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Dean of Christ Church can return to work after tribunal dismisses complaint

21 August 2019

David Hartley/Church Times

Martyn Percy

Martyn Percy

THE Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, the Very Revd Dr Martyn Percy, is to return to his duties after a tribunal dismissed a complaint made against him.

Dr Percy has been suspended since November when a formal complaint was made against him by a member of the college, reportedly relating to an issue of governance (News, 5, 23 November). The tribunal handling the complaint concluded last month (News, 19 July). It was chaired by a retired High Court judge, Sir Andrew Smith.

The judgment was announced by the Cathedral Chapter and the college’s Governing Body on Wednesday. A statement said simply: “As required by Christ Church’s Statutes, an internal tribunal was convened to consider a complaint raised against the Dean in September 2018.

“Following a thorough investigation, the tribunal has decided that the charges are not upheld and that there is no cause to remove the Dean as Head of House. However, the tribunal made some criticism of the Dean’s conduct and found that there was one breach of his fiduciary duty.

We can therefore announce that Martyn Percy will resume his duties as Dean of Christ Church, on his return from holiday on 27th August. The complaint process has now concluded.”

No further details were given.

The Bishop of Oxford, Dr Steven Croft, welcomed the tribunal’s decision. He said in a statement on Wednesday: “I am delighted to learn that this matter is now resolved. I look forward to seeing Martyn return to the Cathedral and his duties as Dean of Christ Church.

“This news will be widely welcomed across the diocese of Oxford. These have been testing times for all involved, and my prayers are with Martyn and Emma, the Chapter and wider College in the coming months.”

The nature of the complaint against Dr Percy has not been publicly revealed, but it was believed to have concerned an issue of governance raised by the Dean, and his conduct in raising it. The Times reported in February that it was related to a dispute over pay and how this was set (News, 1 February).

The tribunal process itself raised questions about governance. It is understood that, at the time of his suspension, Dr Percy was given no opportunity to challenge any of the evidence against him. A college insider said: “Chapter and Governing Body did not invite the Dean to give any response to the complaint or put forward any documents of his own before making their decision.”

The Dean’s supporters raised more than £85,000 to cover the cost of legal fees.

The row exposed tensions that exist at Christ Church between the Cathedral and the academic establishment. Dr Percy’s supporters were surprised that the cathedral staff were not more robust in their defence of their dean, though the cathedral is bound by statute. Nor has the length of time it has taken to resolve what appeared to be a minor disagreement won Christ Church many plaudits.

Dr Percy was not available for comment. 

On Friday, a close friend of Dr Percy said that the Tribunal had “taken a year out of Martyn and Emma’s lives, and has been extremely costly.

“But the judgment was clear. Of the two main — so called ‘limb’  charges, and then the 28 ‘supporting’ charges, all were rejected by the judge. All. The complaints were deemed to fall ‘very far short’ of ‘good cause’ for dismissal.”

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