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Jehovah’s Witnesses commission secret legal report critical of Child Abuse Royal Commission

Jehovah’s Witnesses and Watchtower Australia have commissioned a secret legal report critical of the Australian ‘Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse’

On 14 November 2018, Australian-based barristers David Bennett AC, QC and James Gibson presented to Watchtower Australia and the Jehovah’s Witnesses organisation their commissioned review and opinion on the findings and recommendations of the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse as it related to Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The review entitled “Review of the Commission’s Investigation into Jehovah’s Witnesses and its ensuing reports” was divided into four Parts, as follows:

Part One considered the history and powers of royal commissions in general.

Part Two considered particular aspects of the Child Abuse Royal Commission relevant to Jehovah’s Witnesses, including the Commission’s Terms of Reference.

Part Three considered the Commission’s findings and recommendations regarding Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the basis of such findings and recommendations.

Part Four considered the responses, as at 14 November 2018, of the Commonwealth and State Governments to the Final Report of the Child Abuse Royal Commission.

Following receipt of the commissioned review and opinion, Watchtower Australia requested from Bennett QC and Gibson that they prepare an Executive Summary of their review, with a focus on “the Commission’s findings and recommendations regarding Jehovah’s Witnesses and the basis of such findings and recommendations”.

On 11 February 2019 Bennett QC and Gibson presented to Watchtower Australia and the Jehovah’s Witnesses organisation their signed eight-page executive summary: “Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia and The Final Report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse”.

DOWNLOAD: Legal Report executive summary on the Royal Commission into Jehovah’s Witnessess by David Bennett QC and James Gibson (8mb) – pdf

DOWNLOAD: 148-page submission prepared by James Gibson and Andrew Tokley for Watchtower & Ors in response to the Child Abuse Royal Commission – 9 November 2015 (3mb) – pdf

Extracts from the executive summary written by David Bennett AC, QC and James Gibson:

“The Commission’s dissection of the religious beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses … failed to discriminate between religious beliefs (and the obligations imposed by such beliefs) and the requirements of secular law”

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“The Commission’s criticism of Jehovah’s Witnesses Bible-based religious beliefs and practices was misplaced”

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“[W]e consider a large part of the Commission’s investigation into and evidence led about Jehovah’s Witnesses, which related to child sexual abuse within families of members of Jehovah’s Witnesses, was outside the Commission’s Terms”

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“[A] more balanced and fair approach should have been adopted by the Commission”

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“[T]he Commission considered that it had carte blanche to inquire into allegations of child sexual abuse [within Jehovah’s Witnesses]”

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“[I]t is questionable whether proper regard was had by the Commission when coming to its findings on its analysis of the data, to Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Submissions regarding the case files”

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“There was an inherent unfairness in the Commission’s investigation of Jehovah’s Witnesses”

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Report of Case Study No. 29 and summary of findings image courtesy of SaySorry.org

Facts vs ‘Apostate-driven lies’

In the “Report of Case Study No. 29 The response of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia Ltd to allegations of child sexual abuse” the Child Abuse Royal Commission wrote the following in relation to the submissions from Watchtower & Ors:

“As noted in the Preface to this report, the Royal Commission received two sets of combined submissions made on behalf the Watchtower & Ors. We consider it appropriate to specifically address here two of the key submissions that were made … We do not accept that the child sexual abuse revealed in this case study has no connection with the activities of the Jehovah’s Witness organisation … We do not agree with this submission … The Royal Commission’s Terms of Reference require us to consider such matters and other ‘related matters in institutional contexts’. The definitions in the Terms of Reference of both ‘institution’ and ‘institutional context’ are not exhaustive and, in our view, they encompass the institution of the Jehovah’s Witness organisation and its activities.” – page 76. Download Case Study Report into Jehovah’s Witnesses published by the Child Abuse Royal Commission

The governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses continue to deny the findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Despite the above cited statement published by the Child Abuse Royal Commission, Bennett QC and Gibson wrote in their commissioned report to Watchtower Australia and the Jehovah’s Witnesses organisation that,

“In our opinion the Commission’s rejection of … two ‘key submissions’ made by Jehovah’s Witnesses led the Commission to conflate impermissibly, and contrary to its Terms of Reference, familial and institutional sexual abuse”.

