A charity tribunal ruled that the Charity Commission can continue its statutory inquiry into practices at the Manchester Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their focus is on the Jehovah’s Witness practices regarding safeguarding of minor children at the New Moston Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The inquiry is now free to proceed after the charity tribunal rejected after the Watchtower and the congregation filed an appeal against the opening of the investigation.
In June, the regulator opened a statutory inquiry into the Manchester New Moston Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses to investigate issues including the trustees’ compliance with their legal duties, the charity’s management of risks to its beneficiaries, and its safeguarding policy, procedures and practice.
The regulator acted after information was presented that victims of sexual abuse by a former elder of the congregation had been required to meet and answer questions from their abuser. According to tribunal documents, their abuser had recently been released from the prison sentence he was given for abusing them.
In July, the trustees (elder body of the congregation) launched an appeal against the opening of the inquiry.
The tribunal published a decision, reached on April 9 after a hearing on March 10, not to allow a review of the opening of the statutory inquiry.
The decision says the tribunal did not accept the Watchtower’s claims that the commission had infringed the trustees’ rights to religion and association under the Human Rights Act 1998, and that the commission had acted inconsistently with its normal approach in cases involving sexual abuse.
Concerns were raised about safeguarding at the New Moston congregation, but the commission also opened a statutory inquiry into the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Britain, the national governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The WTBTSB’s tribunal also appealed against it being investigated. Its tribunal appeal was also rejected.