Jehovah’s Witness’ bid to be excluded from abuse inquiry dismissed

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A legal bid by the Jehovah’s Witness church to get out of being part of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care has been dismissed by the High Court in Wellington.

After nearly three years of behind-the-scenes legal wrangling to avoid scrutiny from the Inquiry, the church applied for a judicial review in June.

At a hearing, held earlier this month it argued it was beyond the inquiry’s scope because it did not operate institutions that cared for children or vulnerable people and the inquiry had uncovered no evidence of abuse in that context.

Lawyers representing the Inquiry argued that Jehovah’s Witness elders – equivalent to ministers or pastors – exercised a level of control over the congregation that allowed them access to children.

The inquiry informed abuse survivors who gave evidence to the inquiry in relation to the Jehovah’s Witnesses of the news this afternoon.

“We have received advice from the High Court that none of the causes of action brought by the Jehovah’s Witnesses has succeeded and the application for judicial review has been dismissed. The judge’s reasons are not yet available, but are expected in the near future,” the email to survivors, seen by RNZ, said.

The church was the only faith-based institution in the country to legally challenge its involvement in the inquiry, although it had attempted to challenge its status in other countries where similar inquiries have also been carried out.

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