The Jehovah Church has come under intense scrutiny as a sex abuse compensation claim worth half a million pounds has been lodged against the institution.
The test case, brought by a woman who was abused by a senior officer of the organisation from the age of four, has the potential to open the door for hundreds of claims from other victims.
The High Court in London heard that Peter Stewart, a ministerial servant with the organisation based in Leicestershire, continually abused his victim for five years.
Stewart raped his victim and repeatedly told her that because of their “fornication” she would not be saved when Armageddon comes. Jehovah’s witnesses believe that a Judgment Day will occur and a destruction of the present world system will take place.
Stewart was convicted of assaulting another child which led to his arrest and a subsequent five year prison sentence. This represented a break from the abuse for the compensation claimant who did not want the abuse to resume when he emerged from prison. She then told of her own ordeal and Stewart was arrested and charged.
Stewart died in 2001 before the case came to trial.
Lee Fannon, solicitor at Jordans, said: “This is another case highlighting the terrible experiences that many young and vulnerable people have suffered through a religious institution. It is sad to think that someone in a position of trust has been able to carry out such horrifying acts of abuse and the damage that this does should not be underestimated.
“It is encouraging to note that the victim in this case was taken seriously by both the courts and the police in the course of their own investigations. It takes a great deal of courage to come forward and we would encourage anyone who has suffered abuse to seek advice and guidance on the best options for them.”