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THE REAL WATCHTOWER WORLD
APPEAL BY THE WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY OF PENNSYLVANIA
AND THE BARRY SOUTH WALES CONGREGATION OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES
ENGLAND COURT OF APPEAL
MARCH 15, 2021
This three-judge Appeal was from a trial court decision issued in January 2020, in which the trial judge decided that the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania and the Barry Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses were vicariously liable for the rape of member MrsB by one of her Congregation Elders, Mark Sewell, in April 1990. In so doing, the trial judge had decided that the activities undertaken by Elder Mark Sewell away from the Kingdom Hall were an integral part of the "business" activities carried on by the WatchTower Society and its local Congregation, and that the commission of the rape was a risk created by the WatchTower Society and its local Congregation by assigning those activities to Mark Sewell. The trial judge also concluded that the rape was sufficiently closely connected to Mark Sewell's position as a Congregation Elder to justify the imposition of vicarious liability.
In 1984, MrsB and her husband started attending the local Kingdom Hall in Barry, South Wales. They quickly became "unbaptized publishers" (door-knockers) even before they were baptized as official members in 1986. For all intents and purposes, new Jehovah's Witnesses are REQUIRED to eliminate their non-JW social contacts and reduce their non-JW family contacts to the point of only conducting necessary family business with non-JW relatives.
In 1984-86, Mark Sewell was one of multiple "Ministerial Servants" in the Barry Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, who perform the same/similar duties as do "Deacons" in other denominations. Typical of the effectively franchised family businesses operated worldwide by the WatchTower Society, Mark Sewell's father, Tony Sewell, was an "Elder" in the Barry Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses. Each Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses has multiple "Elders", depending only on the number of qualified and eligible adult males. The Body of Elders perform the same administrative functions as that performed by the Board of Trustees in other denominations. However, Jehovah's Witness Elders also perform all of the functions performed by the Pastor and Assistant Pastors in other denominations.
Mark and Mary Sewell and their children and MrB and MrsB and their children began to regularly socialize both within and outside the Barry Congregation's essentially "mandatory" three weekly meetings, and while performing the essentially "required" proselytizing activities on weekends.
MrsB later testified that within the WatchTower Society that it was necessary for an adult male "Publisher" (regular member) to demonstrate that he was a spiritually strong member of the congregation in order to be "promoted" to being a "Ministerial Servant", or an "Elder". MrsB elaborated:
"We felt proud to count Mark as one of our friends. It was because of his standing as a Ministerial Servant, and then an Elder, that our friendship became close as it did."
In 1989, Mark Sewell was promoted to Congregation Elder, while his friend, MrB, was appointed as a "Ministerial Servant". MrsB testified:
... my husband had now become a Ministerial Servant and had ambitions in due course to become an Elder. Having Mark as a friend meant that Mark would have been in a position to guide and assist my husband in that regard. In addition, Mark seemed like a lovely, kind, genuine, helpful man. He could be very charming and funny."
Regarding the role of Congregation Elders, MrsB testified:
"The Elders are like shepherds, as it were. Their directions are always followed by members of the congregation and they are very rarely criticised. There can be serious repercussions for those who disobey them. Anybody who disobeyed an Elder's instruction would receive what was called a 'shepherding call'. This would involve an Elder coming to see the person concerned at their house, or in a more serious case, a [three Elders] Judicial Committee would be set up in the Kingdom Hall at which the person concerned would be given instructions on how to behave. If that person continued to disobey, they would be disfellowshipped."
