The Explorer Scout fell 80m on the Great Orme, Llandudno. Photo: Nilfanion CC-BY-SA-3.0

The Explorer Scout fell 80m on the Great Orme, Llandudno. Photo: Nilfanion CC-BY-SA-3.0

An Explorer Scout who fell to his death in north Wales was unlawfully killed, an inquest jury found.

Neglect by the Scout Association also contributed to Ben Leonard’s death on the Great Orme near Llandudno in August 2018.

The 16-year-old from Reddish, Greater Manchester was with a group who undertook a walk on the headland. He slipped from a narrow track and fell 60m down a crag face, sustaining fatal head injuries.

Ben and two other group members had left the main group and were not closely supervised by leaders Sean Glaister and Mary Carr when the incident happened.

At the conclusion of the seven-week inquest at Manchester Civil Justice Centre, assistant coroner for North Wales East and Central David Pojur eased restrictions to allow the reporting of the fact he has referred the Scout Association and an employee to North Wales Police to investigate for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Lawyers acting for the Scout Association and other individuals applied to extend indefinitely the initial ban on reporting of the police referral. The BBC, PA and the North Wales Pioneer successfully applied against the ban.

The jury found that two leaders were responsible for Ben’s unlawful death, with the national association contributing to the death.

The group originally planned an ascent of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) but leaders changed plans due to bad weather. The jury heard no written risk assessment was carried out for the camping trip to the Eryri (Snowdonia) national park.

Neither did leaders undertake a risk assessment on the day of the visit to the Great Orme. The peninsula rises to a height of 207m, with sea cliffs and limestone crags surrounding its plateau. The court heard the leaders did not conduct a safety discussion with the Explorer Scouts. Another leader who had been due to join the group on the camping trip did not come, meaning there was no leader with an appropriate first-aid qualification.

The Scout Association operates an adventurous activities permit scheme, with hillwalking routes classified in three categories: terrain zero, terrain one and terrain two, the last two requiring leaders to hold the appropriate authorisation for ventures in areas designated as such.

At an aborted first inquest in February 2020, Mr Pojur issued a prevention of future deaths report.

Mr Pojur said he will be issuing a new 39-point prevention of future deaths report to various bodies and individuals, who must respond within 56 days. The Scout Association’s chief executive Matt Hyde and the charity’s insurers are among those who will receive the report.

North Wales Police said it was reviewing details of the referral for potential conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

In a statement, Jennie Price, chair 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.

“We will closely review the coroner’s observations and adopt all further changes we can, to do everything in our power to stop such a tragic event happening again.

“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.”

  • Bob Smith is an associate member of the Scout Association, with authorisation to supervise groups in terrain one and terrain two. He is also a qualified Mountain Leader and Hill and Moorland Leader.

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