Jehovah's Witnesses 'ordered destruction' of notes which could have been used during child sexual abuse inquiry

by oppostate 29 Replies latest watchtower scandals

  • oppostate

    Jehovah's Witnesses 'ordered destruction' of notes which could have been used during child sexual abuse inquiry

    A former church elder in South Wales has claimed the church has gone against the request made by Judge Lowell Goddard

    Judge Lowell Goddard is leading the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse
    Judge Lowell Goddard is leading the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

    The Jehovah’s Witnesses have been accused of ordering the destruction of documents in direct contradiction of an order not to do so from a major child sexual abuse inquiry.

    Religious organisations, as well as schools, colleges and other institutions, have been told by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse – led by Judge Lowell Goddard – to keep hold of any documents which could be useful to the investigation.

    A request sent out to the bodies last year stated measures should be taken “to ensure that everything of potential relevance to the Inquiry is retained”.

    Jehovah’s Witness elders hear allegations against members of the congregation and record what is said.

    We have seen a copy of an edict distributed to Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations around the UK ordering the destruction of “all agendas and minutes of elders’ meetings (other than business meeting minutes)”, “all personal notes taken at elders’ meetings (except those based on discussions of outlines from ‘the faithful and discreet slave’ and that do not mention any particular individual)” and “any other personal records, notes, or correspondence that refer to particular individuals”.

    'Not transparent'

    Referring to the congregation file the edict also says all agendas of elders’ meetings should be destroyed and that Congregation Service Committees should “make sure all records relating to child molestation are in harmony”.

    And one former senior church elder from South Wales, who has been a Jehovah’s Witness for more than half a century, said the revelations put the church directly at odds with the request of the independent inquiry.

    Read more: Claims dead head teacher could be one of Wales' most prolific paedophiles with more than 100 victims

    He said: “The fact is there are dangers within the Jehovah’s Witnesses as there are within other organisations – but whereas I see other organisations taking steps to conform with child safety it seems the Jehovah’s Witnesses are going the other way. They are still trying to keep it in-house and not making it transparent.”

    He added: “Under the present rules all personal documents, aides-memoire, agendas and notes are to be destroyed. That will mean in future that if they are approached by police Jehovah’s Witnesses could say they don’t remember anything.

    New Zealand High Court judge Justice Lowell GoddardNew Zealand High Court judge Justice Lowell Goddard

    “This seems a backward step, particularly in the light of Judge Lowell Goddard’s request that, so victims can be helped in bringing justice to abusers, all organisations must keep what they can to assist.

    'Ignored' judge's request

    “Why, when an organisation says it abhors child abuse, would it go and destroy documents that can assist in bringing a child abuser to justice?

    “The evidence I have experienced is a clamming up, a shutting down, and a silence of almost an obstructive nature to police investigations.

    “They are saying they send this out regularly but Judge Lowell Goddard has said not to – so why haven’t they instructed the elders and said that although they usually do this but this year we won’t because we want to follow this request?

    “They say it’s what they have always done but we have got to change what we have always done.”

    Karen Morgan, a victim of sex abuse by church elder Mark Sewell, who was once an elder in the congregation in Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, also criticised the move.

    Read more: Mark Sewell: Two victims of perverted Jehovah's Witness sex attacker to sue church

    She said: “At the time of my case the police were told there was no paperwork relating to my case as it had been destroyed. This paperwork would have contained all documented evidence from the many meetings with elders.

    “Despite knowing the importance of these papers the governing body seem to be deliberately instructing their elders not to keep them.

    Church 'committed' to helping victims

    “This only confirms my view that the governing body are more interested in protecting their image than caring about the victims.”

    Disgraced businessman Sewell was jailed in 2014 after being convicted of a total of eight sex charges.

    A spokesman for the church said: “We are committed to doing all we can to prevent child abuse and to provide spiritual comfort to any who have suffered from this terrible sin and crime.”

    Speaking about the leaked edict the spokesman added: “The document... is simply an annual reminder sent to congregation trustees encouraging them to follow standard procedures so as to meet their responsibilities under data protection and other legislation.”

    The spokesman also said: “Jehovah’s Witnesses abhor child abuse and view it as a heinous crime and sin. The safety of our children is of the utmost importance.

    Read more: 'Jehovah cult kicked me out - but not the man who raped me,' victim claims

    “For decades our journals The Watchtower and Awake!, as well as our website, have featured articles for both Jehovah’s Witnesses and the general public on how to protect children from abuse.

    Cover-up claim 'absolutely false'

    “We have no paid clergy. Congregation elders comply with child-abuse reporting laws and with the data protection principles contained in the Data Protection Act 1998. (Romans 13:1) They provide abuse victims and their families with spiritual comfort from the Bible. (Isaiah 32:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:14)

    “The victim and his or her parents have the absolute right to report the matter to the governmental authorities. (Galatians 6:5) Congregation elders do not shield abusers from the authorities or from the consequences of their actions. (Galatians 6:7)

    “Anyone who commits the sin of child abuse faces expulsion from the congregation. If such a person is serving in a position of responsibility he is removed. Any suggestion that Jehovah’s Witnesses cover up child abuse is absolutely false."

