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Twist in Hillsong assault case

Written by on May 16, 2024

A new witness has come forward in the case of a woman suing Hillsong over her assault at the hands of a church staffer.

Anna Crenshaw, 26, was indecently assaulted by Hillsong Church staffer Jason Mays when she was just 18 years old.

Mays pleaded guilty in 2020 to one count of indecent assault and was sentenced to a two-year conditional release order.

In a statement of claim, Ms Crenshaw alleged she suffered harm as a result of the church’s negligence and breach of contract.

Appearing before the Supreme Court on Thursday, Ms Crenshaw’s lawyer revealed a new witness had since come forward.

“Following some of the media coverage leading up to the vacated trial, a person has come forward,” he told the court.

“They potentially have something to say (on the case), but we have not been able to get in contact with that person.”

The US woman’s lawyer said it was unlikely a statement would be required but requested an order in case one was.

The appearance of a new witness weeks after a trial was aborted was condemned by Hillsong’s lawyer, Gillian Mahoney

“This matter has come before this court on a number of occasions over the past six weeks,” she told Justice Peter Garling.

“At no point was it foreshadowed there could potentially be another person who might be coming forward.

“It is not known who this person is or what this person will speak to or how it could be relevant to the claims.”

Ms Mahoney said unless the person was at the residence at the time of the assault, “there could be no relevance”.

“It’s hard to see how a person coming forward after media reports could have anything to say about breach of duty,” she said.

“This matter has been ready to go to a hearing … but, this application will only cause further delay and further increase costs.”

For his part, Justice Garling said it was impossible to say the potential evidence was irrelevant without knowing its contents.

While agreeing to the motion, Justice Garling refused another by Ms Crenshaw’s lawyers to amend their pleadings.

He also ordered Ms Crenshaw, who is in the US, to pay the parties’ legal costs as a result for Thursday’s appearance.

Previously slamming delays as “extremely frustrating”, Justice Garling set down on Thursday the date for a new trial.

Ms Crenshaw and Hillsong were set to go to trial earlier this month, but it was aborted after a deal failed to progress.

Instead, the parties – which includes Mays – will return to court for a new two-week trial beginning February 10, 2025.

In its defence filed with the court, Hillsong Australia denies it acted negligently towards Ms Crenshaw, a former parishioner.

Earlier this month, Ms Crenshaw reached an in-principle agreement with the parties, but just days later, it had fallen apart.

Outside court, Ms Crenshaw said the settlement was contingent on her agreeing not to speak further about the matter.

She claimed Hillsong Australia had “changed their plan in a ploy to intimidate me” and vowed to not be “silenced”.

The US native is seeking claiming damages in the civil suit as well as aggravated damages and exemplary damages.

Ms Crenshaw was studying at Hillsong College in 2016 when Mays assaulted her at another person’s home.

In her statement of claim, she alleged Mays touched her thigh and kissed her before “fondling her bottom and vagina”.

Mays, who is also a party to the lawsuit, previously denied the allegation that he “fondled (Ms Crenshaw’s) bottom and vagina”.

For its part, Hillsong previously denied Mays “was acting in any capacity relating to his paid employment or volunteer duties”.