MrsB further testified that Mark Sewell's duties as a Congregation Elder included greeting members when they arrived at the Kingdom Hall. Mark often greeted her and other female members of the congregation by kissing them on the lips. Sewell regularly did this in the presence of the other Congregation Elders. This made MrsB feel "extremely uncomfortable". However, since noone else in the Barry Congregation was saying anything negative about it, as a relatively new member, MrsB did not want to be the first to complain. However, MrsB did eventually raise the subject with Mark Sewell, but as a result, Mary Sewell told MrsB that she had caused trouble between Mark and Mary. Mary asked MrsB to allow Mark to continue to kiss her in that way. Of that, MrsB testified:
"I didn't want to make an issue out of it, nor did I feel able to complain to anybody else. The Jehovah's Witness Organisation teaches members to love their brothers and sisters, and I therefore felt that complaining about a fellow member of the congregation would go against [Sewell's] teaching. As a Ministerial Servant and now an Elder, he was in a position of authority and had been awarded that title as a result of his being considered to be a trusted member of the congregation and capable of providing advice and guidance. It would have been very difficult to question his actions without facing repercussions. I did not know at the time that, if any ordinary member of the congregation had behaved in this way, it would have been considered to be inappropriate."
Mark and Mary Sewell's marriage eventually became volatile. Mary Sewell would telephone MrsB and MrB in the early hours of the morning complaining about Mark Sewell's aggression toward Mary and/or their children. Mark Sewell began to drink heavily. Mark Sewell also began to flirt with MrsB. Mark Sewell would make sexual innuendos, hold her hand, kiss her on the lips, and give MrsB inappropriate compliments.
MrsB's concern about Mark Sewell's behaviour prompted MrsB to suggest to Mary Sewell that they speak to Mark's father, Tony Sewell, who again, was a Congregation Elder. MrsB and Mary met Tony Sewell at his home in 1989. Tony Sewell explained that Mark was suffering from depression, and that Mark needed love and support. Elder Tony Sewell asked MrsB to provide Mark with extra support from both herself and MrB. MrsB testified:
"[Tony Sewell] made us feel that this was the right thing to do as good Jehovah's Witnesses. I was reluctant to spend more time with Mark because he made me feel uncomfortable. However, if an [Congregation E]lder told me, as a Publisher, to do something, then it was my duty to do so. Tony had decided that this was the course of action to be taken, and his request was really an instruction from an Elder. I was required by my faith and the congregation to carry out that instruction and to provide Mark with the extra support that he was deemed to require -- whatever I felt about it. Although there is no hierarchy of Elders [a WatchTower Cult fiction still being perpetuated by this former member], Tony was a highly respected Elder, and had been an Elder for many years. The meeting between Tony, Mary, and myself ended with Tony saying a prayer for us to help Mark and calling upon Jehovah to help us."
MrsB testified that she would NOT have acceded to Tony Sewell's request had it not been made by a Congregation Elder. Thus, MrsB obeyed the request and counsel of Tony Sewell. MrsB continued to support Mark Sewell, and thereafter reported back to Tony Sewell about his son, Mark Sewell's, behaviour.
However, Mark Sewell's inappropriate behaviour towards MrsB continued. On one occasion he asked her to run away with him. His behaviour became so unbearable that MrB and MrsB attempted to cut off social contact with the Sewells -- despite the mission assigned them by Tony Sewell. When they did this, Mark Sewell came to their home at 2:00 A.M. Sewell was crying, and complained that he could not handle not being friends with them. MrsB testified:
"My husband and I found that we had got to the stage where we could not remove ourselves from the situation. Mark was an Elder in the congregation, and his father, Tony, had directed us to support Mark. We had no choice but to maintain the friendship. Looking back, I am sure that, had it not been for the fact that Mark was an Elder, and I had received an instruction from another Elder, his father, our friendship with Mark and Mary would have come to an end well before what I describe below happened. Indeed, this situation was so difficult for us that it was causing problems in my relationship with my husband."
On April 30, 1990, when MrsB was 29 years old, MrB and she, accompanied by Mark and Mary Sewell, were all "auxiliary pioneering" in Cowbridge. They all went to a local pub for lunch, where Mark Sewell had too much to drink and argued with Mary. Mary threw a glass of whisky on him, so Mark stormed out of the pub. MrB went to look for Sewell, and found him carrying a business card from a local lawyer's office, stating that he wanted to divorce Mary. MrB reminded Mark Sewell that divorce would not be possible, since divorce is only permitted within Jehovah's Witnesses on specific grounds, which include adultery. Sewell boasted that he could convince Mary that that ground existed.
