Thinking Anglicans

Dean of Christ Church cleared of all safeguarding accusations

Updated again Wednesday evening

The Church of England has issued this Statement on Christ Church, Oxford:

Bishop of Huddersfield, Jonathan Gibbs, the Church of England’s lead safeguarding bishop said: “An independent investigation into allegations that the Dean, Martyn Percy, failed to fulfil his safeguarding responsibilities has concluded the Dean acted entirely appropriately in each case. The National Safeguarding Team, NST, followed the House of Bishops guidance when the four separate allegations were referred earlier in the year relating to the Dean, a senior office holder. At no point was there any allegation or evidence that the Dean presented a direct risk to any child or vulnerable adult.

I am aware this has been a very difficult time for all parties, particularly Martyn and his family, and I would like to thank everyone for their cooperation. There will of course be lessons to learn about the processes, as there are with any safeguarding case, and that is an essential part of our guidance to make the Church a safer place for all. We welcome the Dean’s commitment to taking part in this. Now the investigation has concluded and the Dean has been exonerated of these safeguarding allegations, the NST’s involvement has come to an end. I continue to pray for his ministry and the life of the Cathedral and its mission in the diocese and wider Church.

As I have said before, the NST has no view about, and is not involved in, the wider issues relating to the College and the Dean at Christ Church, Oxford and this remains the case.

The Diocese of Oxford has issued this Statement on Christ Church, Oxford from the Bishop of Oxford

The Very Revd. Professor Martyn Percy
Statement on Christ Church, Oxford from the Bishop of Oxford
8 September 2020

In March this year it was alleged that the Very Revd. Professor Martyn Percy, a senior member of the clergy and Dean of Christ Church Oxford, had not fulfilled his safeguarding responsibilities. The National Safeguarding Team (NST) duly appointed an independent safeguarding person, who was asked to investigate and report back. The report has concluded that the Dean acted entirely appropriately in each case. The Bishop of Oxford has issued the following statement:

“I welcome the news that the investigation by the National Safeguarding Team (NST) has concluded and that Martyn is exonerated. The investigation process was not without pain, and could have been concluded more quickly, but it is entirely right that allegations against clergy and church officers are properly investigated when they are made. This investigation brings full closure to the matter put before the NST, though these continue to be testing times for all at Christ Church. My prayers remain with Martyn and Emma, the Chapter and wider College at the start of this new academic year.”

The Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, Bishop of Oxford

The Church Times has published this news report: Dean Percy exonerated over safeguarding charges. This rehearses a good deal of the background.

Update 1:
Christ Church has now issued this: Statement from Christ Church on Church of England Safeguarding Investigation.

8 September 2020

“The Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team has announced the outcome of its independent investigation into the handling of four disclosures to the Dean of Christ Church, made by survivors of sexual assault. The NST has now informed Christ Church that its report concludes there has been no breach of the Church of England’s protocols.

“Safeguarding is of the utmost importance at Christ Church, and it is our obligation to report such concerns appropriately. After a query from a national newspaper regarding a serious sexual assault, an independent QC advised that a referral should be made to the Church of England as the handling of such disclosures fell within its jurisdiction. It is vital that everyone has the confidence to report safeguarding concerns. We will be reviewing the NST’s findings with regard to Christ Church’s safeguarding responsibilities.

“Our thoughts are with all survivors of abuse. If anyone affected by this news requires support, they should contact the police or the relevant safeguarding authority.

Update 2
Martin Sewell has written at Archbishop Cranmer: Church of England clears Martyn Percy of all safeguarding allegations.

Harriet Sherwood writes in the Guardian: Church clears Oxford college dean after ‘black ops campaign to discredit him’.
Headline later changed to Church clears Oxford college dean over alleged safeguarding failures.

Tim Wyatt at Religion Media Centre has Oxford dean cleared by abuse investigation and Christ Church Oxford timeline.

Update 3
The Times Dean of Christ Church Oxford cleared of safeguarding failures

Telegraph Oxford University dean finally exonerated after safeguarding dispute

Daily Mail Dean of Oxford’s Christ Church college is cleared of all safeguarding allegations in abuse row

Cherwell Christ Church dean exonerated after safeguarding allegations

Update 4
Stephen Parsons Loose ends in the Martyn Percy Affair.

