A woman who claims that Jehovah’s Witness elders failed to protect from abuse by a known paedophile, has won a six-figure pay out from the church.
The woman, known only in court as C, alleges that she was abused between the ages of four and nine in Loughborough by ministerial servant Peter Stewart. She claims that the church was made aware of allegations of abuse made against him in relation to another child in the religious community.
However, she says that despite this being acknowledged, Stewart was allowed to remain in the church performing duties because he told them that he had “repented” over the abuse. C says that this meant he was able to abuse her for four more years.
In 1995, he was convicted of rape in an unrelated case. In 2001, he died shortly before police arrived at his home to question him in relation to C’s allegations.
The London High Court heard that the woman had “suffered hugely” as a result of the alleged abuse and that she had attempted suicide.
She told the BBC that Jehovah’s Witness organisation saw child abuse as: “a sin that can be dealt with within the organisation- they don’t feel they have to look outside themselves in any way.”
“All they want to do is pray for you and promise you that God’s going to wipe away all your pain. It is just unbelievable.”
It is the first civil case to be brought against the religious organisation in the UK. A representative from the church said that they will reflect on the ruling.
The Independent has contacted the UK Jehovah’s Witnesses for comment.