Church bins sex abuse records

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - JANET FIFE- YEO­MANS

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.

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