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Fears over the 'hidden' victims of child abuse.

THE case is the latest to raise fears that the notoriously insular Jehovah's Witnesses may not be reporting child abuse claims to police.

The Government was this month urged to bring in mandatory rules to force the religion to report every allegation to authorities.

Currently, the "two-witness rule" means the religion only investigates themselves if the claim is corroborated by a second testimony - despite many victims being abused on their own.

Concern about "hidden" victims has prompted campaigners to hand a letter to Downing Street calling on the Government to take action.

Victim Nick French, 43, who was abused by his stepfather Gary Moscrop as a child, said introducing mandatory reporting would reduce the risk of paedophiles offending.

The salesman, originally from Glasgow, claimed: "When there are institutions that have rules that protect paedophiles, then something really needs to be done about that.

"What a faith group like the Jehovah's Witnesses would say about child abuse is they still view it as a sin, rather than a crime.

"In this day and age, as soon as a crime is reported it needs to go to the people who are qualified to deal with such a crime."

The call comes after a landmark case in which a woman abused as a child by a Jehovah's Witness minister won PS275,000 damages at the High Court.

Kathleen Hallisey, of AO Advocates, represented the woman in court, and said she expected there were hundreds of "silent" victims within the church in the UK due to the two-witness rule.

"I think it's a very difficult situation for Government to intervene in private religious matters," she said. "The way around that is to introduce mandatory reporting that, in essence, would mean the moment an accusation is made within the Jehovah's Witnesses, that would immediately be turned over to the authorities.

"If there hadn't been the two-witness rule and the Jehovah's Witnesses had reported the allegation of child sexual abuse to the police, the great likelihood is that my client and many others would not have been abused by that same person."

In a previous statement, a Jehovah's Witnesses spokesman said child abuse was a crime that occurred "in all sectors of society".

He added: "Anyone who commits the sin of child abuse faces expulsion from the congregation. If such a person is serving in a position of responsibility, he is removed. Any suggestion that Jehovah's Witnesses cover up child abuse is absolutely false.

"We are committed to doing all we can to prevent child abuse and to provide spiritual comfort to any who have suffered from this terrible sin and crime."

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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Oct 11, 2015
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