For details on how to contact our editorial and commercial departments, click here
Jehovah's Witness jailed after child sex abuse was covered up by church elders
5:12pm Friday 23rd August 2013 in News
A JEHOVAH’S Witness whose sex abuse of a child was hushed up by the church has been jailed for 13 years.
Paedophile Gordon Leighton confessed to sexually abusing a child when he was confronted by church elders at Lambton Kingdom Hall in Washington.
But for three years they told no-one about his crimes and refused to co-operate with the subsequent criminal investigation, claiming what he had told him was "confidential".
Leighton, a Jehovah's Witness ministerial servant, continued to deny the abuse allegations to police and pleaded not guilty throughout his six-day trial.
But today (FRI) his crimes finally caught up with him as the 53-year-old was jailed at Newcastle Crown Court.
Judge Penny Moreland said that Leighton had subjected his victim to "untold damage" and added: "You manipulated her with a combination of affection and attention and violence and threats."
Leighton, who hit the headlines in the 1990s when his wife Yvonne, 28, died after refusing a blood transfusion after childbirth on religious grounds, was found guilty of two charges of indecency with a child and six of indecent assault.
The court heard that in 2009 the victim, who is now an adult, bravely broke her silence about what Leighton had done to her.
Prosecutor Katherine Dunn told the court that a special meeting was convened with church elders, aimed at "keeping the congregation clean", where Leighton "admitted sexual abuse" and made excuses for his vile behaviour.
Miss Dunn said: "The elders conducted their own investigation.
"A meeting was arranged and the defendant was confronted with the allegations.
"After initially denying the allegations he broke down and admitted sexually abusing the complainant."
The court heard Leighton, of Wigeon Close, Ayton, Washington, refused to answer any questions when interviewed by detectives and claimed his confession at the meeting was limited to masturbation and reading pornographic material.
Throughout the criminal investigation, church elders Simon Preyser, Harry Logan and David Scott refused to make statements about Leighton's confession, keeping their stance when the case was brought before Newcastle Crown Court.
After months of legal wrangling, each was eventually ordered to testify by Judge Moreland.
Their barrister Richard Daniels said the men had a "duty to God" not to breach confidence.
Leighton was also given a sexual offences prevention order and was ordered to sign the sex offenders' register for life.