Elders frustrate UK authorities in child abuse cover-up
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Gordon Leighton (left) confessed his crimes to three elders, who subsequently refused to testify before Newcastle Crown Court (right)

Newspapers from the North-East of England are reporting on a remarkable cover-up in a court case involving child abuse.

After ministerial servant Gordon Leighton assaulted a young girl, three elders at Lambton Congregation in Washington, Simon Preyser, Harry Logan and David Scott, met with him to investigate the accusations.

Prosecutor Katherine Dunn told Newcastle Crown Court what happened next. “After initially denying the allegations, he broke down and admitted sexually abusing the complainant,” she said.

Despite Leighton’s confession, the matter was covered over and dealt with internally. 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 witness summonses (subpoenas), they refused to cooperate – claiming through their barrister (lawyer) that they had a “duty to God” to keep Leighton’s confession confidential. 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.

A Google image of Lambton Kingdom Hall in Washington, England

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.

After finally breaking their silence, 53-year-old Leighton was convicted of eight counts of indecency with a child and indecent assault, and three assaults on another victim.

Leighton, who has since been disfellowshipped, denies all allegations (including the unrelated assault charges), and even that he had confessed his crimes to the elders in the first place. He told detectives his confession at the judicial meeting was limited to masturbation and reading pornographic material, and told jurors: “It never happened. It’s all untrue.” He has since been remanded in custody pending sentencing in August, and ordered to sign the sex offenders register.

Leighton is already known to the UK press after newspapers reported in 1993 that his wife Yvonne had died aged 28 as a result of refusing a blood transfusion two weeks after childbirth. Leighton subsequently claimed to have suffered persecution in the wake of the tragedy, saying he had been branded a ‘murderer.’ Twenty years later, he is back in the media spotlight, but for a very different reason.

What role did the Britain Branch play in all of this?

Britain Branch offices at IBSA House in London

Though we are unlikely to ever hear the full details of the case, it is almost certain that, in refusing to give evidence, Preyser, Logan and Scott were all acting under the instructions of the Britain Branch in London. This is because Society guidelines for UK elders clearly dictate that specially appointed “Safeguarding Elders” at the London branch office are to be involved in giving “guidance and direction” for all cases involving child abuse from the very beginning.

Last year JWsurvey obtained a copy of the 2012 “Child Safeguarding Policy,” drafted by the Society for UK congregations to adopt individually. The updated Safeguarding Policy is available for Witnesses in British congregations to view, but only on request. Note what the 2012 policy had to say about branch involvement…

The policy also spells out the rigid approach to confidentiality that was pursued so vigorously by the three elders in this case. Note how not even the authorities are to be notified of confessions of abuse, but fellow elders and the branch office may be informed freely.

Considering the above information, it is inconceivable that the London Branch Office did not offer at least some “guidance and direction” to the elders involved in this case throughout their refusal to cooperate with authorities.

The middle men: were Harry Logan (left), Simon Preyser (middle) and David Scott (right) simply following orders?

Whether the elders were acting in harmony with these instructions in staying so tight-lipped is a matter of conjecture, but the fact that all three are apparently still serving as elders would seem to indicate that they were. There is certainly no obvious motive for any elder to fight the legal process by maintaining such a stubborn stance of his own volition without pressure being exerted from higher up in the organization.

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.”

 

 

 

 

 

Further reading:

UPDATE: On August 23, 2013, Leighton was sentenced to 13 years in jail. For further details, click here and here.

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28 Responses to Elders frustrate UK authorities in child abuse cover-up

  1. elkatire1980 says:

    Thanks for keeping up to date with this news. I hope British justice punish this man and the Watchtower by trying to hide this crime.
    El Katire

  2. WT Critic says:

    “2 witness rule” needs to be weighed with the fact that the authorities have access to things like Forensic Science that Elders don’t. If in fact the WT Society fails to allow the authorities to do its job those new cash piles will quickly disappear.

