Church won't budge on child checks

Sunday Herald Sun, Australia/June 18, 2011

Justice Department officials are yet to decide on allowing a private prosecution of Jehovah's Witness officials over the religion's refusal to require ministers to gain police checks for working with children.

A former Jehovah's Witness, Steven Unthank of Toongabbie, in Gippsland, lodged the charge in the Morwell Magistrates Court seven weeks ago, alleging ongoing breaches of Victoria's Working With Children Act because of unsupervised contact between adults and minors within the church.

The charge named seven local Jehovah's Witness elders allegedly engaging in child-related work without obtaining a police clearance.

Mr Unthank also gave evidence a week ago at the state's Child Protection Inquiry, being chaired by former Supreme Court judge Phillip Cummins, claiming the religion refused to comply.

He tabled a letter by Attorney General Robert Clark that revealed the Justice Department has repeatedly reminded the Watch Tower Society of its legal obligations and that Victoria Police is also aware of the issue.

A Justice Department spokesman said this week Mr Unthank's bid to lay charges against the Jehovah's Witnesses was being "actively pursued".

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