Jehovah’s Witness elders stonewalled a police probe into church member’s sexual abuse

THREE  Jehovah’s Witness elders refused to co-operate with police investigating child sex abuse claims against a fellow JW who was yesterday jailed in Newcastle Crown Court for 13 years. Gordon Leighton, 53, was found guilty on two counts of indecency with a child, and six of indecent assault after a six-day trial.

Gordon Leighton

Gordon Leighton

In 2010 Leighton broke down and admitted the abuse to the three church elders when confronted with allegations. He confessed to Simon Preyser, Harry Logan and David Scott but they refused to co-operate with the police.

Their barrister Richard Daniels claimed they had a “duty to God” not to breach confidence. He said: “Privileged communication between members of the congregation and ministers is an absolute right and there is no power in law to breach such a confidence.”

But Judge Penny Moreland made an order, saying:

They are in possession of relevant evidence as to a point which is of real significance.

The court heard David Scott, an elder of Washington’s Lampton Kingdom Hall, made a telephone call to the church’s London HQ.

The JW cover-up team: from left, Harry Logan Simon Preyser and David Scott

The JW cover-up team: from left, Harry Logan, Simon Preyser and David Scott

He was instructed, with other elders, to carry out an investigation into the sex abuse claims against Leighton when they first emerged in December, 2009.

A meeting was set up in April 2010, to see if a “sin” had been committed. Leighton confessed after Bible verses were quoted which said “God sees everything”.

Despite confessing he was not “disfellowed” by the church until further allegations were made against him.

Prosecutor Katherine Dunn told the court:

The elders conducted their own investigation. After initially denying the allegations the defendant broke down and admitted sexually abusing the complainant.

But Leighton, of Washington, Tyne and Wear, refused to answer any questions when interviewed by detectives and claimed his confession at the meeting was limited.

According to this report on JW Survey – a website launched “to give voice to millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world who would not normally have the opportunity to say what they really think about the Watch Tower Society, or the teachings and practices of the Governing Body” – it was only after the victim, now an adult, broke her silence by making a complaint to the police in 2009 could the authorities investigate. However, the elders refused to cooperate with the police investigation for three years.

Even after the case was brought to court and the three elders were issued with subpoenas, they refused to cooperate. Preyser, Logan and Scott went so far as to legally dispute their summonses on religious grounds, but were ordered to testify by Judge Penny Moreland after months of legal wrangling.

In denying the motion to withdraw the summonses, Judge Moreland said:

Public interest is clearly in favour of this evidence being given. What was said by the defendant on that occasion is of great significance in the trial.

Despite this ruling, the elders refused to give evidence until hours before they were due to appear as witnesses before the jury.

In passing sentence Judge Moreland told Leighton:

You manipulated her [the victim] with a combination of affection and attention and violence and threats.

She jailed him for 13 years. He was also given a sexual offences prevention order and must sign the sex offenders’ register for life.

Leighton was at the centre of an infamous case when his first wife Yvonne, 28, died after refusing a blood transfusion on religious grounds. After giving birth to a baby boy in January 1993, she needed surgical intervention and developed further complications and blood loss.

But she had signed a form during her hospital stay, stating she was not to receive a blood transfusion. She died as a result.

John Cedars, writing on JW Survey, said:

If the Watch Tower Society is found to have had a hand in this cover-up, it would only constitute further evidence of their long history of protecting pedophiles by keeping their heinous crimes wrapped up in a cloak of secrecy under the auspices of the ‘two witness rule’.

Despite the blatant cowardice and lack of accountability shown by the elders and the defendant in this trial, it is heartwarming to note the fortitude and resilience of Judge Moreland in refusing to be duped by Watchtower’s men in suits. We can also be grateful that the unnamed victim in this case had the bravery to come forward and see that justice was finally served on her so-called ‘brother’.

 Hat tip: Angela K & BarrieJohn

22 responses to “Jehovah’s Witness elders stonewalled a police probe into church member’s sexual abuse”

  1. AgentCormac says:

    “Privileged communication between members of the congregation and ministers is an absolute right and there is no power in law to breach such a confidence.”

