Jehovah's Witness elders ignored child sex abuse rules of evidence, royal commission told

By Rachel Browne
Sydney Morning Herald
July 29, 2015

A group of Jehovah's Witness Church elders ignored their own strict religious standards in failing to punish a self-confessed child abuser in their ranks, a royal commission has heard.

The sex predator admitted to molesting his daughter to a committee of church elders, who also heard corroborating statements from the victim, her sister and mother.

However, the evidence before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was that the confession and three witness statements did not amount to proof in the eyes of the elders investigating the claim, all of whom were friends of the perpetrator.

A Jehovah's Witness elder involved in the investigation, Dino Ali, wrote in his statement tendered to the commission: "The judicial committee did not feel it had clear proof of the allegations of child sexual abuse from either party as it was one person's word against another's."

Counsel assisting the commission Angus Stewart, SC, told Mr Ali he had "ample proof" of the child sexual assault, which Mr Ali denied.

Under Jehovah's Witness rules of evidence, tendered to the commission, an allegation of child sexual abuse can be proven if there is a confession from the accused or there is testimony from at least two witnesses supporting the claim.

Commission chairman Justice Peter McClellan​ asked how church elders failed to draw a conclusion about the sex abuse allegations against the man, who has been given the pseudonym BCH.

"You had an account of what happened ... you also had a confession ... and you tell me that the rules of the Jehovah's Witnesses didn't allow you to make a finding based on that material," he asked.

Mr Ali told the commission they were unable to make a finding because BCH had "a reputation of lying".

The commission heard that the elders, based at a congregation in Queensland, cast BCH out of the congregation on the basis that he was having an affair with another woman.

In previous evidence, BCH's daughter gave a harrowing account of her abuse and the way her complaint was handled by church authorities.

Mr Ali agreed in evidence that BCH was a danger to young girls but he said he did not contact the police.

BCH's daughter, given the pseudonym BCG, complained to the police in 2000 and her father was later sentenced to four years in prison over multiple sexual offences against her.

Mr Ali told the commission he did not believe church law replaced secular law and said the organisation worked with legal authorities.

The commission heard BCH was reinstated to the church but cast out again in 2003 when his criminal trial came to light.

In letters tendered in evidence, BCH has repeatedly asked to be reinstated, writing in a 2013 letter: "My conscience is perfectly clear. Jehovah will judge those making false accusations."

The hearing continues.



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