Church set up probe to see if ‘sin’ had been committed over sex assault allegations

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DAVID Scott is an elder at the Lambton Kingdom Hall in Washington.

He found out about the sex abuse allegation in December 2009.

Mr Scott said he made a telephone call to the London HQ and was instructed, with other elders, to carry out an investigation into the claims.

A meeting was then set up at the Kingdom Hall in April 2010 to see if a “sin” had been committed.

He said Leighton initially denied the allegations.

But he said Leighton confessed after Bible verses were quoted at the gathering, which said “God sees everything”.

Mr Scott said: “He thought for a while and said possibly, he may have had a drink and he may have done those things.

“Following that, he said ‘I would like to apologise’ and said ‘I can’t apologise enough’.

“I remember him saying ‘what are you going to do now?’.”

Mr Scott said after the “confession” Leighton was “reproved”, which means he was disciplined and all privileges removed from him.

He was not, at that stage, “disfellowed”, or banished from the church. Being “disfellowed” means nobody is allowed to speak to the disfellowed member and while they may still attend meetings, they are not allowed to participate.

Mr Scott said contacting the police was not discussed as an option.

It was only later, when allegations of violence were made against Leighton, that he was disfellowed and expelled from the congregation.

Mr Scott said: “It is not what you expect a Christian, someone who lives by Christian standards, to do, acting violently towards someone.

“The Bible says violence should be avoided.”

Henry Logan is also an elder at the congregation. He was also at the meeting and had participated in the internal “investigation”. He too said Leighton had initially denied the allegations.

But he added: “He then said that he had been drunk at the time and he may have done those things while he was drunk.”

Mr Logan said he was present when Leighton was told he would be reproved after the admissions.

He said: “He put his hands over his face and said ‘oh, I thought I was going to be disfellowshipped’ and he had tears in his eyes.”

Simon Preyser is an elder from the Roker congregation in Sunderland.

He chaired the meeting and described the allegations as “horrific”.

Mr Preyser told the court about Leighton’s initial denials but added: “He said ‘it might well be, while under the influence of alcohol, I did things I shouldn’t have done. Some of the things she’s said, I’ve done’.

“He just simply said ‘I’m sorry’.”