Thinking Anglicans

Christ Church Publishes Independent Review

press release from Christ Church Oxford website

Christ Church Publishes Independent Review
Link to independent report (pdf)

Christ Church has published an independent report by President of Welsh Tribunals, Sir Wyn Williams, reviewing the handling of a sexual harassment complaint made by a junior member of staff against a senior member. Last month, Governing Body commissioned the review to provide external, transparent scrutiny of the disciplinary processes it has followed, including the setting up of a tribunal in accordance with its statutes.

In his report, Sir Wyn states the complainant “described events which, objectively, could amount to sexual harassment,” that “there was nothing which can be categorised as unfair or unjust in the way that information was provided to members of Governing Body prior to the making of the complaint,” and then that “a decision to the effect that the evidence was not sufficient would have been unreasonable.” He confirms “the processes followed were entirely consistent with the Statute and By-Laws” and concludes “I have no doubt that establishing a tribunal is a responsible use of charitable resource and in the best interests of Christ Church.”

Sir Wyn Williams was asked in his terms of reference to examine whether Governing Body members saw sufficient information about the allegation of sexual harassment to make properly informed decisions. He ruled that “I am satisfied the body of information provided was wholly sufficient to reach an informed decision.” Sir Wyn also looked for evidence of conflicts of interest in the decision-making process, and found that trustees acted “reasonably and objectively.”

The full report has been provided to the Charity Commission. Sir Wyn concludes his report stating that “there is no basis upon which the Charity Commission should be concerned about either (a) the decision to appoint a tribunal to hear and determine the complaint made against the Dean or (b) the process by which that decision was reached.”

Christ Church has previously expressed its condemnation of attempts by some through the media, social media, and a number of blogs, to undermine its disciplinary processes and in particular to intimidate the complainant. It is now hoped that these individuals will accept the outcome of Sir Wyn’s independent review, and allow the tribunal process to continue and reach a conclusion without further public comment, for the sakes of both the complainant and the respondent.

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Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
6 months ago

The Christ Church censors prevented the report by Andrew Smith QC from being distributed among fellow trustees.

Sir Wyn Williams response: “I am satisfied the body of information provided was wholly sufficient to reach an informed decision”

Christ Church governors now hope that “individuals will accept the outcome of Sir Wyn’s independent review, and allow the tribunal process to continue and reach a conclusion without further public comment”

In the immortal words of John McEnroe: “You cannot be serious!?”

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
6 months ago

Since the Christ Church governing body announced when they commissioned this review that it would confirm the appropriateness of their actions, it’s hardly surprising that it’s done just that. It would be interesting to see the terms of reference.

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
6 months ago

Is the Christ Church internal tribunal simply a quasi-legal kangaroo court ‘lynching’ its Dean, on a par with the Church of England core group which ‘lynched’ Bishop Bell?

Last edited 6 months ago by Richard W. Symonds
Susannah Clark
6 months ago

I totally respect the right of the woman involved to have her case investigated fairly and without prejudice. However, given the vendetta which many believe Christ Church has carried out against the Dean over an extended period preceding this case, I think it is disingenuous to state there is no ‘conflict of interest’ involved in further handling of this case. The Governing Body has seemed to me to be intent on getting rid of the Dean on any grounds possible. Furthermore, has this case not already been previously referred to the police? Finally, I realise the Governing Body would like… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Susannah Clark
6 months ago

My shortest ever contribution on TA: I agree.

There is a concurrent CDM which must equally involve establishing the facts of “the woman’s case”, to use your term, so, unless I have misread the situation, that will be a duplication. Something which needs to be clarified urgently is the scope of the tribunal. My understanding was that it is (a repeat of the previous procedure) to dismiss the Dean. That was how it was announced, and is something very different from a grievance resolution process to resolve the woman’s case. Has something further been substituted – or added?

David Lamming
David Lamming
6 months ago

One of the questions the retired judge was asked in his instructions was, “Were conflicts of Interest and conflicts of loyalty of members of Governing Body properly managed throughout the decision-making process?” (see page 7). Sir Wyn rightly states (para 24) that “This question must be considered in the context of the “history” between the Dean and the Governing Body and the publicity surrounding that “history”.” He then says (para 25): “I am not aware of the detail of this history other than that which has been aired in newspapers. However, I have reached the conclusion that I can answer the… Read more »

Toby Forward
Toby Forward
6 months ago

Maintaining the proud English tradition of the finest justice that money can buy.

Jonathan
Jonathan
Reply to  Toby Forward
6 months ago

I think it is Welsh justice on this occasion. How much would a retired judge get paid for a report like this? “No doubt?”

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
6 months ago

The President of Welsh Tribunals concludes:

“I have no doubt that establishing a tribunal is a responsible use of charitable resource and in the best interests of Christ Church”

I am reminded of the courtroom riposte by Mandy Rice-Davies in the Profumo scandal:

“Well he would [say that], wouldn’t he?”

Last edited 6 months ago by Richard W. Symonds
Mark BEACH
Mark BEACH
Reply to  Richard W. Symonds
6 months ago

While the Judge states that a tribunal is in the best interests of Christ Church, he does not appear to predict what the outcome might be.
Have readers been too quick to assume that this senior judge is playing the tune of the Governing Body, while it may be closer to the truth that he is providing “external, transparent scrutiny” and the 41 may get more than they signed for? 

Kate
Kate
6 months ago

Since the Dean is ill I would have thought that it would make sense for the Governing Body and Chapter to explore his medical early retirement. There is a procedure within the Statutes. This would be much cheaper than a tribunal (and therefore probably a better use of Trust funds) and (but?) wouldn’t have the effect of trashing the Dean’ reputation. The review didn’t consider whether this or other possibilities might resolve the situation more cheaply than a tribunal. That seems to me to be a glaring deficiency.

NJW
NJW
Reply to  Kate
6 months ago

Given that the nature of the illness that the Dean is suffering may well be stress-induced, coming to such an arrangement would almost certainly require the fellows to admit (implicitly or explicitly) that their actions where (almost certainly) the prime cause of the stress – something that could well open them up to compensation issues or further litigation from a variety of interested parties (including the Dean, but also extending to benefactors who may think that their gifts have been maladministered). In short, the fellows have boxed themselves into quite a corner, where they can’t live with the Dean, they… Read more »

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  Kate
6 months ago

Wouldn’t pensioning off the Dean give the impression that he was being allowed to go quietly whilst maintaining his reputation? Do we think it would be just for his career to end in that way rather than allowing him the chance to clear his name at a tribunal?

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
6 months ago

The Christ Church internal tribunal is not only unjust, it is an act of cruelty – and not just inflicted on its Dean.

Last edited 6 months ago by Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
6 months ago

The Christ Church tragedy – and elsewhere – is summed up disturbingly well by the perceptive comments of Steve Lewis over at ‘Surviving Church’ – regarding group behaviour: “Institutional Narcissism” is a concept we have worked with before on this blog and elsewhere. Perhaps we could refine this to “Institutional Solipsism”. There’s a sense in which The College is almost completely self-referential, that no one else has an existence worthy of note. “We are who we are”: a deistic sense of their own significance. Certainly they don’t seem bothered at all by sequential actions that at best look bizarre or… Read more »

Last edited 6 months ago by Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
6 months ago

“nobody deserves to be so thoroughly undermined by a campaign of such deliberate and targeted brutality” – Stephen Parsons

At what point do we do something about this instead of just reading about it and/or make comments about it?

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