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Appeal refused in Jehovah’s Witness sex abuse case


Floyd LJ has refused the Jehovah’s Witness church permission to appeal against the judgment of Globe J, in which James Counsell and Ben Bradley successfully appeared for the Claimant (see judgment here).

In his initial ruling Mr Justice Globe imposed vicarious liability upon the Jehovah’s Witnesses (“JWs”) organisation both for:

  1. the acts of sexual abuse committed by one of its ministerial servants, Peter Stewart (“PS”), upon the Claimant (“the abuse claim”); and;
  2. the failures, on the part of its Elders, to safeguard the Claimant from acts of further sexual abuse, in circumstances where they knew PS was a paedophile, but viewed him as being repentant for his sins, thereby permitting him to remain in the congregation (“the safeguarding claim”).

In a renewed oral application for permission to appeal, the JWs sought to argue that the recent authorities of Cox v MoJ [2016] UKSC 10 and Mohamud v Morrisons [2016] UKSC 11, had ‘overtaken’ both the reasoning of Globe J and that of Tomlinson LJ (in refusing the initial application for permission to appeal on the papers).

Following contested oral argument, Floyd LJ rejected the JW’s submissions, ruling that Globe J had undertaken a ‘careful analysis’ of the relevant legal principles and was right to impose vicarious liability on the JWs both for the acts of PS, as a ministerial servant in the abuse claim, and for the acts of its Elders in the safeguarding claim.

The fact that that Cox and Mohamud were decided after Tomlinson LJ’s decision on papers made no difference to that analysis.

Ben Bradley (instructed by Tommy Beale, AO Advocates) appeared for the successful Respondent at the oral permission hearing.

Barristers: Ben Bradley | James Counsell QC
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