Vicarious liability for rape: Barry Congregation of JWs – Law & Religion UK

‘In Barry Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses v BXB [2021] EWCA Civ 356, Mrs B and her husband had attended the Kingdom Hall in Barry and in 1986 Mrs B was baptised as a Jehovah’s Witness. They became friendly with another couple, Mark and Mary Sewell. Mark Sewell was a ministerial servant and subsequently became an elder. On 30 April 1990, Sewell raped Mrs B in a room in his house – and that fact was undisputed. In 2014, Sewell was convicted of raping Mrs B and of indecently assaulting a girl aged under 14, CXC, and another individual and sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment. Mrs B sued the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania and the Trustees of the Barry Congregation and, at first instance, Chamberlain J held them vicariously liable for her rape. (He also determined that it was equitable to extend the time to allow the claims to proceed, pursuant to s.33 Limitation Act 1980). He awarded Mrs B £62,000 for psychiatric injuries attributable to the rape. On appeal, the defendants disputed.’

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Law & Religion UK, 24th March 2021