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Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
12 days ago

Next stop: full exoneration for Bishop George Bell?

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
12 days ago

Just imagine Archbishop Welby now saying there is still a “significant cloud” over Martyn Percy?!

If you can imagine it, then perhaps you can better understand how the Bishop Bell advocates feel.

John Wallace
John Wallace
12 days ago

Really great news and an answer to the prayers of many. I do hope and pray that his accusers will consider their positions as well as make a full public apology.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
12 days ago
Reply to  John Wallace

The signs aren’t promising when the public statement concludes “If anyone affected by this news requires support, they should contact the police or the relevant safeguarding authority.” (My italics.)

Sam Norton
12 days ago

That Christ Church statement reads like it was written by someone chewing on a wasp.

Last edited 12 days ago by Simon Kershaw
Mark Beach
Mark Beach
12 days ago
Reply to  Sam Norton

Thank you, my thoughts entirely, but put in a very much more poetic way. Its hardly a ringing endorsement….

Can one hope for new beginnings at Christ Church?

Toby Forward
Toby Forward
12 days ago

Mealy-mouthed and mendacious statement by Christ Church. There now needs to be some form of reform of the governing body.

David Lamming
David Lamming
12 days ago
Reply to  Toby Forward

A number of questions need to be answered by Christ Church: (i) who was responsible for and/or authorised the above statement on the College website? (ii) will the remainder of the Governing Body now disown the censors who made the wholly misconceived complaint about the Dean to the NST? (iii) who was the ‘independent QC’ who advised referral of the matter to the Church of England and will the College publish his/her advice and the instructions setting out the basis on which it was sought? (iv) what has been the cost to the College (legal fees and those of the… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
12 days ago
Reply to  David Lamming

I am baffled by the final sentence of the Christ Church statement quoted above. Who, in these circumstances, would require ‘support’ – for which they are told they should contact the police and ‘relevant’ safeguarding authority? Is this further mischief-making or just incompetence – using a ‘standard’ wording irrespective of the circumstances – I wonder?

Sam Jones
Sam Jones
12 days ago

It is good that Martyn Percy has been cleared, but his position is untenable if the governing body have no confidence in him.

Kate
Kate
12 days ago
Reply to  Sam Jones

Isn’t it senior members of the Governing Body who past and potential benefactors will wish to see held to account for the millions of unnecessary expenditure?

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
12 days ago
Reply to  Sam Jones

The position of those in the governing body is untenable – there is no confidence in them.

Last edited 12 days ago by Richard W. Symonds
Froghole
Froghole
12 days ago
Reply to  Sam Jones

I think this is right. I am an alumnus of Christ Church, and deplore what has happened. I agree with many of the pro-Percy comments (notably that of Interested Observer). However, the relationship between dean and governing body has become so bitter, so envenomed and so visceral that it is difficult to see how Dr Percy can be an effective leader of the ‘college’. Other heads of house have resigned, and in far milder contexts, when they have lost the confidence of their respective governing bodies. Whilst Dr Percy may be entitled to a feeling of victory, he might lose… Read more »

Fr Gustavo
12 days ago

Perhaps this has been already answered, but, with all that it is going on, would not a Visitation be in order?

Richard
Richard
12 days ago
Reply to  Fr Gustavo

A quote from the Financial Times: (less than 30 words, so permissible according to their copyright rules)

“In another unfortunate piece of heritage, the Visitor is the Queen, whom nobody wants to involve.”

Froghole
Froghole
12 days ago
Reply to  Richard

Many thanks. I really don’t think that anyone believes that the sovereign would be involved personally. What is more likely to happen is that the private secretary to the sovereign, or perhaps also (and more probably) the privy council, would be petitioned about a possible formal visitation or the creation of a dispute resolution mechanism (there is also an outside chance that they might act of their own motion after taking ‘soundings’). Then, following receipt of that petition and/or consultations, the sovereign (i.e., the prime minister) would secure appointment of a deputy, who will probably be a retired senior judge.… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
11 days ago
Reply to  Froghole

I don’t know how many times I have dealt with these points on earlier TA threads! The procedure for Visitations is all set out in Statute XXXVI (at pages 37-39 of the Christ Church Statutes), and far too long to repeat here. It provides for both a ‘routine’ Visitation every ten years (at Her Majesty’s option) or by intervention. I’m unsure about the machinery for appointing Her Majesty’s Commissary. A retired senior judge seems a likely appointee. There has always been a direct right of appeal to the Crown, which I quote again below, but for whatever reason it has… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
12 days ago
Reply to  Richard

“In another unfortunate piece of heritage, the Visitor is the Queen, whom nobody wants to involve.”