    And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen – an unequivocal admission at last that in the minds of the religious their beliefs transcend the law of the land.

  2. barriejohn says:

    This case reminds me so much of the Plymouth Brethren, for whom “the testimony” was everything. Mountains were moved to shield members from action over matters whch would have landed others in court or on the street, all for the sake of protecting their public image (remember the Alan Cundick case, covered here some months ago?).

    There is a very good blog which focuses on JW abuse coverups here:

  3. Broga says:

    For the ordinary, non religion contaminated, person the details of this case are sickening. These are people, liars, hypocrites and child abusers, who with an odious sanctimony, display themselves as special and with virtues beyond those attainable by the rest of us.

    They prey on their helpless child victim and use the weakest and must vulnerable to satisfy their lust. Of peculiar horror to the outsider is the way their clique bands together to leave the child victim with no escape and no friend or relative to whom they can plead for help. The stomach churns at the thought of the agony these self righteous bigots inflict on their victims. Religion is once again revealed as a cabal of the infamous.

  4. Graham Martin-Royle says:

    If these religious types really believe that their obligations to their gods/churches are above their obligations to the civil authorities, then they should have no objections when they are charged with obstructing the police and being held in contempt of court. It would serve them right to have to spend some time inside every time they behave like this. Their behaviour is nearly as bad as the offenders.

  5. Daz says:

    Ah yes, more evidence of this “absolute moral framework” that God provides, which we keep hearing so much about.

  6. Miss Catherine Jane Shade says:

    When I was able to work I used to work in Washington, and my sister still lives there.I can assure ppl that the JW are almost universally considered to be completely crazy and their beliefs and practices are both shunned and ridiculed more than any other group in the North East. The only people that seem to like them are in fact themselves, this article only adds proof to the general opinion of them!

  7. stokebruernehuman says:

    Can we look forward to the prosecution of Harry Logan, Simon Preyser and David Scott for withholding information and trying to pervert the course of justice?

    Religion is a blight on humanity. It is time to stop the tax breaks, to tax religions for profits made from property and other income sources, remove the pious from positions of political influence, test those seeking public office for contamination with religious ideas, get the pious out of education, exclude clerics from leadership of organisations such as the scouts, place surveillance cameras and sound recording devices in religious premises, introduce random interviews and lie detection tests of the clergy, allow random searches of properties owned by religious organisations, intercept all clerical email and internet traffic, place scanning bots in clerical computers, monitor mobile and land line telephony, introduce compulsory random testing of clerical garments for DNA…………………….

  8. John Cedars says:

    Thanks for help spreading the word with this article Freethinker. Too many members of the public turn a blind eye to what is going on in the JW faith. They would rather talk about Scientology with its 40,000 worshippers than the 8 million Jehovah’s Witnesses who are plagued by cruel shunning and mishandling of child abuse inflicted on them by the Watch Tower Society.

  9. Trevor Blake says:

    The JW’s have a fine history of failed predictions of the end of the world. See also how their eternally wise God informs them about medical matters, then changes His unchanging mind…

    Here’s a list of men and women and children who are dead exclusively and only because they followed the teachings of the Watchtower Society, also known as the Jehovah’s Witnesses…

  10. Matt+Westwood says:

    From that link in the Cedars blog:

    Monica’s team claim that she approached elders about her abuse, but they failed to investigate the matter or even remove her alleged abuser as an elder. “I went to who I thought was the proper authorities within the organization, and then I was told to just keep it quiet,” said Monica’s mother, Vicky Davis. As a result of her ordeal, Monica is said to suffer from “great emotional distress” requiring medical and psychological treatment.

    There’s an important point here: if crimes are being committed against you by somebody under the auspices of an organisation, do not go to the superiors of that organisation for them to take action. GO TO THE POLICE.

    Of course, if it’s a policeman wot dun it you’re in a bit of a pickle …

  11. Duke Nukem says:

    This is a very interesting case; however, I don’t believe that much, if any, accurate information will be gotten from reading this article. I’m not sure if Mr. Duke was stoned, or drunk, or is simply a borderline illiterate, but this article is very badly written.