Later on that afternoon, the Bs and the Sewells picked up their respective children and returned to the Sewell's home. There, Mark Sewell went into a backroom. The children played on the third floor, while MrB, MrsB, and Mary sat in the frontroom talking about what they were going to do about Mark. MrsB later testified that since Mark Sewell had previously confided in her about his troubles, she had been given the job of talking to Mark to try to convince him that he should go to the Body of Elders about his depression.
Going into the backroom where was Mark Sewell, MrsB discovered that Mark Sewell had continued to drink at home, and was drunk and upset. Mark Sewell pushed MrsB to the floor, held her down, pushed up her skirt, ripped off her underwear, and raped her. Apparently in shock, MrsB told noone until she later arrived home and told MrB.
As unbelievable as anything in this biography was MrB's reaction when told about the rape of MrsB. MrsB testified that MrB reacted by saying, "I knew it," and telling MrsB what Mark Sewell had said in Cowbridge about wanting to give Mary a reason for them to divorce. MrsB also recalled MrB telling her that "half of me wants to go round and beat him, but the other half of me says I have to forgive my brother."
Shockingly, only a few days later, the Bs attended an already planned barbecue at the Sewells' home. There, MrsB confronted Mark Sewell about the rape. Sewell begged MrsB for her forgiveness. MrsB testified:
"Part of the teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses is to forgive one's brother if they are truly repentant. At the time, I believed that Mark's pleas for forgiveness meant that he was truly repentant because he seemed so plausible and so genuine. I said to him that I wouldn't take the matter any further, but that he shouldn't ever come near me again. He said that he would do whatever it takes, and we left it at that. I felt that my only option was to forgive Mark. It was in part due to these teachings that I did not feel compelled to report Mark to the Body of Elders. Although I know that this is not rational, I was absolutely terrified that, by my actions, ... that I had brought shame on Jehovah's name, and the others would find out. I was very worried about how that would affect my family and also Mary. I also felt shame and guilt. I also felt a continued pressure to continue to support Mark due to his position in the [congregation] as Elder, as well as his father's earlier request. The position that both Mark and his father held within the congregation also made me feel that I was unlikely to be believed if I choose to report Mark to the Body of Elders."
In May 1990, the Bs and the Sewells went together on a two-family vacation to Portugal, which had been booked before the rape occurred. Mrs B testified:
"Obviously, the last thing I wanted to do was to go on the trip with them, but my children were looking forward to it, and I could not think of an adequate excuse to provide to Mary as to why we would not want to go, and I had told Mark that I had forgiven him. I didn't want to disappoint my children and the honour associated with spending time with an Elder's family made it difficult for me to avoid socialising with Mark and Mary and their family. I was also aware of the continued instruction of Tony [Sewell] to support Mark and Mary, even though my fear of Mark increased. Given the position of an "elder" that both Tony and Mark held, I felt that I was unable to deny the request to continue to provide support to Mark and Mary, although my husband and I were really struggling with this now."
On that vacation in Portugal, Mark Sewell once ripped off MrsB's bikini top while horseplaying in the swimming pool. "This," she testified, "brought back the horror of what he had done to me."
Shortly thereafter, in 1991, an "under-14-year-old daughter" (referred to hereafter as CXC) of yet a third Barry Congregation Elder, disclosed to MrsB that Mark Sewell had been sexually abusing her. The following day, MrsB and MrB spoke to Mark Sewell. MrsB testified:
"We spoke to Mark the next day. He told us he could do what he liked because he was an Elder, and that he was not answerable to us. He said that CXC needed to be disciplined because she had been smoking, and that whatever she might have said would be lies."
