Abuse claims against British Scouts 'tip of iceberg': lawyer

LONDON (AFP) - Britain's Scout Association was on Thursday warned that sexual abuse claims that have led to payouts of £500,000 (S$1.03 million) were only the "tip of the iceberg."

Responding to a BBC investigation into child sex abuse, the association on Wednesday apologised after revealing that 48 lawsuits had been made since the movement started in 1907, 36 of which had been brought since October 2012.

But a lawyer representing the claimants said there were many more victims, and that he had received 30 telephone calls since the BBC report aired on Wednesday.

"The reality is that there are many, many more people who have suffered abuse in the Scout Association," said David McClenaghan, a lawyer at Bolt Burden Kemp.

"It's only a very small fraction of people that go on to bring a case against the Scout Association. In terms of figures, 50 is absolutely the tip of the iceberg," he said.

The association earlier posted a statement on its website, apologising "to all those who have been abused during their time in scouting." "To our great regret, some individuals who seek to abuse young people have used their positions to violate the founding principles of scouting and have breached our stringent processes," it added.

The group disputed claims made by the victims' lawyers that they had paid out £897,000 in damages, saying the figure was "around £500,000".

However, the association's figures do not include payments made by individual scoutmasters.

The BBC spoke to one alleged victim, who received £45,000 in compensation in 2011 after claiming that he was abused by a scoutmaster at weekly meetings and at camp in the 1980s.

"I was sickened and disgusted by it. I wanted it to stop but I couldn't make it stop," he said.

"I had no-one I could speak to and I didn't know what to say. Perhaps he was clever in choosing people who he knew wouldn't be in a position to talk about it."

Police investigated the claims, but the alleged abuser committed suicide before the trial began.

The Scout Association comprises 550,000 members and operates across Britain, 100,000 of whom are adult volunteers.

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