  3. C M says:

    This is one of the policies that the Watchtower organization has to do away with, my gf was sexually abused by a “brother” when she was a child, I wish she would tell me who, and so was my cousin and a female friend of mines, and all because the parents did not want to be cause for others to stumble they only told the elders and not nobody else, however the elders in all 3 cases did not disfellowship anybody and praised the parents for not taking this further to the public authorities as this would bring reproach and give Jehovah a bad name…I recently went to my gf’s special day assembly, and a brother I love dearly, whom my parents gave study to in our native country when he was a boy, he is now a well known elder in the area and in the talk he was called up to give an experience of how a sister decided to not do something in order to not cause others to stumble and affect their conscience, what was this? it was a sister who wanted to take another sister to court for having “bewitched” her son and made him fall in love with her among other things, this elder said that they provided the sister with alot of information written by the FDS about the subject and because of this she decided not to contact the authorities since she did not want to make others stumble and give Jehovah and his organization a bad name, I did not even bother to say hi to him when the program ended.

    • John says:

      Woe to you scribes and Pharisees is what Jesus said in denouncing them at the temple. Now in time he will again with this modern day counterpart of Jehovah’s witnesses and their lies,deciet and deception. They are “MENTALLY DISEASED”

  4. John says:

    I had to make sure I could leave a comment before writing something and then being denied. Anyway this is just another example of the WTBS operating above the law of the land through their programed theocratic warfare tactics. These poor young ones who are effected for the rest of their life with such negative effects just makes your heart go out to them. This is absolutely disgusting on the part of this Governing body of so called anointed servants to allow the non reporting of these type of offenses. Would God allow the suppression of righteousness to be carried out on behalf of this youth? I think NOT! Which again shows how sick the minds of these Governing body members are in order to write and apply these policies when it comes to child abuse. So who really are the ones who are “Mentally Diseased” ? Its this Governing body of men and their cohorts that will be dealt by God in their due time for proper Judgement. In the meantime I hope this individual victim will get the proper help needed through professional care in order to get her life on somewhat of a track. What a sick sick society of people these WTBS are.

  5. Blues Brother says:

    Absolutely disgusting ! The WBTS fully deserves that the case be given maximum publicity. The abuse is bad enough , by one man – but to have a conspiracy of silence perpetrated ,no doubt by the Mill Hill Branch makes them as bad as the Catholic Church in these matters. At least The Pope has issued an apology.. It really shows what happens when formerly good men are so entrenched in Corprorate thinking and damage limitation , that they lose sight of the real purpose of their ministry.

    When I was Cong Secretary here I found in the Permanent File the letter instructing Secretaries to never allow the State authorities to search the K/Hall, or to have access to the confidential records of J C hearings. I was to protect them with all means possible…..”.Not on your life would I do that ” I exclaimed. If the C I D had reason to investigate somebody in the cong, they would have had my full co operation. That was my duty as a citizen in harmony with Rom.13..

    If a known pervert were seeking to escape the law by lying and those elder knew better and kept quiet, they are complicit in the crime. Never mind the WTS, they must answer to God one day

  6. KtotheRAD "Konrad" says:

    Go on then!
    All of you Jehovah’s Witnesses and especially you Elders and Servants, keep taunting the law and civil authorities with your high minded Human notions of “ecclesiastical privileges” and assuming to yourselves more power to thumb your noses not only to God’s law and man’s but to the Human Rights and dignity of your fellow beings…
    You there at Moon Valley in Phoenix, Mark Suddock and David Taylor, Brian Russell? Fred Wittkop in Monroe Michigan and all of your cronies think because you have gotten away with things and the Society has consistently supported, covered over even to this day bullying people into deleting threads on topix.com to protect your criminal behavior and your conscripted dupes such as Carly Klein in Phoenix and others as they have these in the featured article that the worldly authorities will indefinitely support you as well?
    I wouldn’t be banking any substantial money on that! There are limits to all things and the limits draw closer every day!

