Today’s Guardian contains an update on the inquiry into the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Here is a shortened version of the article by Alice Ross.
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The Jehovah’s Witnesses organisation is under increasing pressure to address its handling of sexual abuse allegations as it faces legal setbacks, bills of over £1m and a fight to prevent the Charity Commission examining its records of abuse claims.
Last month a judge upheld a ruling against the UK’s leading Jehovah’s Witnesses charity, the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society of Britain (WTBTS), that the Jehovah’s Witnesses had failed to protect a woman, known in proceedings as A, from sexual abuse starting when she was four years old.
Now the Supreme Court has rejected a highly unusual attempt by the WTBTS to block a Charity Commission inquiry into how the Jehovah’s Witnesses charity handles allegations of abuse.
The extent of the charity’s challenges and the length of time they have gone on for are unprecedented in recent times, a spokesman for the Charity Commission said.
In A’s case the high court awarded damages and legal fees totalling about £1m against the WTBTS after the organisation attempted to appeal against the judgment three times.
The decision in A’s case sets a precedent that could expose the organisation to further claims. It continues to fight Charity Commission orders to provide documents on sexual abuse allegations, as well as other aspects of the inquiry, in lower courts.
Fay Maxted, chief executive of the Survivors Trust, a national sexual assault charity, said . . .“It’s deeply disappointing that a faith-based organisation appears to be so determined to try and avoid answering questions about its own behaviour …
. . .
The Commission, which has the power to investigate how charity trustees handle safeguarding, launched separate inquiries into the Manchester New Moston congregation and the WTBTS, which oversees the nation’s 1,500 congregations and is believed to play a significant role in handling allegations of abuse.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses challenged both inquiries in the courts, arguing that they would breach the trustees’ human right to religious freedom. They also challenged orders to produce documents on how they had handled allegations of sexual abuse in recent years.
. . .
While a small number of charities launch legal appeals against the Commission’s decisions, the extent of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ challenges and the length of time they have gone on for are unprecedented in recent times, a spokesman for the Charity Commission confirmed.
A’s solicitor, Thomas Beale, said: “Sadly, given our experience of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ approach to litigation in cases involving survivors of child abuse, it comes as no surprise that WTBTS has at every stage relentlessly challenged the legal basis and scope of the Charity Commission’s inquiry.
“In our case … they adopted similar tactics, dragging our client through years of painful and distressing litigation … We have always maintained that this is a time for apologies, not appeals.”
For the full article, see https://www.theguardian.com/society/201 ... SApp_Other