A former scout leader has been sentenced to 11 years in jail after being convicted of a string of sexual offences involving minors he met through his voluntary activities.
Antony Allen, 27, (05.08.90) from Plaistow in Newham, appeared at Snaresbrook Crown Court on Friday, 13 April, having previously been convicted in February this year of six offences of sexual assault of a child under 13, and six offences of sexual activity with a child under 15.
He was also sentenced for making 30 Category C images of children he knew; possession of three Category A images, 28 Category B images and 611 Category C images. These included one Category A video, and ten Category B videos.
The charges related to eight children from the 25th Newham East Scout Group that Allen had volunteered at for ten years, up until being suspended last year pending the investigation. The offences took place at varying locations, including home addresses and scout camps in Essex, Kent and Wales. The victims, all boys aged between eight and 16, were abused at varying times over a four-year period between January 2013 and September 2017.
During this same period, Allen worked for around a year as a teaching assistant and then a learning mentor at a primary school. He had also enlisted as a volunteer in the Army Reserves and was deployed in Estonia for training with his unit - 7 Rifles G company, based in West Ham - when the allegations first surfaced.
The investigation was triggered when one of his victims, realising that his younger brother was due to move up from cubs to Allen’s scout group and would thus be equally at risk, told his mother he had to get him out of scouts in a bid to protect him.
His mother initially viewed this comment as a joke, but after her elder son repeated allegations to other relatives, she got police involved. This first formal complaint led to a string of other victims contacting police in quick succession.
When police identified Allen, he was abroad with his army unit. The unit liaised with the Ministry of Defence to facilitate him being flown back to England for questioning. He was arrested at Heathrow Airport in mid-September 2017, interviewed and released on bail. Shortly afterwards, Allen temporarily disappeared after leaving ‘suicide notes’ at several of his victims’ houses.
After Allen’s computer was seized from his home address, he was further arrested over the offences relating to making and possessing images (and videos). He first appeared at Thames Magistrates’ Court on 4 October 2017, where he was remanded to attend the Old Bailey on 1 November 2017.
The prosecution outlined many examples of a grooming pattern repeatedly pursued by Allen with different boys. He would initiate text message conversations that would begin as banter, progress to inappropriate chat focusing on male physique, then progress to explicitly sexual language. One tactic was to ask victims to send him photos of them exercising their bodies as evidence for their progress towards a so-called ‘fitness’ badge.
Allen frequently took advantage of the close physical proximity fostered by seasonal scout camping trips. Victims could be surprised in the toilets or persuaded into his tent under the aegis of seeking support while away from home, only to find they were then trapped by Allen into unwanted physical intimacy. One boy who was first assaulted by Allen at age 10 estimated sexual touching had occurred on 60 to 100 occasions.
A technique Allen also employed was to insinuate himself into the wider family, befriending parents and children alike to win their trust. Parents consistently told police how helpful and supportive Allen was, assisting with errands and taking the children out for day trips, leading officers to note they had been equally groomed. On one occasion Allen assaulted a 13-year-old victim in his own bedroom while the boy’s mother and younger sibling were downstairs in the garden.
Another victim told police that Allen was looked up to as a role model by members of the group and several, including him, viewed him as a second father. One victim even called him ’Dad’ as he was taken out and about by Allen just as a parent would.
In interview, another boy was so embarrassed at the memory of the explicitly sexual suggestions Allen had made to him, he was unable to say them out loud and had to write them on a note he handed officers to read instead.
The Met officer who led the investigation, PC Bruce Upson, from the Child Abuse and Sexual Offences Command (CASO), praised the bravery of the young boys who helped bring Allen to account and made a specific plea appealing to any other potential victims who believe they have been abused by Allen.
He said: "These children have shown great courage throughout the investigation. Their actions in finding the strength to come forward and report the matter has prevented other potential offences occurring.
"Allen was a predatory offender who used his well-established position as a scout leader to gain access to children and commit sexual offences against them whilst along the way earning the respect and trust of families.
"If there is anyone else out there who believes they or someone they are close to may also have been a victim of Allen, I would urge them to contact us a soon as possible on our dedicated NSPCC hotline number of 0800 048 0278 quoting ‘Operation Stanhope’.
The mother of one of the younger victims, speaking after court, said: "I’m really hurt by what Antony has done as he has taken what can never be replaced. His actions have impacted on our day to day lives as he didn’t just abuse [him] physically but has scarred him mentally for life. He has left us shocked to the core and we will never trust anyone again. He had a group of children that was full of life and working towards bettering themselves and their community but took this opportunity to gain trust then abuse it.
"My heart goes out to the families of all the victims that have been taken in and had their trust abused. I can’t thank the police enough for all they have done to get this conviction - they have been amazing to me and to the child victims."