A leading publisher has defended its decision to press ahead with the launch of a book celebrating the achievements of a summer camp for autistic boys despite knowing that its organiser was facing child sex abuse charges.
Summer of Hope by journalist Ian Cotton was published on July 1 and was favourably reviewed in last week's TES. However, it has now emerged that the camp's director, 66-year-old Roy Howgate, was convicted of indecently assaulting three boy scouts, at Snaresbrook Crown Court on July 17. He was sentenced to 30 months' imprisonment.
This week the publisher, Simon amp; Schuster, explained its decision to publish Summer of Hope, which chronicles life at Camp Mohawk, near Wargrave in Berkshire. It said it had no plans to withdraw the book, which was commissioned before Howgate appeared before Stratford magistrates in February 2001, charged with 10 counts of rape and indecent assault.
Howgate was the leader of an independent scout troop based in the London borough of Newham and had run the woodland camp for 22 years. The camp pioneered a system under which autistic boys were paired with scouts of their own age who were responsible for their care.
Ian Cotton spent a year between 1999 and 2000 visiting the camp and interviewing Howgate, the boys and their families and Camp Mohawk's many supporters.
There is no reference in the book to the charges against Howgate. He was cleared of sexually assaulting four boys between 1995 and 2000 but pleaded guilty to four indecent assaults in the 1970s. One of the assaults was carried out at Camp Mohawk.
Helen Gummer, non-fiction publisher for Simon amp; Schuster, said: "I bought Summer of Hope in July 1999 because of its focus on how ordinary children can produce magical results when left to care for less able children.
"I had no notion at the time I bought the book that charges would be levelled against Roy Howgate for abusing the children in his care, and to my knowledge, neither did the author.
"At the time Summer of Hope was published, the charges against Roy Howgate had not been brought to trial. No details of the incidents were known to us or recorded in the book."
Asked why Simon amp; Schuster did not delay publication until the outcome of the trial was known, she said: "The trial had been delayed more than once, and we wanted to do what was best for the book, which is essentially about what children are capable of achieving.
"We were anxious to publish in the summer."