Royal Commission Rejects Abuse Expert

July 31, 2015

The royal commission into child sexual abuse has rejected the opinion of an international child abuse prevention expert employed by Jehovah's Witness Church to testify on its behalf.

Monica Applewhite, a US-based consultant who specialises in child abuse risk analysis for organisations, including churches, has been subject to intense questioning at an inquiry in Sydney on Friday.

Dr Applewhite has been employed by Watchtower Australia, the legal entity of the Jehovah Witness Church, to give expert evidence on its policies and publications at the hearing into the church.

Her full report has not yet been made public but chief commissioner Peter McClellan told her that she had expected the commission to accept her opinion about the church, and its handling of child sex abuse allegations, without fully explaining her reasoning.

One of the problems with her report was that she had proffered that the church was "better than anyone else".

But Justice McClellan said the commission did not know who she was comparing the Jehovah's Witnesses to.

Dr Applewhite, who works for Park Dietz & Associates - a US forensic consulting firm offering expertise in civil and criminal litigation - told the commission she had given evidence in two compensation cases involving the Jehovah's Witnesses.

In reply to a question from Justice McClellan, she said she had not been critical of the church in those trials.

Dr Applewhite, who also runs her own consultancy service, is frequently employed by the Catholic Church in the US, Ireland and Australia to advise on child sexual abuse prevention policies.

She has listed work with the Catholic Archdioceses of Melbourne Victoria and Adelaide on her extensive CV.

Justice McClellan asked her on Friday what materials she relied on in coming to her opinions about the Jehovah's Witnesses in Australia.

She replied that she depended on the church's extensive published material.

Dr Applewhite apologised if the specific documents were not referenced in her report for the commission, saying "I was already fully scheduled when I started working on this, so I may not have been as conscientious".

Justice McClellan said that in Australia before opinions are accepted "we would need some foundation for them" and referred her to the Australian Federal Court's requirements for expert witnesses.

He said he could not accept her report as "necessarily the correct outcome".

The hearing continues.








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