AND IN THE BEGINNING.........
As I have said in the past, the situation I now find myself in has been played out over a number of years, so let’s start from the beginning.
In April 2003 notes were put on my file about a Scout who I met and who had developed a badge collecting hobby with my (and other peoples) help. The Scout had also been to my house to see the collection I had. He stayed overnight once so that I could transport him to a non-Scout Association activity.
I would make it clear that this was all done with the full knowledge and approval of the parents of the Scout which in law made me “in loco parentis”.
Whoever put the notes on my file about this said “I believe that Mr. Maryniak is in serious breach of the Association’s child
protection policy.” What the person did not do was to check whether either of us was on a Scout activity. The notes also stated “XXX was brought by car by Peter Meryniak to Gilwell Park………………. No other person accompanied them in the car. XXX Camped on his own for the weekend until he was collected on Sunday (not sure by whom). Peter stayed in the White House.”
So it is quite clear that I transported the minor alone, it is also quite clear that the minor camped alone and that I was nowhere near !
It is also quite clear that whoever wrote those notes didn’t even try to find out who collected the Scout and whether that adult was alone in the car.
My County & District Commissioners spoke to me and, in essence, smacked my legs for being naughty in being alone with a minor. The minor’s parents were also spoken to by a representative of the Scout Association and they gave me the seal of approval.
I then realised that this all meant I would have a “black mark” against my name when I was totally within the law and, as far as I was concerned, not beholden to the Scout Association’s Child Protection Policy nor any rule of the SA as I was not on a SA activity. Any “rules” that may apply to my activities would be those of the organisation I was with at that time. For example, if I was on a Boys Brigade activity, it is their rules that would apply to me and not those of the SA.
I then challenged the CC (John Askew) by letter dated 2nd June 2003 and part of that letter reads:-
Thank you for your letter dated 29 April 2003 following our meeting 25th April regarding my transporting a young person on my own in my car to XXXX Club events.
I would bring to your attention that the XXXX Club is a private club and not affiliated in any way to The Scout Association
and as such members of the Club are not required to be members of the Association. It therefore follows that
The Scout Association’s Policy Organisation and Rules are not applicable to members of the XXXX Club whilst on Club activities.
The exception being if a member of the XXXX is invited to display his/her badges at a Scout camp or other such activity.
XXXX meetings are open only to members of the XXXX and invited guests and whilst members, or the Executive, may hire Scout buildings for these purposes, the only rules applicable are those relating to the hire of the premises and the Constitution of the XXX.
In consequence the Child Protection Policy of The Scout Association, whilst not to be ignored, and indeed is subscribed to by
the XXX,is not enforceable in relation to XXX activities.
You will appreciate, by now, that neither yourself nor any official of The Scout Association has any authority or jurisdiction
over XXXX members on XXXX activities and as such the several complaints you have received against me are totally
invalid for investigation by any member of The Scout Association.
End of the extract of the letter dated 2nd June 2003
An acknowledgement was received and I wrote on 28 August 2003 to Mr Askew chasing a full response.
As Mr Askew was unable to answer my letter, he passed it to David Shelmerdine (the Secretary of The Scout Association). Mr Shelmerdine didn’t respond to Mr Askew and Derek Twine (The Chief Executive) became involved. Mr Twine wrote to Mr Askew and then Mr Askew repeated Mr Twine’s words to me and the letter dated 13 Oct 2003 reads (in part) :
I write with reference to you letters dated 2nd June 2003 and 28ft August 2003. In response to your comments regarding the Child Protection Policy of the Scout Association as it relates to the XXXX Club members, the definitive answer of the Scout Association is:
1. We are pleased that the XXXX formally, and publicly state that' the Club has accepted as its own policy the Child Protection Policies of the Scout ( and Guide ) Associations. ....Any member found to be in breach of our Child Protection Policy will have their membership suspended or withdrawn.'
2. We believe that due to the unequivocal clarity of this public statement, we in the Scout Association have every reason to assume an expectation of compliance by individual members of XXXX, with any failure being dealt with by XXXX as stated.
3. Moreover, we affirm that the Associations Child Protection Policies apply to all members of the Scout Fellowship and any other adult in Scouting, and that any suspicion of non-compliance should be attended to immediately by the appropriate Commissioner.
PLEASE NOTE CLAUSE 2 ABOVE. It clearly states that the Scout Association expects the XXXX Club to deal with any breach of the Child Protection Policy. EXACTLY what I stated in my letter to the County Commissioner dated 2 June 2003 ......... The Scout Association has NO RIGHT OR AUTHORITY to investigate Scout Association members on non-scouting activities.
My response dated 2 November 2003 asked “........however, the point I was trying to make in my letter dated
2/6/03 was that neither you nor any official of the Scout Association has any authority over any lawful
activity that I perform in my non-scouting life, and the statements made do not clarify that point.
I would ask for total clarification in that:- does The Scout Association have any authority and or jurisdiction over any lawful activities of members whilst not on a Scout activity?”
This is a question that has never been answered.
By this time John Askew had decided to stand down as CC and his last letter to me dated 17 Feb 2004 basically washed his hands of the matter and told me to communicate directly with David Shelmerdine, the Secretary of the Scout Association. After much chasing for a definitive response from David Shelmerdine, I eventually received a letter dated 16 Jan 2005. Not wishing to bore you any more with the details, the upshot of the response was that I was excluded from Scouting “However your continuing challenging of the Association's involvement in these important matters does concern the Association. This does not give us confidence that you fully understand the seriousness of a breach in child protection policies. W e need to ensure that those involved in Scouting demonstrate that they fully understand and demonstrate adherence all its key policies”
This statement seems to say that even if a member of Scouting is not on Scout Association activities, then they are STILL subject to the SA rules. If this policy were taken as “unbendable” it means that no parent in Scouting can transport their own child alone. An adult in Scouting cannot be a baby sitter, a single person cannot be a foster parent and so it goes on.
I would comment that all this started in April 2003 and my being kicked out of Scouting was in January 2005.
If it were felt that I was not a “fit & proper person” to be in Scouting, why did it take nearly 2 years after the initial
event for anyone to reach the decision to exclude me? I would also add that in various letters it was emphasised that there
were no allegations of improper behaviour.
I wrote to appeal the decision and my appeal was heard on 30th March 2005 in an hotel near Northampton by Victor Thys (Chairman General Purposes Sub Committee) and Peter Nichol (Chief Commissioner who later became Deputy Chief Scout). I was supported by a former Police Inspector who also spoke on my behalf.
David Shelmerdine wrote in his letter dated 7 April 2005 “The Panel considered your appeal based on non-compliance and
non-acceptance of The Scout Association's Child Protection Policy. lt has decided that it is unable to support the decision made by the Association to exclude you from membership”.
Please note that I won my appeal based on non-compliance and non-acceptance of the CPP of the SA. Whilst the result was what I wanted, with regard to non-compliance and non-acceptance that is a complete load of rubbish. I had NEVER stated that I did not accept the CPP of the SA only that I didn’t accept that the SA had the right to investigate my lawful non-scouting activities and to apply their rules when not on SA activities.
Anyway with that result, I rejoined Scouting in Northampton and was immediately asked if I would help out at Castle Ashby Explorers. I accepted the invitation.
However it was from this point that the Rev John Simmons started to make sure that I was not welcome back into Scouting.
That basically takes us onto the first page of Peter’s Plight.