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Dean Percy faces further challenges at Christ Church, Oxford

29 May 2020

Christ Church College, Oxford

Christ Church College, Oxford

THE group set up to examine accusations of safeguarding breaches by the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, the Very Revd Dr Martyn Percy, contains two members of the college who have supported complaints against him, a report in Private Eye suggests.

Dr Percy’s long-running dispute with a group on the Christ Church Governing Body began two years ago, when he criticised the college’s safeguarding procedures. He was then suspended over a dispute about pay, but was exonerated by an internal inquiry conducted by Sir Andrew Smith (News, 6 March).

He was reinstated last autumn, but prevented from functioning as head of the college while his employment-tribunal case to recover the £400,000 costs of defending himself is pending. The college is understood to have spent more than £2 million attempting to remove him.

In 2018, the Dean cited past safeguarding concerns reported to him as evidence that the college’s procedures were inadequate. Earlier this year, the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team set up a core group to examine the Dean’s handling of those concerns.

The latest issue of Private Eye reports that two members of that core group are complainants from the college, including the Senior Censor, Professor Geraldine Johnson. A C of E spokesperson said on Wednesday: “As at any core group, safeguarding leads from relevant bodies or institutions were invited to share information to work out a way forward; in this case from the Cathedral, the College, the Cathedral school, and the diocese.”

The Dean is not formally represented on the core group, though he has been sent its terms of reference.

The spokesperson emphasised: “The core group has never asked the Dean to stand down — he was asked to abide by certain conditions.”

In addition, a group of 41 dons have written to the chair of the Charity Commission, Baroness Stowell, accusing Dr Percy of “sacrificing the best interests of Christ Church to his own”. The letter accuses him of “disclosing or colluding to disclose confidential material to the press”.

The list of signatories includes people named in the full report of the Smith inquiry, which the college’s Governing Body has been prevented from seeing, though an unredacted copy was circulated by the Revd Jonathan Aitken, one of Dr Percy’s many supporters among the Christ Church alumni.

The Dean has called for an investigation of the governance of Christ Church by the Charity Commission. The college has indicated, however, that this cannot take place until after the Dean’s employment tribunal has met at some point next year.

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