In Brief

Former Jehovah’s Witnesses sue over historic sex abuse

Group’s controversial ‘two witnesses’ policy has come under fire

At least 20 former Jehovah’s Witnesses are suing the religious group over alleged historical sexual abuse.

The BBC reports that the religious organisation “has a policy of not punishing alleged child sex abuse unless a second person, alongside the accuser, has witnessed it - or an abuser confesses”.

However, a former elder has disputed the group’s claims that senior figures always tell police if a child is in danger “even if there is only one witness”.

John Viney, who alleges that he was abused between the ages of nine and 13 by “an active Jehovah’s Witness”, claims children are still being abused.

He told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme: “The way that Jehovah’s Witnesses handle matters within the congregation, it’s a closed shop.

“I know for a fact now that there are parents that haven't done anything about the abuse of their children by others because they don't want to bring reproach on Jehovah’s name.”

A Jehovah’s Witnesses spokesperson said in a statement: “The only way that a child abuser can gain access to children in a religious organisation like ours, which does not have any programmes that separate children from their parents, is through parents themselves.”

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––For a round-up of the most important stories from around the world - and a concise, refreshing and balanced take on the week’s news agenda - try The Week magazine. Start your trial subscription today –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

But, the Daily Mail reports, a High Court judge has raised concerns after hearing that ministers in a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses waited more than two and a half years before telling police that a girl had made sexual abuse allegations against her father.

The judge said the evidence pointed to the fact that elders knew about the allegations in December 2016, when the girl was nine, but had not reported the issue to police until July 2019, the paper adds.

A separate case was resolved in January this year, when leaders of the Jehovah’s Witnesses were told to pay £62,000 in damages to a former member who was raped after attending door-to-door visits 30 years ago.

Although a “judicial committee” of the group’s elders found the allegations against Mark Sewell to be “not proven” in an internal inquiry in 1991, a High Court judge ruled in her favour last month.

In 2018, an independent inquiry into child sexual abuse said there had been “a considerable number” of complaints against the religious group.

Recommended

‘Costa Bravo’
Today's newspaper front pages
Today’s newspapers

‘Costa Bravo’

Could the term ‘global weirding’ help people?
Pollution in the Peak District, Derbyshire
Instant Opinion

Could the term ‘global weirding’ help people?

‘I will fix it’: Boris Johnson’s text to Sir James Dyson over tax issue
Sir James Dyson
Behind the scenes

‘I will fix it’: Boris Johnson’s text to Sir James Dyson over tax issue

Why does Queen Elizabeth have two birthdays?
Queen Elizabeth II
In Brief

Why does Queen Elizabeth have two birthdays?

Popular articles

What is Donald Trump doing now?
Donald Trump
In Depth

What is Donald Trump doing now?

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 20 April 2021
10 Downing Street
Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 20 April 2021

London mayoral race 2021: who will win?
Night Tube Sadiq Khan
In Depth

London mayoral race 2021: who will win?