The Boy Scouts of America and Scouts Canada both kept confidential files on pedophile scout leaders, but never reported them to police. As a result, pedophiles like Richard Turley were able to molest dozen boys over several decades in both Canada and the United States.
Secret “Perversion” Files in Canada and the United States
The CBC’s documentary news show The Fifth Estate has uncovered a secret system used by Scouts Canada to document sex abusers in an attempt to prevent them from being involved in scouting. The “confidential list” is kept in the national headquarters in Ottawa and can only be accessed by a handful of people. Canadian lawyer Rob Talach is calling for Scouts Canada to release its files to the police, indicating that it could provide additional evidence in cases that could still be prosecuted. It could, of course, also help prevent further abuse from taking place. There is some confusion about what exactly is contained in the files, as Scouts Canada claims it only keeps records of suspension and termination and that it shares information with the police and youth protective services.
In the United States, similar files exist. The documents, known as the “perversion files” have been released to lawyers that were suing the Boy Scouts of America. In 2010, Kerry Lewis was awarded $1.4 million because the Boy Scouts of America failed to protect him from an assistant Scoutmaster that they knew was a child molester. According to Seattle-based lawyer Tim Kosnoff, who had access to the files, around 5,000 files existed from the period of 1947 to 2005, of which about half were created between 1991 and 2005.
Richard Turley: Two Countries, Three Decades, Numerous Victims
The CBC has meticulously detailed the case of sex offender Richard Turley who began molesting boy scouts in Canada in 1971 when he was only 17 years old. Four years later, in 1975, he kidnapped a boy he met in California while visiting a local scout troop. Turley was arrested and pleaded guilty and committed to a state hospital where he stayed until 1976. After being released, he went back to California where he spent several summers working at a Boy Scout camp. After the last day of camp in 1979, he spent an extra night at camp with three boys and molested all of them. After one of the boys told his father, the camp director confronted Turley, who admitted what he had done and agreed to leave and return to Canada. No one reported the incident to the police, but a confidential “perversion file” was created at the Boy Scouts of America’s national office.
Turley returned to Canada, where he continued his involvement with Scouts Canada. Sometime in the 1980s, Turley was added to Scouts Canada’s “confidential list” and asked to resign from the Scouts. He was later arrested in 1988 for sexually assaulting a child at a swimming pool and served 30 days in jail. However, it wasn’t until a suspicious girlfriend reported him to police in 1995 that any significant investigation took place. Turley was eventually convicted of abusing four boys and spent five years in prison, followed by seven years of supervised parole. Turley, who has completed an intense sex-offender program, admits to having at least a dozen victims over the years and feels that scouting was an easy way to find boys to molest.
Scouts Exclusively Protecting Their Own
The system used by the Scouts in both Canada and the United States appeared to be uniquely designed to protect their own, with a complete lack of regard for the implications to those outside of their community. The CBC reported that a confidential 1972 policy memo urged Boy Scout officials who are dealing with molesters to “indicate [to the accused molester] that the BSA is not sharing this information with anyone and only wish him to stop all Scouting activity.” In the case of Turley, Scouts executive Buford Hill told the Los Angeles Times that “the parents of the three boys agreed to not press charges if he would leave…” and further added “hopefully he went back to Canada and that was their problem” (source: CBC).
Sex Abuse Claims Continue, Screening is Tightened
Meanwhile, in the United States, law suits continue to be filed against the Boy Scouts of America. Four new lawsuits have been filed recently, bringing the total to 35 complaints in 11 different states since 2007. Officials in both Canada and the United States claim that the screening of volunteers has been tightened in recent years. Turley, however, doesn’t think it is enough to stop people like him. He told the CBC, “Scouting is still a flawed movement. If I was a parent, I would never put my kids in Scouts.”
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