Scout Association referred to police over boy unlawfully killed on trip

Ben Leonard, 16, from Stockport, Greater Manchester, fell off a cliff on a Scout trip to North Wales in 2018
Ben Leonard, 16, from Stockport, Greater Manchester, fell off a cliff on a Scout trip to North Wales in 2018 - FAMILY HANDOUT/PA

A Scout leader is facing a police investigation after an inquest ruled a boy who died on a camping trip in Wales was unlawfully killed.

Ben Leonard, 16, suffered a serious head injury when he lost his footing and fell about 200ft at Great Orme in Llandudno, North Wales in 2018.

Ben and two friends took a different path from other Scouts, unsupervised by any leaders from the Reddish Explorer Scouts group from Stockport, Greater Manchester.

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, and this was contributed to by neglect by The Scout Association.

The law prevents inquest juries from naming any individual in conclusions.

During the inquest, the Scout leader on the trip, Sean Glaister, declined to answer a series of questions from Ben Richmond KC, lawyer for Fieldfisher, the law firm representing Ben’s family. Mary Carr was named as the assistant Scout leader on the trip.

‘Treatment of family disgusting’

David Pojur, assistant coroner for North Wales east and central, has referred The Scout Association and an employee, who cannot be named by court order, to North Wales Police to investigate for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

At the beginning of the inquest, the third after two previous inquests were aborted, the Scout Association for the first time publicly apologised and accepted responsibility for Ben’s death.

But his tearful mother, Jackie Leonard, told the hearing their apology was five and a half years too late and the treatment of her family had been “disgusting”.

She added: “[It was] like we didn’t matter and like Ben didn’t matter.”

She described her son as a “thoughtful, very funny, extremely witty” boy who joined the Beavers aged five and was an avid reader and film buff and planned to study TV and film at college.

An initial inquest into his death was held in February 2020 at Ruthin Coroner’s Court but the jury was discharged by Mr Pojur, who said the Scout Association had failed to provide the court with full information and “created a misleading impression”.

‘Wholehearted apology and deepest sympathies’

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.”