Why not?

Her Majesty is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England!

Dominic Barrington
Dominic Barrington
12 days ago
Reply to  Fr Gustavo

I think you are making a false assumption about the powers of the bishop in relation to this unique (and utterly dysfunctional) cathedral.

Fr Gustavo
10 days ago

I understand very well that the Bishop is not the Visitor — and that understanding lead me to ask the question.

Interested Observer
Interested Observer
12 days ago

It isn’t actually Confucius, although often credited to him (or James Bond, either will do): “before setting off on revenge, first dig two graves”. It strikes me that there is no way that this ends well for either Christ Church corporately or for Martin Percy’s persecutors. Even “victory” is hollow (Tacitus actually did write “ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant”), if their definition of “victory” is Martyn Percy’s departure; the resulting employment tribunal looks increasingly difficult and the attempt to use CofE safeguarding as a weapon can only backfire in both the short and long term. The loss of credibility for… Read more »

Pete Broadbent
Pete Broadbent
12 days ago

Martyn Percy cleared of all [trumped up] “charges” This is very good news! But it can’t end there – a full interrogation of how the NST became the patsy of the CC Oxford dons/plotters & into the procedures the NST employ must now take place.

Kate
Kate
12 days ago
Reply to  Pete Broadbent

Yes

Paul Roberts
Paul Roberts
12 days ago
Reply to  Pete Broadbent

Indeed.

dr.primrose
dr.primrose
12 days ago

There’s an issue of the waste of money for legal proceedings on behalf on the college, which raises the issue of whether the complaints should be required to repay that amount. There’s also an issue of the fees that Percy incurred. I haven’t read anything about that. Is the college liable for those?

Richard
Richard
12 days ago
Reply to  dr.primrose

I recall that previous articles about this have said that Percy is liable. There was a campaign underway to assist him financially. Does anyone know differently?

Kate
Kate
12 days ago

Does anyone know what standard of proof Core Groups work to? Is it “beyond reasonable doubt”, “balance of probabilities” or something unique to the Church of England?

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
12 days ago
Reply to  Kate

Something unique to the Church of England: faithful belief in its own infallibility.

Kate
Kate
11 days ago

That’s something which needs to be fixed.

Bill Broadhead
Bill Broadhead
11 days ago

“An independent investigation into allegations…” Come on, it was hardly that, was it – and since when has the NST been in any way “independent”? Was the Bishop at Lambeth and Ecclesiastical Insurance in the room? While I share the widespread delight that this aspect of the burden Martyn Percy and those closest to him are carrying, if there had not been a significant challenge to the way the NST Core Group for this complaint was set up, there could have been a catastrophic miscarriage of justice. So, to my mind, nil points for the C of E over this… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
11 days ago

This is very welcome news- especially to those of us who have witnessed with growing amazement the chutzpah of Dean Martyn Percy’s accusers. One hopes they will do the right thing now and meet all of Martyn’s legal expenses. They should also be responsible for some substantial monetary compensation for what Martyn and his family have suffered during this unfortunate breach of common justice.

