Mr Scott said after the “confession” Leighton was “reproved”, which means he was disciplined and all privileges removed from him.
He was not, at that stage, “disfellowed”, or banished from the church. Being “disfellowed” means nobody is allowed to speak to the disfellowed member and while they may still attend meetings, they are not allowed to participate.
Mr Scott said contacting the police was not discussed as an option.
It was only later, when allegations of violence were made against Leighton, that he was disfellowed and expelled from the congregation.
Mr Scott said: “It is not what you expect a Christian, someone who lives by Christian standards, to do, acting violently towards someone.
“The Bible says violence should be avoided.”
Henry Logan is also an elder at the congregation. He was also at the meeting and had participated in the internal “investigation”. He too said Leighton had initially denied the allegations.
But he added: “He then said that he had been drunk at the time and he may have done those things while he was drunk.”
Mr Logan said he was present when Leighton was told he would be reproved after the admissions.
He said: “He put his hands over his face and said ‘oh, I thought I was going to be disfellowshipped’ and he had tears in his eyes.”
Simon Preyser is an elder from the Roker congregation in Sunderland.
He chaired the meeting and described the allegations as “horrific”.
Mr Preyser told the court about Leighton’s initial denials but added: “He said ‘it might well be, while under the influence of alcohol, I did things I shouldn’t have done. Some of the things she’s said, I’ve done’.
“He just simply said ‘I’m sorry’.”
According to what's stated in Galatians 6:1, the elders don't have the right to automatically disfellowship anyone if a person appears to be repentant. If anything else ever comes to light however, a person is rarely given a third chance as indicated in this article. These articles are evidence of what I've stated in the past, that it's adults that tell things to elders, not children.
Prosecutor Katherine Dunn told the court the victim, who is now an adult, broke her silence in 2009.
It appears that the victim told the police and the elders at about the same time. I disagree with the elder's decision to not initially turn the confession over to the investigating officers and the court without being compelled. They did however comply with the law and it doesn't appear that evidence of a penitential communication to a religious leader was needed for a successful prosecution.
You also have to wonder how the legal system found out that this man confessed to the elders. It's likely because the congregation publicized this matter to some extent. This would not be the case with traditional “ penitential communications,” and some laws in the United States would block any disclosure to the legal system or anyone else. The laws in the US are black and white.
1032. As used in this article, "penitential communication" means a communication made in confidence, in the presence of no third person so far as the penitent is aware, to a member of the clergy who, in the course of the discipline or practice of the clergy member's church, denomination, or organization, is authorized or accustomed to hear those communications and, under the discipline or tenets of his or her church, denomination, or organization, has a duty to keep those communications secret.
When it comes to any other church that's been criticized for their response to this matter, if a person was stripped of any and all privileges on the first offense, and kicked out of the church on a second offense, there would be no “scandal.”