MrsB finally decided to inform Barry's Body of Elders about what all Mark Sewell had been doing. MrsB told CXC's father, also a Barry Congregation Elder, both what Mark Sewell had done to her, as well as what Mark Sewell had been doing to his own young daughter.
At Mark Sewell's 2014 criminal trial, CXC's father later testified that he had been a Jehovah's Witness since childhood. He had been appointed a Ministerial Servant when he had been in his 20s, and appointed as an Elder when he was about 30. He provided testimony about the role of Elders in a Jehovah's Witness congregation. He described Mark Sewell as being "tactile with women," and that Mark Sewell would greet females by kissing them on their lips. He testified that his young daughter, CXC, had regularly stayed at the Sewells' home, where she would participate in Jehovah's Witnesses activities. "Congregation Book Studies" would take place weekly at the homes of approved members. Mark Sewell's home was designated as one of those "approved" venues by the Barry Body of Elders. He also gave evidence of his daughter's later disclosure of Mark Sewell's sexual abuse, and the investigation of her complaint by the Barry Body of Elders.
Following MrsB's report to the Barry Body of Elders, and the subsequent re-reporting up the chain of command to Britain's Branch Office HQ and Legal Department, in London, the task of investigating MrsB's complaint was assigned to three Elders from the Cardiff and Penarth Congregations. The investigation process took place. MrsB described her interview as being "extremely painful and humiliating", and during which, she was subject to explicit, and what she felt were inappropriate questions from the three investigating Elders.
A Judicial Committee comprised of the same three investigating Elders and a fourth Elder from the Barry Congregation heard the complaint. Typical of Judicial Committee Hearings, MrsB had to give her testimony in the presence of Mark and Mary Sewell. At that hearing, Mark Sewell denied all the allegations. Sewell claimed that he could not remember what had happened because he had been drunk at the time.
The four Elders comprising the Judicial Committee subsequently visited MrsB to tell her of their decision that Mark Sewell was "not guilty" of the charges made by both MrsB and CXC. MrsB later testified regarding their visit:
"I think they came and visited me at home. Incredible as it may sound, I think David Newman said to me that this was a classic case of 'wife swapping'. The [Judicial C]ommittee reached this decision because it was Mark's word against mine. It was necessary for there to be two adult witnesses to corroborate an allegation. This test was not met because Mark had denied what happened, and there was no one else there to see it. This was also the case with CXC. She was not considered to be a witness at all because she was a minor. Furthermore, I was instructed not to tell anyone else about the abuse and that I ought to move congregation so that I no longer had to see Mark. My perception was that the Elders had concluded that Mark's assault had been my fault."
So, Mark Sewell remained a member of the Barry Congregation, but he was later disfellowshipped (excommunicated) for conduct relating to his overdrinking of alcohol.
Following her rape, MrsB began to suffer episodes of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. After essentially being blamed for her rape by the Judicial Committee, MrsB eventually stopped her association with the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Following a police investigation, a criminal trial took place at which MrsB again gave evidence. In July 2014, Mark Sewell was convicted of raping MrsB, and convicted of indecently assaulting CXC, and convicted even of assaulting a third female. Mark Sewell was sentenced to 14 years in prison.
MrsB thereafter filed this civil lawsuit against both the Barry Congregation and the WatchTower Society.
Ultimately, the trial judge decided that the activities undertaken by Elder Mark Sewell away from the Kingdom Hall were an integral part of the "business" activities carried on by the WatchTower Society and its local Congregation, and that the commission of the rape was a risk created by the WatchTower Society and its local Congregation by assigning those activities to Mark Sewell. The trial judge also concluded that the rape was sufficiently closely connected to Mark Sewell's position as a Congregation Elder to justify the imposition of vicarious liability. The trial judge reasoned, in part:
"Elders are the spiritual leaders of the congregation. To be appointed an Elder, a publisher must first have served as a Ministerial Servant and demonstrated that he is spiritually suitable to be an example to others. An Elder may be removed if he fails to maintain the high standards expected of him, whether in performance of his duties as an elder, or in his personal life. Elders are the principal conduit through which the teachings of the faith, as represented in ["The] Watchtower" and other publications, are disseminated to congregations. Instructions from the worldwide organisation on matters such as the reporting of child abuse are addressed to them. Insofar as a congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses acts as a body, it acts through its Elders. An Elder is as integral to the 'business' of a congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses as a priest is to the 'business' of the Catholic Church.
