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Scout leader on fatal trip declines to answer questions at inquest

A Scout leader on a trip where a teenager fell 200 feet to his death declined to answer a series of questions from a lawyer representing the boy’s family at an inquest.

Sean Glaister was the most senior Scout leader on the trip when Ben Leonard, 16, suffered fatal head injuries in the fall from cliffs on the Great Orme in North Wales on August 26 2018.

Ben, from Stockport, Greater Manchester, was on an organised expedition with the Reddish Explorer Scouts, Manchester Civil Justice Centre heard.

Ben Leonard inquest
The Scout Association accepted responsibility for Ben Leonard’s death (Family Handout/PA)

Ben and two friends had separated from the other Scouts and were not accompanied by any of the three Scout leaders when he fell.

David Pojur, assistant coroner for North Wales east and central, warned Mr Glaister he did not have to answer some questions if the answer was to incriminate himself.

The inquest jury has heard suggestions Mr Glaister had believed another man, Brian Garraway, group Scout leader, was also going on the trip, only to discover he was not present when he got to their campsite in Snowdonia.

It meant no suitably qualified first aider was present for the trip, which broke Scout’s rules for expeditions.

Bernard Richmond KC, representing Ben’s family for law firm Fieldfisher, questioned Mr Glaister about this, but he declined to answer a series of questions.

Mr Richmond said: “You knew he was not coming on that weekend before you started, didn’t you?

“You have maintained a lie about this to this family for five years, haven’t you?

“You have pretended, at Christmas and birthdays, to this family how devastated you are about Ben’s loss, whilst all the time lying in front of them to an inquest jury, haven’t you?”

Each time Mr Glaister responded, “I prefer not to answer.”

Mr Glaister agreed he had not warned any of the Scouts, including Ben, not to leave the paths up the Orme and he was not aware of the dangers of the cliff edges.

Mr Richmond continued: “Not knowing the risks inherent on the Orme was a failure?”

Mr Glaister said: “I would say it was a failure. I would expect them to do the same route I would do, that’s signposted.”

“But you never told them to, did you?” Mr Richmond said.

“No,” Mr Glaister replied.

The witness agreed The Scout Association never monitored his activities or ensured any training he was supposed to undergo had ever been done.

Mr Richmond added: “They have hung you out to dry, haven’t they?”

“Yeh,” Mr Glaister said. He added: “This could have happened to any of the leaders on any of the trips we went on.”

Earlier the hearing was told scout leaders were not aware of the need to carry out written risk assessments and Ben’s family were lied to as the Scout Association was worried about “reputational damage.”

The Scout Association for the first time accepted responsibility for the death on the first day of the inquest last month, five and a half years after Ben died.

Two previous inquests were scheduled and aborted until the current hearing, where the Scouts also apologised for failings.

The inquest was adjourned until Tuesday morning.