A 23-year-old scout leader has been found not guilty of deliberately branding three children during a summer camp in Belgium giving them first and second degree burns.
Judges in Middelburg ruled that the man, named as Mark B, had not planned to brand the children but was guilty of causing them injury. However, this charge was not part of the prosecution’s case and the man was allowed to go free.
The ‘so-called’ branding was part of an initiation ritual for children who wanted to become sea scouts. The children, two boys and a girl aged 12 and 14, had been told to scream as if they were in pain when the branding iron, which had been dipped in blue ink, was pressed on their backs.
The branding iron had been placed in a fire to give ‘authenticity’ to the ritual, which took place behind a sheet so the other scouts could not witness it. The suspect told the court he had tested the branding iron to make sure it was not too hot and that the burns which resulted were an accident.
Lawer Dick Olie, who represented the suspect told reporters after the case his client had never meant to cause burns. The branding iron measured eight by seven centimetres and all three children still have scars.
The public prosecution department, which had called for a seven month sentence, described the verdict as ‘incomprehensible’ and announced an immediate appeal.
‘It could be an accident involving one child, but he went on to do it again on two others,’ broadcaster NOS quoted a department spokesman as saying. ‘We are not talking about a little burn… these children had a real brand mark on their backs.’
Scouting Nederland has suspended De B and he has been banned from any further roles within the organisation, a spokesman told website Nu.nl.
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