LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’ Scouting Association apologized on Thursday to all previous members who had been abused at camps and meetings after the BBC reported that dozens of ex-scouts had begun legal action against the organization.
The BBC said more than 50 people had instructed lawyers to take action in the wake of the scandal surrounding the late TV star Jimmy Savile, who was exposed two years ago as one of Britain’s most prolific sex offenders.
“We apologize to all those who have been abused during their time in scouting,” the Association which boats 550,000 members including 100,000 adult volunteers, said in a statement.
“Any abuse of young people is abhorrent and we are deeply sorry for anybody hurt by the actions of abusers.”
However, it rejected the BBC’s figures, saying there had been 48 civil claims made since the Association was formed in 1907, with 36 occurring since the Savile revelations.
It said in the last two years it had paid out 500,000 pounds ($785,600) in compensation to victims.
David McClenaghan, a lawyer representing some of the victims, told the BBC he expected more cases to emerge.
“I know from my own experience from seeing police files on investigations into sexual abuse within the Scout Association that many of those people who have been victims of abuse choose not to bring compensation claims forward,” he said.
“In terms of figures, 50 is absolutely the tip of the iceberg.”
The Scouting Movement was founded by British Boer War hero Lord Baden-Powell based on his book “Scouting for Boys”, and more than 10 million young people and adults have been involved since it began.
There are estimated to be some 30 million scouts in more than 216 countries across the world. Former scouts include U.S. President Barack Obama, ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former England soccer captain David Beckham and ex-Beatle Paul McCartney.
Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Guy Faulconbridge