Cynthia Katsarelis
10 days ago

Indeed. It’s unbelievable, I take a 6 month hiatus from Thinking Anglicans and come back to see another attack on this man and his family. I strongly agree that the accusers should be paying Dean Percy’s legal fees. There needs to be a cost for this nonsense. At this point, I’m convinced that Obama’s failure to prosecute the egregious criminal behavior of the previous US administration paved the way for the horrific criminal and human rights violations of the current administration. There are numerous other examples of slander and lying leading to threats, attacks, and death — those inciting the… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
9 days ago

“…if they do it to us with people watching, what are they doing to the marginalized when no one is looking? It may seem odd to say, but justice is justice. We all have it or none of us has it”

Or, as Martin Luther King says [and the Library of London’s Royal Court of Justice bears witness]:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”

Interested Observer
Interested Observer
10 days ago

On reflection, there is going to have to be a lot of work done by people skilled in child protection to repair the processes. There has, rightly, been a lot of anger that the “core group” mechanism was used to persecute an innocent man. However, the obvious way to guard against this is to have a “prima facie” stage in which complaints are first screened for substance and scope. This is how, for example, most universities’ academic appeals processes work: before a full hearing is convened, the appeal is checked by a small group, in some cases just one person,… Read more »

Bill Broadhead
Bill Broadhead
10 days ago

To you and me, and many others I’ve no doubt, IO, this seems like a no-brainer. But when I open the Church Times, this morning, to read that the NST’s response to the Elliot Review was to bring in the reputational management consultants and the insurers, you can understand why I have little confidence (despite the Bishop of Huddersfield’s promises and assurances) that there is little prospect of fundamental change.It goes right to the heart of Pyongyang, which continues to pull the strings. Along with Stephen Parsons (and others) I am questioning the clear conflict of interest in the Bishop… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
10 days ago

Archbishop Welby’s silence is deafening – and beyond unacceptable.

Fr John Harris-White
Fr John Harris-White
9 days ago

I have just returned from a week in Jersey. A very sane place compared to the UK. But very relieved for Martyn and his family that at last they can move forward, having put the devil to flight. Those who brought this case should pay the costs, consider their positions, and make a public written apology.

Fr John Emlyn

Father Ron Smith
9 days ago

Indeed! When can we expect the ABC to publicly express the regret of the Church of England for Dean Percy’s abandonment to the ‘powers-that-be’ among the Christchurch Dons who subjected him to such ignominy? If enough were made of this, I’m sure the combative nature of governance by the Dons would be given the public notice it deserves – and maybe Dean Percy’s situation might be improved in his situation of tenure. There still, though, needs to be a satisfactory resolution of awarding adequate compensation.

Gilo
Gilo
7 days ago

The Christ Church statement was graceless, with absence of any comment on how all this might have affected the Dean and his family. It seems devoid of humility or basic civility. Several questions strike me.The media enquiry which first raised the possibility of safeguarding investigation within the college… who alerted the media to this line of enquiry? The statement mentions an unnamed ‘independent QC’ who advised referral of the matter to the NST. If the QC was instructed by Winckworth Sherwood acting for the dons against the Dean in an employment tribunal, then the QC could hardly be called ‘independent’.… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
7 days ago
Reply to  Gilo

And yet more silence from Lambeth Palace – no doubt advised by its legal protectors to wear a ‘face muzzle’ on the issue.

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
7 days ago
Reply to  Gilo

And still Lambeth Palace remains silent on a critical issue in which it is inextricably involved.

There is little to no doubt its legal and reputational protectors have advised the Archbishop and his commissars to wear ‘face muzzles’.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
7 days ago
Reply to  Gilo

Gilo: You rightly draw attention to the final paragraph of the statement put out by Christ Church, but don’t quote its final sentence which seems so significant: “If anyone affected by this news requires support, they should contact the police or the relevant safeguarding authority.” Was this merely a ‘catch-all’ from someone’s phrase-book of standard public announcements or something more, in effect asking people, as yet not involved, to report fresh allegations? “Reds under the bed” some people might say, but the words are there, and as far as I can see, there has been no other enquiry why they… Read more »

Gilo
Gilo
6 days ago

Bishop Stephen Croft, on Martyn Percy’s exoneration from any safeguarding failings, states: “The investigation process was not without pain, and could have been concluded more quickly, but it is entirely right that allegations against clergy and church officers are properly investigated when they are made. This investigation brings full closure to the matter put before the NST…. “ The Bishop of Oxford alongside Bishop Martyn Snow and Archbishop John Sentamu, chose to deploy the one-year time limit to close down complaint of safeguarding failing in the Devamanikkam case. And as a result nothing even resembling closure has been reached. Will… Read more »

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