Jehovah's Witnesses 'refused to reveal details of sex abuse by church elder'

Clifford Whiteley, 73, jailed for offences but court told church had refused to reveal details of what he told them

Birmingham Live, Alabama/April 12, 2020

By Ross McCarthy

A Jehovah's Witnesses group refused to help police after a paedophile elder had confessed to them, a court heard.

Clifford Whiteley, 73, had admitted the child abuse to a West Midlands branch of the church after carrying out the attack more than ten years ago.

But a court heard the group allegedly refused to reveal details of that confession to police - citing data protection reasons.

After being arrested by police Whiteley initially denied his crimes, before saying: "My life is over now. Jehovah's Witnesses cannot lie. God will judge me."

Whiteley, of Ball Fields, Great Bridge, Tipton, was jailed for nine years at Birmingham Crown Court.

He had previously pleaded guilty to sexual assault of a child and three other serious sexual offences.

Passing sentence, Judge Paul Farrer QC told him: "You used your religion to convince your victim she was complicit in your wrongdoing and, in that way, sought to silence her and, sadly, you succeeded for many years."

The court heard the victim had been brought up in the Jehovah's Witnesses while the defendant was an elder in a congregation in the West Midlands.

Kathryn Orchard, prosecuting, said the victim had tried to "blot out" the offences.

But after she revealed what had happened to her there was a meeting with church figures where Whiteley denied the allegations.

Miss Orchard said the Jehovah's Witnesses also launched its own investigation and the defendant had confessed.

But it was claimed when police later quizzed about the details of what Whiteley said, the group refused to reveal them.

Miss Orchard said the defendant had also not answered police questions.

The judge said the victim suffered severe psychological harm and that it was enduring.

Sharon Bailey, defending, said Whiteley had a number of health issues which would become more acute in time.

She said he had not been responsible for the Jehovah's Witnesses refusing to disclose his confession - a decision allegedly taken for data protection reasons.

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