    Kurt Hennig

    • JBob says:

      It should be noted that in the eschatology (end-times studies) of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the governments first turn on the “whore of Babylon” (Catholicism and Christendom at large–all denominations have recently come under various incursions with legal system in regard to child abuse and/or individual rights) then the “two witnesses” (GB/F&DS). When the cases pile up and the money & properties are being seized, I imagine this will be spun-up as “evidence” of the “last days”. And, there will be just enough “believers” to get them over the hump, again, even if 50% fall out.

      I would also note that for many of the Adventist groups surviving the Great Disappointment there is a sense that the end-times is an alignment of events not necessarily the passage of time or a point on calendar but when events have “come to pass”. For Witnesses, those events are the trampling of church denominations by government (or United Nations) and then Jehovah’s Witnesses shortly afterward. That alone is a dangerous precedent because it lays the fundamentalist thinking foundation that confrontations or actions contra-legal can be classified as “theocratic warfare” thus justified as fulfilling prophecy.

      Terrorism, in short.

      Mike

  7. Erik says:

    So am I correct that these three elders heard and even presumably reported a confession of a crime against a child to WT and did NOT inform the local police? Aren’t these three elders liable to now be charged and prosecuted with something like complicity to child abuse??? Remember when Nazis were being brought to justice the excuse that they were only following orders wasn’t good enough to save them from punishment?

  8. Zeebo says:

    I presented this to a JW and they said: “But they testified in the end so nothing wrong was done”oh well.. you just cant reach these people

  9. mat wells says:

    As a serving witness I can only apologise for the poor witness these men gave. I only hope it serves to shame them and the organisation too. On a personal note I hope he gets what’s coming to him inside as there is no place for that in our world.
    “pay Caesar’s things to Caesar” is the quote I use. If it’s against the law then let the authorities deal with it and help them all you can. There should no place of sanctuary for people like him..let alone in a church

  10. mat wells says:

    As a serving witness I can only apologise for the poor witness these men gave. I only hope it serves to shame them and the organisation too. On a personal note I hope he gets what’s coming to him inside as there is no place for that in our world.
    “pay Caesar’s things to Caesar” is the quote I use. If it’s against the law then let the authorities deal with it and help them all you can. There should no place of sanctuary for people like him. Let alone in a church

  11. catmuug says:

    “Proverbe : Qui ne dit mot consent”.
    Ce qui veut dire que la WTS approuve ces pratiques. Cherchez bien les origines de cette organisation et alors vous allez réaliser avec
    horreur qui vous avez servi, (sans le savoir). Merci Cedar pour votre site.

  12. JBob says:

    WTC — very true. In the USA where law enforcement and judicial representatives (prosecutors) have been able to pursue investigations, there techniques and reach beyond the “two or more witnesses” rule has proven effective in convicting first-time and repeat offenders.

    Also, if examine the context of the “two or more witnesses” rule, note that it was only framed for confronting an individual who refused to acknowledge there wronging of an individual when confronted one-on-one. Thus, the ‘two witness’ rule should have applied to the victim (accuser) confronting a pedophile in front of a body of elders and accuser refusing to admit their actions (or perceived fault) created ill-will and a air of hostility, NOT the victim bringing two or more individuals to witness a wrong-doing. Except for case of someone addicted to sex acts in public places, capturing sexual offenders would rarely be under the “two witness” rule as applied to actual witnesses of a misdeed.

  13. KtotheRAD "Konrad" says:

    Well, if this encourages anyone? And it should, To take steps towards action! An elderly JW woman “in good standing” on Topix.com who was brutally tormented and harassed in a criminal fashion by persons online for years finally decided to take a course of self determination but did the Society who always has an active presence of online operatives ever help one of their own? NO!
    They sure took opportunities to bully topix.com into deleting threads that reveal or otherwise expose the criminal behavior of Elders and others (Such as these very online operatives) but never an iota of support for her or any one of their alleged own…

    [URL unrelated to the discussion removed]

  14. Hakizimana Jean de Dieu says:

    Good article Cedars!!
    JWs are taught how to lie, lying is truly their strongest weapon. Jugde for yourself the following (JWs women taught to express false feelings for the interests of the kingdom)

