South Shields Jehovah's witness jailed for sex attack on girl despite church refusing to help police
Church officials in South Shields said they couldn't co-operate with the police investigation, despite having booted out Paul Atkin
Church leaders refused to co-operate with a police investigation into a sex attack by one of their congregation on a teenage girl.
Jehovah’s witness Paul Atkin has now been jailed for five years after admitting to sexual activity with a 15-year-old.
A court heard the South Shields branch of the church carried out their own investigation after the allegation came to light and Atkin was booted out, but when police came knocking, church officials refused to help what was then a rape allegation, on the grounds of confidentiality.
Prosecutor Deborah Smith told Newcastle Crown Court: “It would appear there was some form of investigation by the church. We know the defendant was disfellowshipped as a consequence of that investigation but there has been no disclosure of any minutes of meetings with the defendant and the elders have refused to provide statements to the police, despite the fact the defendant is no longer a member of their congregation, on the grounds of confidentiality.”
Atkin, of East Moffat Street, South Shields, was initially accused of rape but the charge was dropped when he admitted sexual activity with a child. The court heard his victim was 15-and-a-half when he had sex with her.
Miss Smith said: “She did not wish to have sexual intercourse with him. The Crown accept, having discussed matters with her, the defendant may reasonably have believed that she did.
“She did not fight back or shout out at the time of the incident.”
The court heard the woman is still on anti-depressants and says her self confidence has been shattered by the ordeal.
In a statement read to the court, the victim, who is now an adult, said: “This has had a major effect on me and I cannot trust men.
“I bottled everything up and as a teenager I turned to drink and drugs. I hope he gets sent to prison and gets what he deserves.”
Judge Simon Hickey jailed Atkin for five years and said he must sign the sex offenders register for life and abide by a sexual offences prevention order for five years.
The judge said: “This has had a huge effect upon this young lady.”
Newcastle Crown Court
Gavin Doig, mitigating, said Atkin had a supportive family and partner and his family described him as a “hard working man with a job” who will face devastating consequences if sent to jail.
He added that it was Atkin himself who had brought the matter to the attention of police.
Mr Doig told the court: “This defendant made a very bad mistake a number of years ago. He has not made any further mistakes. He is extremely sorry he committed this offence knowing, as he did, the complainant was under age.”
After the case, Atkin’s victim said: “When I told someone all those years ago, they didn’t want to know. I was just told it would be sorted by the fellowship.
“I was disappointed that he only got kicked out. For me, there had been no justice.”
She said it was only when she saw Atkin on Facebook that she finally plucked up the courage to send him a message asking him why he had done what he did in a bid to get an apology.
It was at that point that the police became involved and, with the support of her family, she finally pushed ahead with making a statement to officers.
She added: “It has been really hard but, when the sentence was read out, I just cried. It was just a huge relief that he was finally going to get what he deserved.
“The police have been really supportive. They have been with me throughout. It just feels as if I can now finally move on with my life.”
A spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses in the North East said: “Paul Atkin has not been one of Jehovah’s Witnesses for seven years.
“We understand that the elders had no significant information related to the prosecution of this case that the police were not already aware of. Jehovah’s Witnesses have an absolute and unequivocal abhorrence of child abuse. We never would shield a perpetrator from the consequences of his crime.
“Victims or their families are entirely free to report crimes to the police. We respect and support the valuable role of the police in protecting the community from such individuals.
“For decades Jehovah’s Witnesses have published ground-breaking articles on child safeguarding.”