Royal Commission: Jehovah's Witness sex predator reinstated

By Rachel Browne
Sydney Morning Herald
July 28, 2015

A former senior member of the Jehovah's Witnesses who repeatedly molested a teenage girl was stood down as a church elder only to be later reinstated, a royal commission has heard.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was told that former church elder Bill Neill admitted to voyeurism in a meeting in which his accuser was forced to face him.

Former circuit overseer Doug Jackson, who was in charge of the investigation, told the commission he did not regard Mr Neill's conduct as criminal at the time, nor did he inform the police.

The commission heard Mr Jackson wrote a letter to the branch officer of the Jehovah's Witness Church in Australia noting that Mr Neill, now deceased, had received "strong counselling" for his "uncleanness".

The letter recommended Mr Neill be reinstated as an elder once the incident had blown over.

"I would recommend that once this has died down and it appears that Brother Neill again has the freedom of speech that he be recommended as an elder again so that he can be of help in the congregation," said the letter, tendered in evidence.

The letter made no mention of whether Mr Neill could be trusted with children, the commission heard.

The commission has previously heard evidence that the Jehovah's Witness Church has reinstated 230 members who allegedly abused children.

Mr Jackson told the commission that church elders received training in how to address allegations of child sexual abuse.

He said victims received "moral support" but were forced to confront their abusers in committee meetings overseen by male elders.

Commission chairman Justice Peter McClellan​ asked Mr Jackson whether this practice was fair to the victim.

"The problem is the whole structure of the arrangement with two male elders, a male accused and then a female in an environment in which she could never feel comfortable being asked to tell intimate details of a sexual nature," he said. "The structure doesn't work, does it?"

Mr Jackson replied: "Well, I agree your honour, I certainly do."

Mr Jackson told the commission that sex abuse victims were not encouraged to seek psychiatric help or counselling outside the church.

The hearing continues.



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