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Friday, October 2, 1998 Published at 17:02 GMT 18:02 UK


Paedophile Scout leader jailed

Dennis Ward (right) and Keith Spratt: "Victim's life severely affected"

A paedophile who preyed on boys through a breakaway Scouting organisation has been sentenced to four years and is considered likely to die in prison.

The Scout Association's John Fogg: "Case affects all Scouting"
Scout leader Dennis Ward, 66, who is seriously ill with a life expectancy of 24 months, was sentenced for his part in the "systematic abuse" of a vulnerable 13-year-old boy.

The exact nature of his illness was not revealed to the court.

Ward was a member of a paedophile ring that is thought to have abused up to 300 boys - some as young as eight - for more than 30 years.

No mercy

In sentencing at London's Snaresbrook Crown Court, Judge David Radford said Ward had seriously undermined the reputation of the Scout movement and it was not the court's place to show him mercy.

Ward had helped run the 22nd Waltham Forest Baden-Powell Scout Group, an organisation that split from the mainstream Scout Association in 1970.

[ image: Douglas Braithwaite: Ward used his flat for abuse]
Douglas Braithwaite: Ward used his flat for abuse
Judge Radford said: "What you did has besmirched the good name of the Scout movement, making it harder for genuine and selfless Scout leaders to fulfil their role without the risk of parental and public suspicion and concern".

He said it was the responsibility of the Home Secretary to exercise any "royal prerogative of mercy" by releasing Ward early.

Ward of Plymstock, Plymouth, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit a serious sexual offence, remained expressionless as he was sentenced.

Ward was one of four men who pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey on Wednesday to abusing a boy who was a member of their Scout group.

Keith Spratt, 50, Robert Kearns, 50, and Brian Turner, 60, will be sentenced in late October. A fifth man, Douglas Braithwaite, died before the paedophile ring was uncovered.

'Particular vulnerability'

The judge said criminals entering into a conspiracy were of greater risk to the public.

"This is especially true when paedophiles such as you and Braithwaite combine together to sexually abuse child victims. And in this case your co-conspirator actually watched," he said.

The boy who Ward and his conspirators abused for a number of years was 11 when he joined the Scout group. He was described by prosecuting counsel Mark Gadsden as being at a time of "particular vulnerability" because of family problems.

Mr Gadsden said: "He had been thoroughly corrupted by the time he was 12, and having been so comprehensively corrupted, Braithwaite was thus in a position to introduce him to other members of the paedophile ring, including Ward."

Judge Radford told Ward: "You were one of those, yourself a Scout leader, who took advantage on three separate occasions - all in the presence of your co-conspirator - of this vulnerable 13-year-old boy."

Genuine remorse

Defending counsel Stephen Fiddler said Ward was "genuinely remorseful" and "very, very genuinely disturbed" by the consequences of his actions.

The paedophile ring was smashed in a joint operation by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and five international police forces, including the UK, Holland, France, Spain and Belgium.

Police made multiple arrests and uncovered a vast library of child pornography including 14,000 negatives and 350 videos.

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02 Oct 98 | UK
Sentencing for scout master paedophiles

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