has been bandied about a lot, but they just need to leave him alone. Leave him be.”

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