Key paragraphs from the Executive Summary written by Bennett QC and Gibson

“2.14 In our opinion, had a challenge been made to a Court, it is reasonable to conclude that an Australian Court, applying the plain and ordinary meaning of the words and defined terms used in the Terms of Reference and applying conventional rules of construction, would have found that an examination of child sexual abuse in families of people who also happened to be members of Jehovah’s Witnesses, was beyond the scope of the Commission’s mandate”.

“2.15 We understand that while Jehovah’s Witnesses did not agree with the Commission’s reasons, they did not wish to exacerbate the trauma of either of the survivors or of their own witnesses and did not consider that their interests would be advanced by such a challenge – which would only have added to the damaging publicity surrounding the Commission”.

“2.19 In our view, even allowing for the Commission’s interpretation of the scope of its Terms of Reference, a more balanced and fair approach should have been adopted by the Commission to its presentation of the case file data. As it is, it is questionable whether proper regard was had by the Commission when coming to its findings on its analysis of the data, to Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Submissions regarding the case files”.

“2.23 Although the information obtained by the Commission in the private sessions clearly assisted the policy objectives of the Commission’s Terms of Reference, there are significant difficulties in relying on any findings based on private sessions”. [JW Leaks notes: for a discussion on the private sessions see the SaySorry.org article Private Session Narratives. To understand the scope of the alleged ‘significant difficulties in relying on any findings based on [all 8,013] private sessions’, as stated by Bennett QC and Gibson, refer to the Child Abuse Royal Commission’s Final Report Volume 5 Private sessions which publishes the findings of all private sessions].

“2.26 In our assessment the Commission paid little regard or appeared to give no weight to the historical context in which the two incidents investigated occurred. At the very least, the Commission should have considered whether the Scriptural requirement of corroboration in the so called “two-witness rule”, was comparable to what the police and the courts required at a similar historical period as that being examined in the two cases”.

The executive review and opinions of Bennett QC and Gibson are currently being used by the governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the various legal entities that they provide direction to, as an attempt to prevent or undermine current law enforcement and governmental investigations around the world into allegations concerning the prevalence of, and the mishandling of, child sexual abuse within the Jehovah’s Witnesses organisation. It is unknown as to whether Bennett QC and Gibson are aware of this. Both Bennett QC and Gibson have been contacted and formally invited to comment on this.

Recently the document produced by Bennett QC and Gibson was used by the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in The Netherland as an attempt to try and stop the publishing of the official academic report on the “Sexual Abuse and Willingness to Report Within the Community of Jehovah’s Witnesses,” authored by Kees van den Bos, Marie-Jeanne Schiffelers, Michèlle Bal, Hilke Grootelaar, Isa Bertram and Amarins Jansma, with the cooperation of Stans de Haas, and commissioned by the Research and Documentation Centre of the Ministry of Justice and Safety.

Who is David Bennett AC, QC and what is his relationship with the Jehovah’s Witnesses organisation?

Barrister David Bennett AC, QC, was the former Solicitor-General of Australia. Bennett QC has represented the interests in Australia of both the Jehovah’s Witnesses organisation and the Scientology organisation over many years.

David Bennett AC, QC barrister profile

In 2013, Bennett QC represented a 17-year-old Jehovah’s Witnesses child in a blood transfusion case before the Supreme Court of NSW against the Sydney Children’s Hospital (see The Sydney Children’s Hospital Network v X [2013] NSWSC 368 and also X v The Sydney Children’s Hospital Network [2013] NSWCA 320).  The Supreme Court ordered the blood transfusion (Download judgment). The instructing solicitor in those proceedings was Vincent Toole, legal counsel for Watchtower Australia and a Jehovah’s Witness elder. Counsel assisting Bennett QC in those proceedings was barrister Andrew Tokley SC. During the Child Abuse Royal Commission Tokley SC represented Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia, Geoffrey Jackson of the governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the interests of the Jehovah’s Witnesses organisation.

