Jehovah's Witness
A Jehovah Witness member reads one of their publications during an International Assembly in Bordeaux Reuters

It has been alleged that children were routinely sexually abused by Jehovah's Witnesses and then told not to report it.

According to the BBC, victims claimed they were told that they could not report the crimes and that the religion's own rules protected perpetrators.

There is a view that thousands of children could be affected by what is known as the "two witness rule". This is a system which is set by the governing body of the religion which requires at least two witnesses to a sin in order for it to be investigated by elders at a congregation.

But the organisation has defended itself, stating that it did not "shield" abusers.

The BBC spoke to anonymous victims in Birmingham, Cheltenham, Leicester, Worcestershire and Glasgow to reveal the scale of the alleged abuses.

However, one waived her right to anonymity. Louise Palmer from Evesham in Worcestershire, was born into the group and raped from the age of four by her brother Richard Davenport.

He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the abuse.

But Palmer claims that she was instructed not to report the matter to the police.

She said: "I asked [the organisation], 'what should I do? Do you report it to the police, [or] do I not report it to the police?'

"And their words were that they strongly advised me not to go to the police because it would bring reproach on Jehovah."

Speaking about the assault, she said that "It started off just being very cuddly and I was always a very tactile little girl, but it gradually got worse and worse.

"It escalated until... he started raping me."

Victims who came forward claimed they were unable to report alleged abuses to others in the organisation because of the "two witness rule".

The group reacted, saying that "any suggestion that Jehovah's Witnesses covered up child abuse was absolutely false".