A woman traumatised by five years of sexual abuse as a child by a Jehovah’s Witness minister has won £275,000 damages at the high court, in what is said to be the first case against the church in the UK.

The woman, now 29, who can only be named as A, was sexually abused from the age of four by Peter Stewart, a ministerial servant at the Limehurst Congregation in Loughborough, where her family worshipped.

The abuse, which began in 1989, stopped in 1994 after Stewart was arrested and jailed for abusing another child in the congregation and another young girl.

The victim remained silent at the time, and her mother gave evidence of Stewart’s good character at his trial. It was only in 1999, just before Stewart’s release, that A told her mother what had happened.

When her mother wrote to Stewart with the allegations, he admitted he was a pervert and told her he was sorry for the hurt and damage he had caused. She contacted an elder at the church and, when nothing was done, she went to the police.

Officers interviewed A in May 2001, but Stewart died a month later.

She claimed that the trustees of the Blackbrook Congregation and the Southwood Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Loughborough, the successors of the Limehurst Congregation, were vicariously liable for the assaults.

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