Gabriella Swerling reports in today’s Telegraph: Oxford college dean accused of being ‘mad and unfit to govern’
The Dean of an Oxford college will face a medical assessment after he was accused of being “mad and unfit to govern” in the latest attempt by dons to oust him, his supporters claim.
The Very Rev Martyn Percy, who presides over Christ Church college and cathedral, has been embroiled in a four-year row with fellow Oxford dons over his tenure…
…the college has alerted the dean to a “notice of motion” ahead of a crunch meeting on Friday to determine whether he is mentally fit to govern.
The Telegraph has seen a copy of the summons which states that the college’s governing body will “determine whether or not the dean’s removal on medical grounds should be considered by a medical board”.
A statute in the Christ Church governance states that figures can be removed on grounds of mental incapacitation. However, the dean’s supporters claim that this loophole is being “exploited” in a bid to remove him.
The mental incapacitation clause was added in a redraft of the college’s statute in 2011, but a bylaw dating from August 2021 enabled other members of the governing body – not just the dean – to initiate action on medical grounds…
Archbishop Cranmer comments: Martyn Percy is ‘mad and unfit to govern’ Christ Church, Oxford, including this:
…According to the summons document, Prof Lindsay Judson, the senior ex-censor and philosophy tutor, has “considered the matter very carefully and having taken legal and medical advice”, has concluded that “the dean’s condition or any mental or physical quality affecting him is such as substantially to interfere with the performance of his duties”.
As a result, he is “obliged to consider the removal of the dean” in accordance with college statutes, and that “the dean’s removal on medical grounds should be considered and therefore that the case should be forwarded to a medical board”.
Prof Judson, who signed off the summons, has been involved in previous proceedings regarding the dean. However, the document states that the professor “does not believe that he has a conflict of interest” in any part of the process…
Private Eye, Issue 1562 has this: Clique Bait. Some extracts:
…The sums already spent in the war against Percy are huge: estimates range from £2m to £5m in fees for PR firms and lawyers. The Eye can reveal that one of the college’s solicitors, Herbert Smith Freehills, has just dropped out, explaining that “it is no longer proportionate in terms of legal fees for Christ Church to continue to instruct HSF on this matter”.
Too late. This wild spending has brought down the wrath of the Charity Commission. Helen Earner, its director of regulatory services, wants to know what charitable purpose is served by the campaign against the dean. She asks exactly how much has been spent, how budgets were revised as costs spiralled, and by whom. She also demands to see the legal advice received about prospects of success in the various tribunals. She finishes with a reminder that it is a criminal offence for anyone knowingly to provide false or misleading information to the commission: “This includes suppressing, concealing, or destroying documents.”
If the college’s answers are unsatisfactory, the commission could make individual trustees personally responsible for the sums the college has spent. Or it could make the trustees, which is to say all 65 fellows, collectively responsible. Though Christ Church itself is wealthy, with an endowment of more than £500m, many of the individual dons are not…
…Meanwhile, the savage pettiness within Christ Church grinds on. The sub-dean of the cathedral, Richard Peers, who had sided against the dean, is now himself the subject of a CDM complaint brought by members of the congregation over rumours he allegedly repeated. The governing body, while refusing to contribute to the dean’s legal costs, has asked the Charity Commission for permission to fund an action for defamation by one of its own members against another, who is a supporter of the dean. It appears the case is to be brought by the man who himself called Percy “a manipulative little turd” and “the little Hitler” in emails which the governing body has tried to suppress.
Now that the governing body has had to change lawyers, the hair-touching tribunal against the dean may be delayed until 2023. He remains suspended. Mediation has broken down again. Unless both sides can reach an agreement, the whole system by which Oxford colleges are governed may change as a result of a dispute over whether a clergyman once touched a verger’s hair.
Andrew Billen has a report in The Times: Oxford college turns to medical team in row over dean’s future. Some brief extracts:
…Deborah Loudon, a former head of human resources at the Home Office who is supporting Percy, said yesterday: “No one who knows Martyn would describe him as mentally ill. He has suffered from the stress of the campaign against him which has resulted in anxiety and depression but he has received excellent treatment and is much better and ready for a phased return to work.”
….Christ Church dons, who make up the governing body, have previously made unproven assertions about his mental health. A year after describing Percy as “thick and a narcissist” in an email, Karl Sternberg, a fellow of the college, sent colleagues another saying he was “not necessarily thinking rationally”. Sarah Rowland-Jones, an immunology professor, told fellow members of the governing body that Percy was not “schizoid or mad” but had “classic signs of a narcissistic personality disorder.” She had not examined him and no such diagnosis has ever been made…
…Christ Church was unable to comment on a “sensitive HR matter”.