Jehovah’s Witnesses apply for judicial review of Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care

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The Jehovah’s Witness church has filed an application for a judicial review of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care, arguing it doesn’t bear responsibility for care of children and that no abuse occurred that was within the scope of the inquiry.

The Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care has been investigating abuse in state and church institutions since 2018. The commission has made a statement that the Jehovah’s Witnesses have filed an application for a judicial review.

“The Royal Commission confirms that the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Australasia) Limited has filed an application for judicial review, arguing that it is outside the scope of the Royal Commission’s terms of reference. The church seeks declarations from the High Court that the Jehovah’s Witnesses do not assume responsibility for the care of children, young people or vulnerable people in New Zealand and there are no instances of abuse by the Jehovah Witnesses’ faith within scope of the Inquiry based on the evidence before the Royal Commission, together with several other declarations about the Royal Commission’s process.”

The commission offered no further comment because the matter is now before the courts.

In Australia the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse heard from 70 victims who alleged abuse in Jehovah Witnesses institutions and 33 victims who alleged abuse in Bretheren churches.

The Australian commission’s report stated that: “Seventy survivors told us about abuse in the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Of the victims we heard about, 80 percent were female. The average age of victims at the time of first abuse was 8.4 years. Of the 53 survivors who told us about the age of the person who sexually abused them, 44 survivors (83 percent) told us about abuse by an adult and 12 survivors (22.6 per cent) told us about abuse by a child. A small number of survivors told us about sexual abuse by an adult and by a child. The vast majority of survivors who told us about abuse by an adult perpetrator said they were abused by a male adult.”

The report also criticised the Jehovah’s Witnesses for applying a rule of two witnesses to validate an allegation of sexual abuse.

The report said: “As long as the Jehovah’s Witness organisation continues to apply these practices in its response to allegations of child sexual abuse, it will remain an organisation that does not respond adequately to child sexual abuse and that fails to protect children. We recommend that the Jehovah’s Witness organisation abandon its application of the two witness rule in cases involving complaints of child sexual abuse (Recommendation 16.27), revise its policies so that women are involved in processes relating to investigating and determining allegations of child sexual abuse (Recommendation 16.28), and no longer require its members to shun those who disassociate from the organisation in cases where the reason for disassociation is related to a person being a victim of child sexual abuse.”

While the Australian commission heard directly from 70 victims of abuse in the Jehovah’s Witnesses, it indicated that the abuse was far more widespread. In its report it said: “As part of our case study, the Jehovah’s Witness organisation provided us with files containing allegations, reports or complaints of child sexual abuse. They provided us with documents relating to at least 1800 children and over 1000 alleged perpetrators.”

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