Church bins sex abuse records
OFFICIALS in the Jehovah’s Witnesses church destroyed notes, including those involving allegations of the sexual assault of children, in case they fell into the “wrong hands” – like those of their wives.
Church elder Max Horley told the child sex abuse royal commission yesterday that it was protocol to destroy notes including those he made during meetings between another elder, Bill Neill, and the teenage girl who accused Neill of abusing her.
Mr Horley, a Jehovah’s Witness all his life, said he had not considered it a “crime” for Neill, who is now dead, to have secretly watched the girl showering from the age of 15 and to have kissed her regularly when she stayed with his family.
Mr Horley had organised the meetings in 1991 after he was told of the abuse which took place at Narrogin in Western Australia but never considered reporting it to the police or encouraging the girl to go to police.
He was asked by commissioner Peter McClellan why the notes were destroyed.
“Well, I guess it’s because we don’t want them to fall into the wrong hands and other people to find them and then go through them,” Mr Horley said yesterday.
Justice McClellan: are the wrong hands?”
Mr Horley: “Well we don’t want our wives knowing our stuff, what sort of things we are dealing with. We don’t want
“What other people in the congregation coming across that information.”
He denied that the elders wanted to keep such details secret.
The commission has been told that Jehovah’s Witnesses is a “tightly controlled, rulebound organisation that seeks to keep its members in relative isolation from the rest of society” and women are expected to defer to the authority of their husbands and children are taught to obey their parents.
Earlier the royal commission heard that the Jehovah’s Witnesses church repeatedly promoted pedophiles to positions of authority and never reported any case of child abuse to the police.
Church elders could now w face criminal charges for con- cealment of serious indictable e offences and failure to disclose sexual offences against minors, counsel assisting the commission Angus Stewart SC said.
The church holds no insurance for child sex abuse and its corporation, Watchtower Australia, in 2008 considered forming a separate legal entity to minimise liability, Mr Stewart said.
He said the church’s own files reveal 1006 allegations of child sex abuse made against church members since 1950 but the Jehovah’s Witnesses dealt with them using “biblical standards” and not the police.
They only believed victims if the alleged abuser confessed or there were two “credible” witnesses.