  12. carolineredbrook says:

    Accused pedophiles like Leighton, Sylvain Kustyan, Jerry Sandusky, etc., must abe gotten out of harm’s way of our children. And their enablers should be held just as responsible and punished accordingly as these predators could not continue to prey upon our children for years without the complicity of enablers. Leighton and Sandusky are now safely behind bars. Unfortunately, Kustyan, who has been formally charged with two counts of 1st Degree Sodomy and Sexual Abuse of a ten-year-old little boy, fled to avoid imminent arrest. Kustyan, formerly of Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Hermin/ Mazingarbe, France, is now a fugitive from the law. The innocent, young victims carry the psychological, physical and emotional scars of child sexual abuse for life. Male victims have 3x’s the heart attack risk and 10x’s the suicide rate of non-victims. Since pedophiles have an average of 300 different victims in their lifetimes and since the recidivism rate among pedophiles is virtually 100% they must be stopped ASAP!

  13. Matt+Westwood says:

    This is a very interesting case; however, I don’t believe that much, if any, accurate information will be gotten from reading this article. I’m not sure if Mr. Duke was stoned, or drunk, or is simply a borderline illiterate, but this article is very badly written.

    This is a very interesting point; however, I don’t believe that much, if any, notice should be gotten from reading that comment. I’m not sure if Duke was trolling, cranky through lack of available sexual partners or just being a bitch, but this comment is very badly fascistic.

  14. Broga says:

    @Duke Nukem: I notice that you didn’t put yourself to the inconvenience of stating what you identified as inaccurate in the article. No doubt there is a rather obvious reason for this. Barry Duke’s articles are invariably well written and he has the welcome practice of correcting any of the few inaccuracies which do occur.

    Are you a JW yourself? Your comments have an odour of critical self righteousness about them which tends to cling to those infected with religious belief.

  15. Richard Abbey. says:

    Ever since 1961, I have been trying very hard to have this cult banned by our government and the Australian government, to no avail. All I have been told is, it’s freedom of choice! Well then, what about my 11 year old granddaughter who was drugged, raped and died of a massif heart attack in 1995 Brisbane Qld? Where was her freedom of choice to grow up to be a beautiful woman? Or mine for that matter, in taking my family to Aussie to make a better life for them, Only, to have this cult take them from my home their in 1970 simply because I refused to join this bunch of false prophets.

  16. Peterat says:

    This case is just an example of the complete lack of cooperation with outside authorities i.e.: police, medical staff, counsellors, that the JW’s provide. Not to minimize this victim’s trauma but the larger and much more pervasive issue within that community is domestic violence. It is propogated by the church elders and supported and practiced by its members who refuse to cooperate with any outside agencies should a victim finally have the courage – and the ability – to report it. They will go so far as to abduct victims, threaten witnesses and intimidate officials to cover up any incidents, and as a former police officer, I have first-hand evidence of that.

  17. Robster says:

    So the judge is wanting these pieces of wasted space to become errr…witnesses. Throw the book at ’em love. As religious people, not a word of what they say could be confused as being truthful. If they say it, it’s a lie a nasty contrived fib. Like all their absurd nonsense really.

  18. Richard Abbey. says:

    All the while we have religion, there will always be wars because the political system backs religion. The word system was once used by the Romans meaning ‘SEWER’ so this is where all this religious and political crap comes from? the sewer! One only needs to look at religious history to see the evil that was rife then…burning oneanother at the stake, water boarding like they did in Iraq too. Not the greatest story ever…but the greatest lie ever told. Take a look at ‘Hitlers Christianity’ one eye opener, also look at this one, ‘Utashi Monsters’ on the net. Not for the faint at heart. Convert, or die!

  19. ken says:

    Why aren’t these three elders in prison too? For that matter, why isn’t the entire JW organization on fire after this story?

    I guess society hates Miley Cyrus more than true criminals.