FYI: The following material that I’m providing comes from a source in Australia, an XJW who is now monitoring the case and will provide feedback, comments, and opinions.
The Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses was recently summoned to appear in the Magistrates' Court of Victoria on September 13, 2011 in relation to a number of indictable criminal offences allegedly committed. This according to official documents filed this past week with the Magistrates' Court of Victoria and dated September 6, 2011.
In compliance with the Magistrates' Court Criminal Procedure Rules, the Governing Body was also formally notified: "You have been charged with an offence...If you do not appear in answer to a summons and the charges are an indictable offence that may be determined summarily, the Magistrates' Court may hear and determine the charge in your absence."
The Victorian Working with Children Act 2005 in Section 5, gives the legal meaning of "Charged with an offence." It states, "For the purposes of this Act, a person [which includes an unincorporated body] is deemed to have been charged with an offence if.... or (b) a charge has been filed against the person for the offence."Criminal charges against the Governing Body would not have been approved for filing in any Australian Court by the Department of Justice if there was NO evidence available showing that a serious indictable criminal offence actually had been committed.The filing of baseless criminal charges is generally prohibited by law, and, if filed by a member of the public or by the police then they are immediately taken over and withdrawn by the Office of Public Prosecutions. In this case it is irrelevant to the courts who actually filed the charges—Mr. Steven Unthank or the police. Either way, the charges were actually prepared, approved and officially filed in court against the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses on July 26, 2011, and are still before the court.
However, charges brought against the Governing Body as an unincorporated entity or body can not be determined summarily, but, according to the law, must be transferred to another court which has jurisdiction to hear the case, such as a county court or Supreme Court.
The Governing Body can not cut a deal and pay a fine. This can not happen under Australian law where you can not pay a fine unless you plead "guilty" and then you get a criminal conviction and also run the risk of jail time.
These criminal charges against the Governing Body pose a number of very serious problems for its members and for all Jehovah's Witnesses in general.
To our knowledge the Governing Body has never before been formally charged with committing indictable criminal offences. This case may have far reaching ramifications that many of us may not have initially realized or considered.
For instance, from the stand point of theocratic rule, it could well be argued that each member of the Governing Body that has a criminal charge lodged against him is no longer “irreprehensible” or “free from accusation." As such he would no longer "have a fine testimony even from people on the outside."
And think about this: If the members of the Governing Body refuse to recognize these criminal charges as "valid” then they can not engage legal counsel to represent them nor appear in court to defend themselves as they run the very likely risk of validating the charges within the congregation.
If the Governing Body answers the charges in this case, then this would confirm that a "valid charge" has actually been brought against each of them. As such, according to theocratic rule it is crucial, from a standpoint of religious credibility and impartiality that any allegations that evidence exists of wrongdoing by the Governing Body be thoroughly examined by the congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses.
Again, according to theocratic rule, such an examination would entail that the members of the Governing Body MUST first individually resign from his position as an elder and as a member of the Governing Body or MUST be forcibly removed and would no longer qualify as a Bethel Family member nor as a member of the Worldwide Order of Special Full-Time Servants of Jehovah's Witnesses.
Simply put, they would be relegated to "rank and file" status, albeit one comprising "restrictions" in any congregation they attended.
And further, a Judicial Committee, or an "initial investigation," must also be made "regardless of the manner in which the elders first hear reports of serious wrongdoing" according to the procedures outlined in the "Organized To Do Jehovah's Will" book, which the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses signed off on.
These same procedures in the "Organized" book state that "if it is established that there is substance to the report and that evidence is available showing that a serious sin actually has been committed, the body of elders will assign a judicial committee of at least three elders to handle the matter."
Undoubtedly, by the terms of theocratic law, the actual charging of indictable criminal offenses against the Governing Body should be of very serious concern to them and to the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses world-wide.