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Watchtower of Britain found liable for actions of child rapist Peter Stewart

Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Britain, the Body of Elders in the Loughborough Blackbrook Congregation, and the Body of Elders in the Loughborough Southwood Congregation have been found liable for the actions of child rapist Peter Stewart.

FROM THE HIGH COURT JUDGMENT OF  THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE GLOBE

[2015] EWHC 1722 (QB)

19 June 2015

3. The claimant, who is now 29 years of age, claims damages for personal injury and loss arising out of being sexually assaulted by Peter Stewart, now deceased, between 1989 and 1994, when she was between about the ages of 4 and 9. Quantum has been agreed subject to liability.

4. The first defendants are the over-arching body of the second and third defendants. It is common ground that, if the second and/or third defendants are liable, then the first defendants will satisfy the judgment on behalf of the other defendants. The Blackbrook and Southwood Jehovah’s Witness Congregations are the direct or indirect successors of the congregation that was originally known as the Loughborough Limehurst Jehovah’s Witness Congregation, then split into two congregations known as the Limehurst Jehovah’s Witness Congregation and the Garendon Park Jehovah’s Witness Congregation, which congregations are central to the factual matrix of the case…

Vicarious liability

124. That leaves the issue of vicarious liability for the elders. As summarised earlier in paragraphs 10-18, the elders had additional responsibilities to those held by ministerial servants. They were even closer and more integrated with congregational issues than were ministerial servants. They had a spiritual role and partly exercised that role, via the judicial committee, and decisions of the body consequent upon decisions of the judicial committee. The decisions that emanated from the judicial committee and thereafter from the body of elders were a fundamental part of the role of the elders within the organisation. The second and third defendants are the trustees and successors of the Garendon Park and Limehurst Congregations. They are unincorporated associations who have taken over the responsibility of the congregations. In circumstances where, having applied the two-stage test, I have already found they are vicariously liable for the actions of Peter Stewart, I also find they are vicariously liable for the actions of the elders in relation to the above breach of duty arising from the findings of the judicial committee in 1990.

Decision

125. For all of these reasons, I am satisfied that the defendants should be held responsible for what Peter Stewart did between 1989 and 1994. The claim succeeds. Judgment should be entered for the claimant. An order will need to be drawn up to reflect the agreement as to quantum.

Download Judgment:

A v Watchtower Britain and Loughborough Blackbrook Congregation – [2015] EWHC 1722 (QB) – pdf

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