The Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses in Australia lose bid to get abuse report before Victims

Auckland, New Zealand, 21 June 2024 – The Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry (“the Inquiry”) delivered recommendations on 30 May 2024, to Minister of Internal Affairs Brooke van Velden, as required by the inquiry’s Terms of Reference. The Minister will then table the recommendations and report in Parliament, before it is released to the general public. This is expected to occur in the week beginning July 22, 2024.

The Inquiry will deliver its comprehensive final report (“the Report”) to the Governor-General by June 26, 2024.

Without any regard to the above timelines, on June 21st, 2024, the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Australasia) Ltd (“CCJW Australasia”) by means of a court order, attempted to obtain an official copy of the Report, including all related documents, before anyone else, including members of Parliament, government officials and sexual abuse survivors.

However, on the following day, June 22nd, 2024, the High Court in Auckland rejected all claims that CCJW Australasia be given an early copy before 26 June 2024.

CCJW Australasia did receive and commented on a draft of the case study in May, but they have not seen the final version.

If CCJW Australasia had successfully obtained the court order, a new precedent would have been created in which a party who was subjected to an Inquiry’s investigation, can receive the Inquiry’s recommendations before anyone else, including the Governor-General whose vested authority allows for the establishment of a Royal Commission of Inquiry.

CCJW Australasia seems to be in a frenzy, trying to cover its tracks. Mounting desperation appears to be the motive for a hasty court order to obtain the Inquiry’s report prematurely so it can prepare for any backlash that could defame the Jehovah’s Witnesses community, bringing them into disrepute.

CCJW Australasia has not yet commented on this latest development.

Regarding the prolonged litigation by CCJW Australasia to be excluded from the Inquiry, on April 24th, 2024, the Court of Appeal of New Zealand upheld the previous decision of the lower High Court, that CCJW Australasia should be included in the Inquiry. See the April 24th, 2024 ruling here.

The Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry, which has been investigating the treatment of individuals in state and faith-based care from the mid-20th century, has been ongoing for over five years. The Commission’s final report was scheduled for release this month but received an extension, partly due to legal efforts of CCJW Australasia to be excluded from the Inquiry’s investigation.

We want to sincerely thank Shayne Mechen, a spokesperson for Survivors of Church Abuse New Zealand and a former Jehovah’s Witness elder, who has been on top of this case and supporting the victims for a few years now. Below is an email he sent regarding the proceeding from CCJW Australasia:

This is part of the reply Mechen received about dismissing access to the reports.

Mechen recently stated that this legal action, along with many other actions the CCJW Australasia has taken to dodge being included in the Inquiry, has angered and frustrated former members of Jehovah’s Witnesses and survivors of child sexual abuse. They believe that the actions of Jehovah’s Witnesses to evade accountability show, beyond a reasonable doubt, a genuine and vindictive lack of concern for victims, not only within the Jehovah’s Witness community but also across other faith-based organizations.

On June 25th, 2024, an email was sent out that the report had now been handed over to the Attorney-General.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are the only religious group to engage in such lengthy legal action against the Commission. They have engaged in similar legal actions in countries like Australia and the United Kingdom. Despite these expensive efforts, their attempts have been consistently unsuccessful.

More updates will be available soon, and any articles regarding this topic will be linked below.