"... any organisation that confers on its leaders power and authority over others creates a risk that those leaders will abuse that power and authority. This is as true of a religious organisation as it is of a secular one. There is no doubt that the teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses confer on Elders (who are said to be appointed through the intermediation of Jehovah) considerable power and authority over other publishers, who are enjoined to be obedient and submissive to them, at least when their guidance does not conflict with the Bible.
"... where an organisation makes rules for all aspects of its adherents' lives, and sets its leaders up as moral and spiritual exemplars, it imbues those leaders with power and authority even outside the confines of their religious activities. The suggestion that publishers should reject instructions from Elders that do not accord with Biblical teaching must be seen in light of the specific guidance that 'a spirit of independent thinking does not prevail in God's organisation, and we have sound reasons for confidence in the men taking the lead among us,' that '[t]he elders adhere to scriptural truth,' and that 'we should not magnify [elders'] human imperfections' ([The] Watchtower, September 15, 1989,Be Obedient to those Taking the Lead). An organisation that chooses to give advice of that kind creates a risk that its adherents will mistakenly follow the instructions they are given by elders, even if on a proper analysis they are contrary to the Biblical teaching.
"... sexual abuse is almost always a form of abuse of power. Where (as here) the act of abuse involves physical violence, it will generally be enabled by the relatively greater physical power of the abuser compared to his victim. But acts of sexual abuse rarely happen out of the blue. Often, the perpetrator abuses his own power, or that of others, to engineer a situation in which the abuse can occur, i.e. to legitimate and enable what [has been] called the 'progressive stages of intimacy'. Any organisation that confers on its leaders power over others creates the risk that they will abuse it in that way. ... ...
"First, MrB and MrsB met Mark and Mary Sewell when Mark was a Ministerial Servant. I accept that the two couples began to associate in part because MrB and MrsB perceived them, because of Mark's position, to be of high standing in the community of Jehovah's Witnesses. By associating with them, MrB and MrsB were practising 'good association'. MrB also had aspirations to become a Ministerial Servant, which he did at the same time Mark Sewell became an Elder. So, Mark Sewell's status as an Elder was one factor in the couple's developing friendship. This would plainly not be enough on its own to justify holding the Defendants vicariously liable for Mark Sewell's torts, but it is a piece of relevant context.
"Second, another reason why the two couples continued to socialise was because they got on well. In particular, MrsB found Mark Sewell charming and funny, and she and MrB enjoyed [Mark] and Mary's company. But there came a time, probably in late 1989, when Mark Sewell began to cross boundaries and act inappropriately both towards Mary and towards MrsB. I accept MrsB's evidence that one important reason why she tolerated this was because Mark Sewell was an Elder. This meant both that MrsB assumed that he would be acting from pure motives and that there could be repercussions if she were to call out his inappropriate behaviour. Mark Sewell's ability to get away with inappropriate behaviour is illustrated by the lack of comment when he greeted women members of the congregation by kissing them on the lips. His own perception of the significance of his status can be seen from MrsB's evidence, which I accept, of his reaction when confronted by her about his sexual abuse of CXC: 'He told us he could do what he liked because he was an elder and that he was not answerable to us.'