In Australia, Bennett AC, QC won the historic Supreme Court case that redefined religion and granted religious recognition for Scientology. In a speech at the opening of the new Australian-headquarters for Scientology Australasia in 2016, Bennett QC said:

“Out of all the cases that I have been involved in, I count your victory affirming that Scientology is a religion as the one that makes me the most proud, because since that time, courts around the world have relied on the Australian definition. And so, to be here celebrating with all of you, well, I see just what can result from a dramatic and revolutionary court victory in the name of religious freedom. And, it makes me even more proud to know that what began as a fight for what is fair, led to a decision that has spread across the world to guarantee the rights of people of all faiths.” – Scientology.org.au

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“It is apparent from our Review that Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Commission shared common goals, namely, to ensure, as far as it is possible, that children are kept safe from predatory sexual behaviour”. – David Bennett AC, QC and James Gibson

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Further information on the evidence-based criticism levelled at the Jehovah’s Witnesses organisation by the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse see the review published by Say Sorry

Say Sorry (published 15 December 2019) Part 1 | Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Child Abuse Royal Commission – Criticism of the Jehovah’s Witnesses

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About JW Leaks

JW Leaks is about openness, transparency and accountability within the Church of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watch Tower Society.

JW Leaks exposes and holds accountable the Watch Tower Society and those leaders within the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization that disregard or violate the laws of the land, and that cause religious harm to sections of the community.

Jehovah’s Witnesses . . . Proclaimers of “soon” since 1879

 

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AUSTRALIA | Jehovah’s Witnesses form new religious corporations

The governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses have approved the formation of an additional management corporation for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia and the formation of a new audio visual production company.

On 11 November 2019 a new Jehovah’s Witnesses company, “Kingdom Support Services (Australasia) Limited” (KSSA), was registered in Australia to “promote throughout Australasia the advancement of the Christian religion as understood and taught by the ecclesiastical Governing Body” and to “co-operate with or provide financial assistance to persons having similar aims and purposes and to other charitable organizations having similar aims and purposes within Australasia or elsewhere”.

The structure and charitable purpose of KSSA allows it to provide benevolent disaster relief (‘financial assistance’) to victims of the current bushfires in Australia, albeit limited exclusively to “Jehovah’s Witnesses [who] practice their religion under the spiritual direction of the Governing Body”. As of January 2020, the Jehovah’s Witnesses branch committee in Australia, under the direction of the governing body, have formed two Disaster Relief Committees to provide spiritual and material help to bushfire victims in Australia that meet the religion’s criteria.

Two days earlier, on 8 November 2019 another Jehovah’s Witnesses company, “AVS Productions (Australasia) Limited” (AVSPA), was registered in Australia to “record, produce, publish, and distribute or dispose by way of gift music, photographs, film, animation, and other intellectual property of a religious or charitable nature”.

Both new Jehovah’s Witnesses corporations have registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission (ACNC) as religious charities.

Despite the audio visual and animation production objects of AVSPA this new corporation also claims to “support members of the Worldwide Order of Special Full-Time Servants of Jehovah’s Witnesses”.

These two new Jehovah’s Witnesses companies join the new and controversial management corporation, Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Australasia) Limited (CCJWA), which was formed on 12 April 2019 to administer congregations, congregation charities, and bodies of elders. and also to “support members of the Worldwide Order of Special Full-Time Servants of Jehovah’s Witnesses”.

CCJWA, despite being registered as a not-for-profit corporation with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), is yet to be approved as a charity by the ACNC. On 15 April 2019 CCJWA also commenced formally trading in Australia under the business name “Jehovah’s Witnesses” despite that trading name being registered to Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia Limited since 31 July 2000.

Also currently operating in Australia is another legal entity called “Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses” (CCJW) which was registered as a business on 3 December 2012.

