13 Mar 2024

Abuse in care inquiry: Jehovah's Witness church appeals dismissal of bid for exclusion

4:49 pm on 13 March 2024
18072016 Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King. Wellington High Court.

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The Jehovah's Witness church is appealing the high court's dismissal of its legal bid to get out of being part of the Abuse in Care Inquiry.

The High Court in Wellington dismissed its application for a judicial review in October after a three-year behind-the-scenes battle between the church and the inquiry.

A hearing is set for 21 March in the Court of Appeal in Wellington.

In a letter to survivors today, the inquiry said it could not comment further as the matter was before the court, but it would have wellbeing support available at the hearing for survivors who attend.

The Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses Australasia said it considered the High Court judgment "contained errors of law which is seeks to challenge".

"Given the matter is again active litigation, it is not appropriate for CCJWA to disclose anything further at this point," it said in a statement.

The church sought a judicial review to be exempt from the inquiry, arguing it was beyond the inquiry's scope because it did not run institutions that cared for children or vulnerable people.

In her judgment, Justice Ellis said the Jehovah's Witness church did not have a "fundamental right to avoid scrutiny".

The church's claim that its policies prevented elders - who are like ministers - from spending time alone with children, was also thrown out by Ellis, who said evidence provided to the inquiry, and from overseas, showed otherwise.

The inquiry's scope was expanded to include faith-based institutions in November 2018 after lobbying from religious groups and survivors. The Jehovah's Witness faith is the only group to oppose being involved, culminating in its application for a judicial review in May 2023.

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