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Ben Leonard died while on a hiking trip in north Wales in 2018
By George Herd & Oliver Slow
BBC News

An explorer scout leader and his assistant were responsible for the unlawful killing of a teenage scout in north Wales, a jury has found.

Ben Leonard, 16, was among a group visiting Llandudno’s Great Orme in August 2018.

The inquest also found that neglect on behalf of the Scout Association contributed to the death.

The organisation said it was “committed to learning” and had already made changes to its safety rules.

Jackie Leonard, Ben’s mum, said the family had “lived in limbo for years”, but that now her son could “be in peace”.

During the seven-week inquest, the jury heard evidence that there had been no written risk assessment carried out for the summer camping trip to the Eryri national park.

The court heard there was also no on-the-day risk assessments carried out for the trip up the Great Orme headland, and no discussion about safety with the Explorer Scouts by their group leader Sean Glaister, or assistant leader Mary Carr.

The inquest was told that there was no Scout accredited first aider on the trip, after a senior leader failed to attend the event.

It led to questions in the court about whether the trip should have been authorised in the first place.

Reporting restrictions were eased by the assistant coroner on Thursday, meaning it can now be reported the Scout Association has also been referred to North Wales Police over whether there was a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in the first inquest into Ben’s death.

That inquest in 2020 was abandoned for unrelated legal reasons.

The Scouts said in a statement that it “emphatically” refutes any allegations made in court “about any criminal action” on its behalf.

A family photo of Ben Leonard

“We take today’s conclusion extremely seriously,” said Jennie Price, from the organisation’s board of trustees, who restated its “wholehearted apology” to Ben’s family.

She said that “as an organisation we are committed to learning” and that as a result of the death it has “already made 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.”

On the first day of the inquest this year, it publicly apologised to Ben’s mother Jackie for failing in its duty of care to the teenager and accepting responsibility for his death.

One police officer investigating the death told the inquest there had been “grave failings” and missed opportunities to prevent the tragedy.

Ben, from Stockport, Greater Manchester, was taking part in a trip to the Eryri national park to camp, with plans to hike up Yr Wyddfa – also known as Snowdon.

However, plans were changed due to the weather, and the scout group were taken to Llandudno in Conwy county borough, to walk up the Orme.

Ben and two other boys had broken away from the main hike and taken their own unsupervised route up the hillside.

He slipped off a narrow cliff edge and fell 200ft (60m), suffering fatal head injuries.

Jackie Leonard, Ben’s mother, said that waiting so long for the verdict meant the family had “lived in limbo for years”.

“We’ve been unable to move forward, with the strange feeling that somehow Ben has not been allowed to die until we finally get a death certificate. Now he can be in peace,” she said.

“We’ve never had any faith or trust in the Scouts. This verdict must surely now mean they have to be regulated by an external body.

“We also feel that right at the beginning, the Scouts relied on the fact that we didn’t understand why we would need legal representation, particularly in our fog of grief.”

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