    *** km 11/90 p. 6 § 36-37 Êtes-vous prêt à affronter un problème médical qui mettrait votre foi à l’épreuve? ***
    Vous devez comprendre qu’en posant ces questions certains cherchent généralement à contourner votre refus du sang. Ne leur cédez pas par inadvertance! Comment donc éviter tout malentendu? Vous pourriez répondre:
    • “Si d’une façon ou d’une autre on m’administrait du sang de force, cela reviendrait à me violer. Je souffrirais émotionnellement et spirituellement de cette agression pour le restant de mes jours. Je résisterais de toutes mes forces à un tel viol de mon corps. Je ferais tout mon possible pour attaquer mes agresseurs en justice, comme je le ferais si on me violait.”
    37 Il faut montrer d’une manière forte et expressive qu’à nos yeux une transfusion forcée est aussi répugnante qu’un viol de notre corps. Ce n’est pas une broutille. Tenez donc ferme. Expliquez clairement que vous voulez une thérapeutique de remplacement.

  15. Whatever says:

    Sorry for posting this twice… but I need help.

    I don’t know what to do. I’m currently inactive but I don’t have plans to return.

    My wife and I were both raised as JWs. Our friends are all JWs. I have 2 daughters, one is disabled.

    From my side, only my mom is a JW and I’ve been talking to her as well, and she has been very receptive but still believe in the Watchtower. My brother disassociated himself 13 years ago. I don’t have any other family member in the organization.

    My wife is also inactive, and I’ve talked to her about what is going on but she still believe in the Watchtower. In her case, her family are all Witnesses. Her cousin disassociated herself not long ago, and family has not shun her like others do. That’s a plus.

    But like I said, I don’t know what to do. Should I follow my brothers steps and disassociate myself? I don’t want the organization to label me as apostate. I don’t want to be in any judicial committee. I just want them to respect my decision without questioning it. Is that possible?

    Any suggestions on how to proceed will be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    • Cedars says:

      Hello Whatever, thank you for visiting and sharing your challenging predicament.

      You ask, “Should I follow my brothers steps and disassociate myself? I don’t want the organization to label me as apostate. I don’t want to be in any judicial committee. I just want them to respect my decision without questioning it. Is that possible?”

      You should do nothing you are not ready for. The treatment your brother is receiving from your family is a useful indicator of the treatment you will also receive from your family if you choose to sever all ties with the Witnesses. If they are shunning him, chances are they will shun you too.

      Sadly there is no way that your decision to leave would be respected by JWs. The only thing you have control over is whether you choose to attend a judicial committee or not. If you write a letter of disassociation and make it clear that you do not wish to discuss the matter with any elders, then there’s no way they can force you to.

      Even so, you have much to consider in making any decision – including the possible impact on your wife. Without knowing the ins and outs, I would suggest that you try reasoning with your wife and involve her as much as possible. It may be that she is too deeply indoctrinated, but being inactive herself she may be more open to looking at information you have uncovered and joining you on your journey.

      Speaking from my own experience, it is always better to have your wife by your side when facing difficult situations including the threat of disfellowshipping/disassociation.

      If you need more advice, please email me at cedars@jwsurvey.org and I will pass your details on to a team of Ex-JW counsellors who assist with situations such as yours with utmost discretion.

  16. Hakizimana Jean de Dieu says:

    Cedars, Sometimes gaining your wife will not work!! I tried to help mine at least one year before I left. Instead of reasoning, she repeatedly reported me to the elders (Secretly) accusing me of reading “apostates writings”. They made stronger bonds and united with my wife to attack me, I sometimes do not wish to remember my confronting my wife pushed behind curtains by INVISIBLE ELDERS that people could not see, … she made me fool and you cannot measure emotional price you have to pay.

    He needs to have a clear picture of his wife’s psychological background. Most JWs wife as I have realize are emotionally unstable that marrying a Jws witness seems to be a nightmare today. You realize that when you want to leave!!

