Jehovah's Witnesses stay in line on abuse

Jehovah's Witnesses say it is not their responsibility to report child sex abuse to police unless mandatory reporting legislation is in place

AAP, Australia/April 11, 2013

A Victorian inquiry on Thursday heard that when a Jehovah's Witness leader hears allegations of abuse they are directed immediately to contact the society's legal department to check their obligations under state law.

Jehovah's Witness legal counsel Rachel van Witsen said elders were not expected to know their legal obligations.

"This is done to ensure elders fully comply with any legal requirements that may be applicable in the state in which they reside," she said.

"In Victoria if there was mandatory reporting the immediate advice would be to report that immediately."

The society's director Terrence O'Brien said the decision to take the allegations to police lay with the victim.

"Without mandatory reporting we don't feel that as ministers of religion that's our obligation to do that," Mr O'Brien said.

However, the organisation would encourage the victim to report it and would co-operate fully with police, he said.

Ms van Witsen said elders would make an exception if they felt the child was threatened.

"We would report that to appropriate authorities," she told the inquiry.

"We're about stopping child abuse."

Two ministers have been removed from the society for child sex abuse in 40 years of records, the parliamentary inquiry heard.

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