In 2013, Scouts Australia’s NSW branch was investigated by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Part of this investigation concerned the horrific acts of Steven Larkins.
The investigation reviewed the Department of Community Services (DOCS), the Commission for Children and Young People, Scouts Australia and Hunter Aboriginal Children’s Services (HACS) regarding paedophile Steven Larkins.
In the 1990s, Larkins was a Scout Leader and the Chief Executive of the Hunter Aboriginal Children’s Services. In 1992 and 1997 respectively, Larkins indecently assaulted two boys under the age of 16.
According to the two victims who testified in the Royal Commission, Larkins was allowed to continue working with children even though he had been caught leaving love notes under their pillows. He had also been caught showering with underage Scouts.
Larkins was reported in 1997 when a fellow Scout Leader saw him handing lollies out to children and inviting them to join a Scouts group outside Stockton Swimming Pool.
How was Larkins allowed to continue offending?
Former Scout Leader in South Australia, Armand Hoitink, received the call about Larkins at Stockton and called the local police. The police said they would “keep an eye” on the alleged paedophile.
Hoitink said Larkins’ behaviour was “common knowledge” amongst Scout Leaders and when he spoke to the regional commissioner, Des Hocking, he was told to do “nothing”.
Hoitink also spoke to Scout Leader William Metcalfe about the incident. Hoitink was told he should’ve notified Scouts first before the police.
“It was all about protecting Scouts,” said Hoitink.
In the same year, the mother of one of Larkin’s victims reported the abuse to the Newcastle Police. Larkins had already been given an official warning by Scouts Australia and while he was no longer allowed face-to-face time with young Scouts, he was still allowed at major events.
Larkins was suspended – not sacked – from the Scouts in 2000. However, this suspension was not put on his member record and he remained one of the most senior officials in child protection.
Paedophile passed a Working With Children Check and worked for HACS
In 2003, Larkins applied for a Working With Children Check. He was deemed a “medium risk” the first time he applied. This was not communicated to the HACS committee and he later submitted false documents to help himself pass.
Between 2000 and 2011, Larkins worked for the Hunter Aboriginal Children’s Service (HACS) as their principal officer. He was able to hide his “medium risk” to children from the HACS committee by hiding letters from Working With Children.
The Department of Community Services (DOCS) later granted Larkins parental responsibility for six children from HACS who had been removed from their homes.
Larkins found with child porn
In 2011, a thumb drive was found which contained 40 pornographic videos including footage of penetrative sex between boys between the ages of 10 to 14. Most of the videos involved more than one child.
Larkins was arrested and charged. He faced 19 charges and received 22 months in prison. He received 12 months for forging documents which granted him permission to work with children – but in regards to the child sexual abuse, he was given a three years good behaviour bond for pleading guilty.
In 2013, the Royal Commission investigated Scouts Australia’s response to allegations surrounding Larkins. Several Scout Leaders spoke to the Commissioners including Scouts regional commissioner, Allan Currie, who claimed he had no training to deal with the allegations against Larkins.
Former Scouts Australia CEO Peter Olah also spoke to the Commissioners. He said prior to Larkin’s suspension, minimal investigations were completed when allegations arose.
For example, when allegations arose in 1994, Larkins was stood down in Stockton but was almost immediately allowed to join the Raymond Terrace Troop, where he rose to become the Assistant Scout Leader.
Larkins should have been reported to police then and there. The allegations should have been recorded and Larkins should have been sacked. Instead, he was allowed to move from Troop to Troop unhindered, which lead him to continue abusing children.
In 1997, he was given an official warning – which proved to be ineffective. No other Scout Leaders were trained in how to deal with allegations. No parents were warned or educated on how to protect their children.
Again, Larkins should have been reported and sacked.
Since the incident with Steven Larkins, Scouts Australia has taken positive steps to improve child safety. Scouts Australia has implemented the following improvements following the Royal Commission:
- Enhanced and updated policies and procedures for the handling of allegations, including protocols for reporting (to police) and immediate suspension of alleged abusers pending the outcome of relevant behavioural management reviews.
- Education of Members through mandatory e-Learning training and the communication of Scouts Australia NSW child protection policy to parents.
- Training for members of Scouts Australia NSW behavioural management review panels.
- Record keeping through the centralised Scoutlink member information system.
- Revision in 2014 of the full-time Human Resources and Issues Management Adviser position in Scouts Australia NSW State Office to expand the role to include the management of both historical and contemporary reports of child sexual abuse.
- Two-deep leadership policy which requires that at least two adult members attend while supervising or accompanying young scouts, and a phase-in of Working with Children Checks from January 2015.
- Regional and State record keeping link, allowing regional offices to access the state member information system database.
Scouts Australia has also joined the National Redress Scheme.
This is the least Scouts Australia can do after the shameful response to Steven Larkins’ abusive behaviour. Rather than reporting Larkins or sacking him, he was given a mere slap on the wrist and allowed to climb the ranks. He was given more and more access to children.
It was all about protecting the reputation of the Scouts – not protecting the children.
At Kelso Lawyers, we’re committed to helping survivors of child sexual abuse achieve compensation from their abusers.