"Third, the instruction from Tony Sewell, a senior Elder, to MrB and MrsB to act as confidants to Mark made it difficult to break off the friendship even after Mark's behaviour became seriously concerning. Although Tony Sewell did not specifically say that MrsB should act as confidante to Mark alone, he implied that by giving the example of his wife (who had confided in a male elder rather than her husband). ... the teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses, and the authority of the elders, extended to all aspects of a publisher's life, not just those concerned directly with evangelism and with religious services. It is relevant that Tony Sewell finished the meeting with a prayer, deliberately invoking MrsB's religious obligation to do what he had instructed. In giving his implied instruction to MrsB to act as confidante to Mark, Tony Sewell had not, therefore, cast off the mantle of an elder; on the contrary, he had deliberately assumed it. The significance of the instruction was not undermined by the fact that it might conflict with the rule that [JW] men should not be alone with women to whom they were not related, because ... Elders were given more leeway than others in this regard, and by virtue of their status, might be assumed by other members of the congregation to be acting from pure motives. Thus, I accept as true MrsB's evidence that 'had it not been for the fact that Mark was an elder and I had received an instruction from another elder, his father, our friendship with Mark and Mary would have come to an end well before [the rape]'.
"Fourth, it is material that the rape occurred after MrB and MrsB had been out pioneering, i.e., performing the central religious duty of Jehovah's Witnesses. That is why MrB and MrsB, and Mark and Mary Sewell, were together on the day when the rape occurred. It is also relevant that ... Mark Sewell's house was 'an "approved" venue by the Barry Elders; and that MrsB went to the back room of that house, where the rape took place, because she had 'decided to go to speak to Mark to convince him that he should go to the Elders about his depression' -- in other words to convince him to fulfil what she regarded as his duty as one of Jehovah's Witnesses and as an Elder.
"Fifth, on the basis of MrsB's evidence about what Mark Sewell said to MrB, which I accept, I find that Mark Sewell had formed the belief that there had to be an act of adultery in order to generate scriptural grounds for him to divorce Mary. The idea of relying on a rape to legitimate a divorce was, of course, a perversion of the beliefs and teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses, but on the evidence before me it appears to have played a part in Mark Sewell's thinking at the time of the rape. The fact that, in his mind, rape was equivalent to adultery suggests a mindset in which he was entitled to act as he desired, and MrsB would or should submit to him. Such a mindset is utterly contrary to the teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses, but the evidence establishes that his pathological beliefs about his own entitlement to exercise power over others were bound up with the position and status the Defendants had given him by appointing him as an elder."
In March 2021, the three-justice England Court of Appeal issued their unanimous decision to uphold the prior decision of the trial court. One of the justice's concurring opinions added these further informative remarks:
"First, it is clear, on the [trial] judge's findings, that ordinary members of the congregation ("publishers" such as MrsB) were required to be obedient and submissive to the elders, and not to question their conduct or instructions. Although in principle this teaching applied only to instructions which were in accordance with the scriptures, it was inevitable in practice that an ordinary member of the congregation's view of what was required would be coloured by the conduct of the elders as a body. The teaching of the Watchtower magazine emphasised the spiritual leadership of the elders and encouraged publishers to imitate their faith. The prevailing ethos in the Barry Congregation at the material time was that a female publisher who complained about the conduct of an elder could expect an unsympathetic response and potential repercussions. MrsB had known cases where those who questioned elders had been labelled as insane or apostates.
"Second, it is apparent that the elders of the Barry Congregation knew of and permitted sexually inappropriate behaviour on the part of Mark Sewell. When performing his duties as an elder by welcoming members of the congregation at Kingdom Hall, he would kiss MrsB and other female members on the lips. He did this in the presence of other elders, who therefore knew of and condoned this practice. No one commented on it. No one suggested that it was inappropriate. This was an abuse of his position as an elder in which the other elders acquiesced. Indeed, when MrsB raised the subject with Mark Sewell, his wife, Mary Sewell, asked MrsB to allow him to continue kissing her in that way, and because she felt unable to question the conduct of an elder, she acquiesced. So whatever he may have thought beforehand, Mark Sewell knew from then on that MrsB did not want him to kiss her on the lips, but he continued to do so. This was a form of sexual abuse, albeit far less serious than what was to follow, which was a clear abuse of his position as an elder.