    Let him think of a man who climbed a tree near shores of a lake freeing a LION on the ground and a CROCODILE in water and found a SNAKE in the tree. Leaving JWs is like that, you have your wife as a SNAKE in the tree, Elders as a lion on the Ground and publishers as a CROCODILE and you have to choose which you will be a prey for. Life is not easy there!!

  17. 70wksofyrs says:

    Lovely expose Cedars.

    Just a thought… I was wondering when and how did the prosecutor, Katherine Dunn, find out about Leighton’s confession to the three elders?

    In my mind, the authorities summoned them to court so it stands to reason there must have been a leak somewhere, and the three elders did not keep Leighton’s confession strictly confidential in the first place…. it must have circulated the congregation

    What do you think?

    Watchtower policies regarding this matter are nonsense

    Warm Regards
    70wksofyrs

  18. kat says:

    The GB/FDS of the WTorg will do their best to try and keep as much bad publicity from the r/f members (donates) when bad publicity does hit the headlines, its always taken out of context, apostate lies, or we abhor child sexual abuse, their main concern is to keep the r/f donating this is the only way they can exist. They could not have Gods backing.

  19. Hakizimana Jean de Dieu says:

    Kat, “we abhor child sexual abuse” BUT

    *** w86 1/1 p. 13 par. 12 Days Like “the Days of Noah” ***
    Shocking as it is, even some who have been prominent in Jehovah’s organization have succumbed to immoral practices, including homosexuality, wife swapping, and child molesting. It is to be noted, also, that during the past year, 36,638 individuals had to be disfellowshipped from the Christian congregation, the greater number of them for practicing immorality. Jehovah’s organization must be kept clean! (1 Corinthians 5:9-13)

  20. KtotheRAD "Konrad" says:

    “36,638 individuals had to be…”

    Notice the use of the term “had to be” and they don’t mention who decided that?

    For being Mentally Ill? For being undesirable? For being simply unbecoming or unwanted as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
    They also don’t mention that according to the scriptural mandate at Matt 19:9 regarding divorce, Jehovah’s Witnesses require that a woman (or man) stay with their mate and may not take any action against someone who commits a sin of Homosexuality or bestiality or child molestation. In other words, these are NOT grounds for divorce!
    FACT!

  21. dino m says:

    Cuvajte djecu roditelji i na balkanu.Nemojte da se poslije godina ovo i kod nas desava.

  22. Hakizimana Jean de Dieu says:

    Konrad,

    In that case, I think this applies first to them, unless JWs are not a religion, BUT a society.

    *** w12 6/15 pp. 17-18 par. 16 Jehovah Reveals What “Must Shortly Take Place” ***
    However, during the Lord’s day, Babylon the Great has seen the waters, the people who support her, dry up dramatically. (Rev. 16:12; 17:15) For example, when the image of the beast first appeared, the churches of Christendom—an influential part of Babylon the Great—dominated the Western world. Today, the churches and their ministers have lost the respect and support of the masses. In fact, many people believe that religion contributes to or causes conflict. An increasingly vocal and militant group of Western intellectuals is calling for the end of religion’s influence on society.

  23. george says:

    I am glad that the evil man has to serve 13 years in jail. It will give him ample time to reflect on the crimes he has committed.

    Also, he has had to sign the sex offenders’ register, which is for life. He will not find it so easy to abuse innocent children when he is released.

    I hope that he truly repents. I hope that he never does such terrible things again.

    But mostly, I hope that the victim will be able to get on with her life, comforted partly by the fact that justice has been served.

    Well done Cedars, for your exposing of this and other awful crimes on this site. Let us hope that the GB will learn from these tragic cases and protect children properly in future.

  24. Erik says:

    If all church elders and servants were required by the government to be “mandated reporters (of suspected child abuse)”, as most therapists and those that work with children are already (at least in the US); then these crimes would be being reported to the right government authorities. Which would hopefully prevent the majority of repeat offenses from ever occurring.

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