    A spokesperson for the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse said: “The chair has stated that the inquiry will investigate abuse in religious settings (including all faiths and religious traditions) and issued a letter giving notice of retention/non-destruction of documents to the leaders of 18 prominent religious organisations.”

  • joe134cd
    Trust me nothing would bring me more delight than to see Wt brought to it knees. I don't know why this wasn't stated in the article but that letter specifically stated that they were NOT to destroy documents related to sex abuse. So yes they were complying with Lowell Goddard instructions.That been said however in light of the present circumstances that Wt is now in I think it was very poor judgment on there part to give any instructions to get rid of any paper work weather it was required to or not. I think this is a case of very poor journalism. Shame on you Wales on line.
  • brandnew
    Removed from being an elder, or ms......doesnt mean jail time. And how does expulsion do to help the victim?
  • Finkelstein
  • fukitol

    Notice they say "..faces expulsion...", not "..will be expelled". The paedo expresses some remorse and he is only reproved and is still free to go door to door. And no one gets to know. Truly sick.

  • brandnew

    I think there are paedos hiding at the top of the ivory tower.

    Thus the reason for destruction of any evidence.

  • Beth Sarim
    Beth Sarim

    Destroying evidence which could be admissible in court, wouldn't that be a criminal act on both ends. On both ends, the society who gives the directives plus the elders who follow through. Isnt this a criminal act.

    Someone fill me in please.

  • Finkelstein

    Its not a criminal act if there isn't a specific court order to obtain such descriptive information.

    What the WTS is doing is making sure as a precautionary measure that there isn't any written information held by each congregations concerning acts of pedophilia within their select congregations..

    Written down information that could be used against the WTS in a court case labeled against the WTS.

  • the girl next door
    the girl next door

    This was posted by Konceptual99 months ago when everyone jumped on this story:

    "UK has a data protection law. JW's complied with it.

    Since 2000/2001 all congregation judicial records (envelopes) EXCEPT child molestation cases are to be destroyed by the service committee and replaced with a file which lists:

    Name of 3 elders on case/date/name of individual/ and reproved or DFD/DA'd in file. No details kept.

    Child molestation cases are sent to the branch in its entirety and a separate child protection file is kept by the secretary with basic details of the case. Accessible to ALL elders.

    Every year the elders get a reminder to do an audit with the checklist shown. It is the service committee's responsibility to do it. Ongoing child molestation cases are not destroyed but sent to the branch and basic details are kept in the congregation child protection file. Each elder must destroy anything he "inadvertently" kept such as his personal notes from any judicial matter he dealt with. UK elders are not specifically required to destroy or keep anything by law.

    Any data they keep has to comply to the Data Protection Act about how it is obtained, for what purpose and how long it is kept for. An individual can make an information request at any time to see the data held about them the recent(and yearly) audit letter and the letter posted below demonstrate that the WTS is very prescriptive in ensuring the minimum data is kept, for two key reasons:

    1 - to prevent elders keeping data that either does not comply with the DPA or data that could be used in a civil case by someone wishing to bring a case against a congregation on the basis of information held about them.

    2 - to keep to a minimum data that could be used by the authorities against the organisation.

    Point 1 is because elders are often idiots and careless about what they write down and keep hold of.

    Point 2 is because the WTS has a persecution complex and imagines they are going to be oppressed at some point.

    It's a matter of opinion but asking elders to audit their records against the published benchmarks is...not quite the same as getting them to destroy evidence or cover things up. If they have no legal obligation to hold the data then they cannot be accused of destroying evidence. When it comes to child abuse, the processes are clear about what should be held. This is so some measure of "due diligence" and "duty of care" can be demonstrated rather than adherence to any legal obligation is concerned.

    They can, however, be asked to explain how such instructions really tally with an open, transparent and progressive organisation, especially when it comes to child abuse. The instructions can be compared with other organisations to illustrate the predictably huge gap between the WTS' claims of being leaders in child abuse management and the reality of what is best practice in the vast majority of similar organisations."

    Barbara Anderson added elsewhere:

    "If you look on page 4, par. 5 in the Dec. 9, 2008 BOE letter, it states, "Each year we will provide a checklist-style worksheet to help service committees accomplish an audit of files. ..." So it is obvious that WT of Britain has been sending this form to UK congregations annually since 2008. It's not a new directive! And please note, this worksheet is a form, not a BOE letter, and it's not to be sent back to the WT, but shared with the CO. All statements/instructions, etc., on the Audit Checklist-style Form can be verified in the elders "Flock" manual which I did do. There's nothing especially important about this 2015 Form which certainly didn't deserve the excitement it generated a few months ago. In my opinion, if the WT anywhere in the world wanted elders to destroy very confidential congregational files, which in certain instances could be viewed by authorities as breaking the law, they sure wouldn't send all cong. service committees instructions explaining how to do it on an auditing checklist form."

    This is the letter:

    And memo:

  • the girl next door
    the girl next door
    It was bad journalism in the OP link and is a disservice to the valid work the ExJW community does. Videos perpetuating this journalism are also a disservice.

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