Church elder gets jail term for child abuse
THE parents of a girl who was molested by a Jehovah's Witness elder were threatened by the church in an attempt to stifle their complaint, a court heard.
The former elder - Donald Stephen Beinke - abused the girl and two others on at least four occasions in the 1980s and 1990s.
A jury today found Beinke, now 76, guilty after a trial in Cairns District Court on four counts of aggravated indecent treatment of a child.
Beinke was shunned by his Far North Queensland church when the girl's allegations came to light in 1993, but the court heard the elders threatened to sue her parents for slander and excommunicate them if they pursued the claims.
The girl's father reported the allegations to police when the family was "brushed away" by church elders.
In a victim impact statement read to the court, the complainant woman said she had tried "to escape a horror that never ends".
"I wanted to escape this living hell … I hated church and the elders," she wrote.
Beinke "groomed" the girl with Arnotts biscuits and molested her as she tried to sleep in his spare bedroom.
"I was a little girl who just wanted to go to sleep - instead you touched me with your disgusting hands," the statement read.
The complainant said she was labelled a troublemaker when her behaviour changed in the wake of the abuse.
"I was abandoned by the church … and asked to leave the congregation."
All three complainant women remember Beinke for his long fingernails and that he was known as a joker who liked to tickle the congregation's children.
"We all trusted Donald," a second complainant told the court. "When (the abuse) occurred I froze because I did not know how to react … I became more introverted."
She said she had "an inability to trust men in general" and would "get upset and uncomfortable by small things like long fingernails".
After a police interview in 1993, the case was re opened in 2016.
Judge David Reid said Beinke showed "an appalling lack of remorse" and abused his position of power against the children of his congregation.
"I'm gobsmacked," Judge Reid said of one incident where Beinke molested a girl in a playground.
"If the father was there he would have decked him."
He jailed Beinke for three and a half years.
"You betrayed what you publicly represented," Judge Reid said.
"The consequences to these young girls are significant and profound."
He made no recommendation for parole, though Beinke can apply for eligibility half way through his sentence.