For background information on the CCJWA see the JW Leaks article: Newly registered Jehovah’s Witnesses legal entity issues elders letter to destroy records.

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Kingdom Support Services (Australasia) Limited

Mark Adrian Yeomans, director and secretary

David Melville Winder, director

Joshua Luke Sapienza, director

DOWNLOAD

Kingdom Support Services (Australasia) Limited corporate documents – pdf

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AVS Productions (Australasia) Limited

Anastasios Thomaidis, director and secretary

David Andrew De Kock, director

Darren Michael Janes, director

DOWNLOAD

AVS Productions (Australasia) Limited corporate documents – pdf

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About JW Leaks

JW Leaks is about openness, transparency and accountability within the Church of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watch Tower Society.

JW Leaks exposes and holds accountable the Watch Tower Society and those leaders within the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization that disregard or violate the laws of the land, and that cause religious harm to sections of the community.

Jehovah’s Witnesses . . . Proclaimers of “soon” since 1879

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Watchtower Australia 2019 Financial Returns and changes to board of directors and officers

Watchtower Australia’s 2019 Financial Returns and new company directors appointed

On 19 December 2019 Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia Limited filed notification with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) of changes to their board of directors.

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Winston Reginald Payne (cessation date as company director: 01-11-2019)

Gregory John Frank (cessation date as company director: 01-11-2019)

Change of Officeholder Role

Allan John Wood (appointment date: 11-11-2019 as secretary, continues as company director)

New Appointments

Daryn Bentley Gee (appointment date: 01-11-2019 as director)

Tom Pecipajkovski (appointment date: 01-11-2019 as director)

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Watchtower Australia Company Directors and Charity Responsible Persons (as of 2020)

Harold Vivian Mouritz

Terrence John O’Brien

Alan John Wood

Daryn Bentley Gee

Tom Pecipajkovski

DOWNLOADS

Watchtower Australia change to company details – Form 484 – pdf

Watchtower Australia – 2020 ACNC Charity Summary – pdf

Watchtower Australia corporate documents – pdf

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Watchtower Australia’s 2019 Annual Financial Return

DOWNLOADS

Watchtower Australia 2019 Annual Financial Report – pdf

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About JW Leaks

JW Leaks is about openness, transparency and accountability within the Church of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watch Tower Society.

JW Leaks exposes and holds accountable the Watch Tower Society and those leaders within the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization that disregard or violate the laws of the land, and that cause religious harm to sections of the community.

Jehovah’s Witnesses . . . Proclaimers of “soon” since 1879

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AUSTRALIA | Newly registered Jehovah’s Witnesses legal entity issues elders letter to destroy records

The recently registered Australian company “Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Australasia)” has issued a body of elders letter, dated August 28, 2019, instructing elders to destroy judicial hearing records and certain congregation records.

>> DOWNLOAD: CCJW (Australasia) BOE letter – 28 August 2019 – PDF <<

Background: a new corporation is formed

On 12 April 2019 a new Jehovah’s Witness company, “Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Australasia) Limited” (CCJWA) was formed in Australia to administer congregations, congregation charities, and bodies of elders.

On 15 April 2019 CCJWA commenced formally trading in Australia under the business name “Jehovah’s Witnesses” despite that trading name being registered to Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia Limited (Watchtower Australia) since 31 July 2000.

Also currently operating in Australia is another legal entity called “Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses” (CCJW) which was registered as a business on 3 December 2012.

On 5 November 2013, Watchtower Australia sent out a body of elders (BOE) letter instructing all congregations to form as independent legal entities and charities and to register with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission << ACNC >>. By the end of the month over 800 congregations within Australia had become their own legal entity trading under the business name “[NAME] Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Under this legal arrangement congregation records, including judicial records and membership records, are the property of the individual charity and not CCJWA.

These 800 congregation charities and their corporate structure will be discussed in detail in a follow up post on JW Leaks, along with copies of all internal documents and correspondence issued by Watchtower Australia to each congregation on how to set up each new legal entity and charity.

