November 2009

Playground pervert had previous convictions

A CONVICTED pervert was allowed to work as a warden in a Kentish Town park despite having a history of committing indecent acts, the Ham&High has learned.

Park attendant Michael Scanlon, 63, was given a four-month suspended prison sentence last Friday after pleading guilty to outraging public decency.

On the afternoon of August 29, Scanlon was caught committing a lewd act in front of two young boys while standing inside the park hut at Talacre Open Space.

Scanlon’s previous convictions included a similar offence of indecency in 2003 and, in 1981, he pleaded guilty to touching a 12-year-old boy in Salisbury, Wiltshire, Blackfriars Crown Court heard.

Security checks for park staff were introduced by certain boroughs years ago. But Camden Council only decided to introduce them for their wardens – who are employed by private contractor Glendale Services – in May this year.

Scanlon’s application was still being processed at the time of the incident so his history went undiscovered.

Haverstock ward and Liberal Democrat councillor Jill Fraser said: “I think it is a lesson well learnt but not one that we probably foresaw because we would have expected the company to be doing these checks.

“I am absolutely sure Camden will have learned its lesson and will be looking at this. We are very lucky no child was harmed in any way.”

Peter Cuming, chairman of the Friends of Talacre group, said that checks shouldn’t go over the top so we end up with “the whole kingdom vetted” but the council needed more care with its parks.

“You would have thought Glendale would have taken a little more care to find out the history of this man,” he said.

“Because of the thousands of children who use the park, you need a special kind of quality park keeper and, in the past, we have felt any old muggins who turns up is allowed to who would work there.”

Scanlon was sacked and replaced by a new warden immediately after the incident.

Prosecuting barrister Nathan Palmer told the court that despite his conviction in 1981 Scanlon managed to find employment working as a security guard near a children’s paddling pool.

He was only removed from the post in 2003 after committing a similar lewd offence while on duty.

During mitigation barrister Lee Sergent said that Scanlon had been brought up in Galway, Ireland, under the care of the Christian Brothers organisation and claimed he had been the victim of physical abuse by his mentors.

Mr Sergent said: “I think that goes quite a long way to explaining some of the behaviour exhibited by Mr Scanlon.”

Sentencing, Judge Martineau said: “This is deeply engrained obviously. Although it has only been noticed on three occasions, I dare say there has been more occasions than that.”

Mr Scanlon will also be forced to undergo a programme of treatment for sex offenders and faces a 24-month probation supervision.

A Camden Council spokeswoman said that there was no legal obligation to vet parks staff and by doing so the town hall was “going above and beyond what is legally required”.

She added: “We continue to work with Glendale to ensure that staff receive the necessary CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) clearance over and above the legal requirement and until these checks are fully completed no contractors working within parks or open spaces across the borough without CRB clearance are permitted to work alone.