"Third, towards the end of 1989, MrsB raised her concerns about Mark Sewell's behaviour with his father, Tony, who was also a senior and highly respected elder in the Barry Congregation. In doing so, she was following the teaching of the Watchtower magazine which encourages publishers to go to the elders with their problems. Although the [trial] judge does not spell out exactly what was said, the reasonable inference is that she told him about her discomfort as a result of the kissing, and also about the sexual innuendos which Mark had now begun to make; and that Mary Sewell, who accompanied her, described Mark's aggressive behaviour towards her and their children, and his heavy drinking. Tony Sewell's response was to request that MrB and MrsB provide Mark with extra support and that this was the right thing for them to do as good Jehovah's Witnesses. The judge found that, in making this request, Tony Sewell was acting as an elder, and that MrsB rightly understood his request as being, in effect, an instruction from an elder with which she had a religious obligation to comply. She did comply by carrying on supporting Mark, and reporting to Tony Swell on his behaviour, which continued to be inappropriate. On one occasion, Mark asked MrsB to run away with him. On another occasion, Tony Sewell brought Mary Sewell to MrB's and MrsB's house because it was not safe for her to return home. Thus Tony Sewell, in his capacity as an elder, was well aware not only of Mark's inappropriate sexual behaviour, but also of his capacity for violence. He was aware also that the inappropriate sexual behaviour was an abuse of Mark's position as an elder, and therefore that Mark was prepared to abuse his position in this way, but he nevertheless encouraged MrsB (and in practice instructed her that it was her religious duty) not only to continue to associate with him but even to act as his confidante.
"Fourth, if it had not been for Tony Sewell's instruction and Mark Sewell's status as an elder, MrB and MrsB would have cut off contact with Mark. In fact they tried to do so, when his behaviour became unbearable, despite Tony Sewell's instructions. However, as MrsB put it, because of the fact that Mark Sewell was an elder and his father, another elder, had instructed her to continue to support Mark, she and her husband felt that they had no choice but to maintain the friendship.
"As the judge acknowledged, Mrs B was an adult married woman who was 29 years old and it was her decision to continue to associate with Mark Sewell despite his unacceptable behaviour. In fact she did have a choice whether to continue to associate with him, although it is fair to say that ending the friendship might have made it difficult for her and her husband to remain as members of the Barry Congregation, and would therefore have carried a considerable spiritual cost. Moreover, the rape did not occur while Mark Sewell was performing any religious duty. ... ...
"Nevertheless, when the circumstances of the rape are seen in the context of the four factors to which I have referred, it is apparent in my judgment that the rape occurred because of Mark Sewell's status as an elder, without which the two couples would have ceased to associate, and without which MrsB would never have approached him in the back room where the rape occurred. She did so because, and only because, despite the sexually inappropriate behaviour which he had demonstrated, of which the other elders including in particular Tony Sewell were aware, she had been taught that an elder has a special status in the community of Jehovah's Witnesses and had been instructed that it was her religious duty towards Mark as an elder to act as a friend and confidante to him in his depression. As she put it in her evidence, "it was I who had been given that role". She was, in effect, put in a position where the risk of sexual abuse of some kind was apparent. ...
"Moreover, the judge found that one of the reasons for the rape was Mark Sewell's perverted belief that an act of adultery was necessary in order to provide him with scriptural grounds for divorce, and that he also had a belief in his entitlement as an elder to exercise power over others and to act as he desired. He had already shown himself to the other elders to be a man with a propensity to abuse his position and, on this occasion, that is what he did. ... The rape was sufficiently closely connected with Mark Sewell's status as an elder that it may fairly and properly be regarded as an abuse of the authority over Mrs B conferred on him by that status, such that the defendants who had conferred that authority on him should be vicariously liable."