CORPORATE DOCUMENT DOWNLOADS

Corporate documents for new Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Australasia) 2019 – PDF

Corporate documents for old Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Australia) – PDF

Corporate documents for Watchtower Australia – PDF

Body of Elders letter dated August 28, 2019:

In one of it’s first issued body of elders letters, the newly formed CCJWA, issued instructions to all elders to review congregational records, their personal computers, hard copy files, and their meetings bags for the purpose of record destruction.

[EXTRACT] Review of Current Records: 

After discussing this letter as a body of elders, we would like the secretary along with the coordinator, or another assigned elder, to review what is currently in the congregation’s confidential file. They should examine the contents of all sealed envelopes in the file to confirm that they contain only the documents mentioned in the Shepherd book, chapter 22, paragraphs 22-23. The assigned elders should adhere to the direction in paragraph 26 when determining if the entire contents of the envelope should be destroyed. If the elders are not sure if a particular document needs to be retained, they should feel free to contact the Service Department for assistance.

Please ensure that all records kept in the file are in harmony with what is outlined in the Shepherd book, chapter 22, and our comments above. Additionally, we ask that each elder check his personal computer, or hard copy files, and even his meeting bag, to ensure that no confidential correspondence is retained outside the congregation’s confidential file. We would like the secretary to confirm with each elder that this has been done.

Destroying congregation records

Over the past few months in Australia, various congregations, and Watchtower Australia have received written requests from individuals for lawful access to documents, including judicial hearing records, as held on them. These records as requested included child abuse records and personal records. The right to access your personal information and congregational records is granted under the Commonwealth Privacy Act 1988 and the Australian Privacy Principles. See the link below for more information.

LINK: Office of Australian Information Commissioner

In addition, a number of law enforcement actions and investigations have commenced into various legal entities of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia as well as into individual leaders of the religion.

The documents referred to in the above cited body of elders letter to be destroyed, as sent out by the newly formed CCJWA, are among the documents currently being sought for both criminal and civil cases. As such the destruction of them may constitute the destruction of evidence.

For the purpose of assisting individuals so as to protect information held on them, the body of elders letter sent out by the CCJWA, dated August 28, 2919, is available for downloading below:

>> DOWNLOAD: CCJW (Australasia) BOE letter – 28 August 2019 – PDF <<

LINK to elders book “Shepherd the Flock of God” as referred to in above letter

NEW: AUSTRALIA disfellowshipping records form and confidential summation guide

How to protect your right to access documents on yourself

For Australians, below are copies of two letters, in MS word doc format, that some individuals have recently used for the purpose of protecting their records; and so as to access information held on them from the Jehovah’s Witnesses:

AUSTRALIA ONLY – generic request for access to information from Watchtower

AUSTRALIA ONLY – letter TO CCJWA instructing the keeping of records

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POST SCRIPT

Current Watchtower Australia Document Retention Policy

Please note this is not the document retention policy for CCJWA and individual congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia who are registered as a charity.

WATCHTOWER DOCUMENT RETENTION POLICY

The primary purpose for recording and retaining this information is to enable Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia (“the Society”), which is responsible for the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia, to supervise the religious activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout the country, individually and collectively. This includes:

(1)  Being aware of anyone who is no longer a member of the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses;

(2)  Knowing what spiritual help and assistance has been given to the individual concerned;

(3)  Providing whatever direction is needed to ensure that the Scriptural standards, as set out in God’s Holy Word, the Bible, are maintained in the Congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses; and

(4)  Ensuring that the individual concerned is given whatever spiritual help and assistance is needed if he or she wishes to again become a member of the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the future.

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About JW Leaks

JW Leaks is about openness, transparency and accountability within the Church of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watch Tower Society.

JW Leaks exposes and holds accountable the Watch Tower Society and those leaders within the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization that disregard or violate the laws of the land, and that cause religious harm to sections of the community.

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Jehovah’s Witnesses . . . Proclaimers of “soon” since 1879

 

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