The Governing Body of Christ Church Oxford has been supported by the Chapter of the Cathedral in a vote to convene another internal tribunal to oust Dean Martyn Percy. There is no point writing ‘to investigate claims’ or ‘to try to oust’ because the judgment of this tribunal is pre-ordained: Martyn Percy is a sex pest, they have decided, and so he must go.
It is a curious thing, after almost 30 years in education, including a decade as head of another Oxford college and with distinguished fellowships and professorial positions at numerous universities and institutes in the UK and US, all of which have been held with integrity, respect and impeccable professionalism, that Martyn Percy should be discovered now to be a sex pest. It is, indeed, remarkably convenient.
Having failed to oust him in 2018 for “immoral, scandalous and disgraceful behaviour” (which allegation was investigated and dismissed by High Court Judge Sir Andrew Smith); and having failed to oust him in 2020 for “a consistent lack of moral compass” (which allegation was considered and dismissed by the Charity Commission); and then to oust him for a breach of statutory safeguarding duties (which allegation was investigated and dismissed by the National Safeguarding Team of the Church of England), a woman has now come forward accusing the Dean of stroking her hair and complimenting her on her appearance.
This is a very grave allegation of scandalous behaviour which must, of course, be treated with the utmost seriousness. To do otherwise would be to diminish the suffering, degrade the integrity and demean the honour of the victim.
There is no point writing ‘alleged victim’: the Governing Body of Christ Church and the Cathedral Chapter have already decided she is a victim, and that the victim must be believed.
Christ Church alumnus the Rev’d Jonathan Aitken smells a rat. It’s actually a very large rat which has been decomposing behind the arras for at least three years, so the stench is really quite hard to miss: you can nose it as you go up the stairs toward the SCR. The odour becomes a little more pungent as you near the door of the Regius Professor of Divinity at Christ Church, Canon Graham Ward, to whom Jonathan Aitken wrote with detailed reasoning as to why the Cathedral Chapter should not side with the Governing Body in favour of another tribunal to prosecute the Dean.
He made it clear that should the Chapter do so, he will apply to the High Court for a Judicial Review, as reported in the Times and the Telegraph. Apart from being very expensive (how many £millions of charitable funds is the Governing Body prepared to throw at trying to oust the Dean?), this is bound to have further reputational impact on both the College and the Cathedral Chapter. They have already trashed Martyn Percy’s good name and refused to reimburse his immense legal costs in trying to restore it, so it seems to be the only course of action remaining.
The letter explained to the Chapter how they were in breach of basic principles of natural justice: failing to declare conflicts of interest; failing to ensure proper process; acting ultra vires, and becoming judges in their own cause. Graham Ward, it must be remembered, was beaten in 2014 by Martyn Percy to become Dean. Jonathan Aitken reasoned:
I believe that there is ample evidence from the full records of the Smith Tribunal, and from subsequent events, that you have been consistently one of those most involved in plans for getting rid of the Dean. Sir Andrew Smith showed conclusively that the first attempt rested on the flimsiest of foundations. You have now led or contributed to five attacks on the Dean: the original complaints leading to the first tribunal (dismissed); the referral of old cases to the NST (dismissed); the complaint to the Police (dismissed); the CDM (pending); and now the potential second Tribunal. Given this record, I believe you should, at the very least, stand back from further debates on the Dean’s case because of your clear conflict of interest.
…For example, given your own well-known expressions of hostility to the Dean (documented in detail in a recent Surviving Church Blog), the High Court will be asked to examine whether you have acted fairly and without any conflict of interest in the handling of the recent incident alleged to have taken place in the Cathedral Vestry, particularly in regard to your apparent assertion that this is a safeguarding issue. Given your obvious conflicts here, it is surprising that you did not see that the CDM complaint should have been made by the alleged victim, and you should have made clear that you could not be involved personally.
Interestingly, Jonathan Aitken knows the complainant (/victim) personally, and told Graham Ward that he was “genuinely surprised that you have chosen to champion her complaint on the basis that she is a ‘vulnerable adult’.” He is of the view that, given Martyn Percy’s current mental state, if anyone is worthy of compassion for their vulnerability, it is the Dean himself. Surely stroking someone’s hair and complimenting them on their appearance (the details of which are disputed) doesn’t demand a full-blown disciplinary tribunal, does it? Unless, of course, the objective is purposely to escalate the allegation and do maximum harm to the Dean.
There’s a way of stroking a woman’s hair:
And a way of stroking a woman’s hair:
None but Martyn Percy and the “vulnerable adult” woman involved knows what took place in the Cathedral vestry, but what on earth happened to common sense HR mediation, conciliation, and proportionality of action? Aren’t Christians exhorted to resolve disputes and differences at the lowest possible level (Mt 18:15)?
Jonathan Aitken made a plea:
When the Dean was first charged with conduct that was “immoral, scandalous and disgraceful” in 2018, Christ Church allowed the impression of sexual impropriety to linger around him for some months before clarifying the true nature of the charges. When several cases were referred to the NST – who resoundingly exonerated the Dean – the same damaging whiff of safeguarding failure was again knowingly linked to his name. Similar language – “a consistent lack of moral compass” – was used in the GB letter to the Charity Commission in May of last year.
In the current case, where there is a pending CDM, a highly controversial definition of safeguarding – not at this stage supported by the NST – has already been used to send hundreds of letters suggesting that the Dean is not safe to be alone with the vulnerable. These actions, repeatedly making unevidenced assertions about the Dean’s morality, are deeply damaging, cruel, and quite possibly defamatory. You will be aware by now that the police have confirmed in writing to the Dean that they will take no further action in the case because of lack of evidence. In these circumstances, the only safe and proper decision for Chapter is to wait for more information before voting to support further disciplinary measures. Chapter should at least wait to see if the NST agrees that this is a “safeguarding” matter.
His letter met with the following response from Canon Ward:
Dear Reverend Aitkin (sic),
Your letter of yesterday came completely out of the blue, and really shocked me. Other than a few birthday greetings, I do very little on social media, so I know nothing of what was in the Blog you referred to about my “well-known expressions of hostility to” Martyn, nor of what evidence was offered to substantiate such a libellous claim. I was also very surprised to hear of your familiarity with the alleged victim of the incident forming the substance of the CDM. How did you know the name of this person? This is confidential information and alleged victim’s anonymity is protected by the police. It was exactly to maintain this anonymity that I agreed to be the person putting forward the CDM, and you are wrong to assert that the “CDM complaint should have been made by the alleged victim”. Form 1d allows for someone else to make the complaint who has ‘proper interest’ (under para.10.1 of CDM 2003). That is why the submission must be accompanied by both a signed Statement of Truth by the alleged victim and a letter from the bishop recognizing the one putting in the complaint on behalf of another (reinforced under para. 34 of the Code of Practice issued under the 2003 Measure) has ‘proper interest’.
There are other factual and misleading observations in your letter, particularly when you write of the Chapter being “Under my leadership”. That is simply not true, and I have no mandate for such a role. Neither do I have a “conflict of interest’ in this matter because of the Smith Tribunal. The CDM bears no relation whatsoever to any dispute between Martyn and the College. Further, it was not my “assertion that this was a safeguarding issue”. I am glad you used the word ‘apparently’ to clarify this claim. You modestly state that “Clearly, [you] cannot have an informed view of the truth”, which I hope enables us to build bridges here, because I do not recognize as true a number of claims you are making. For example, I really don’t know how you can assert “the Chapter’s support for the refusal to pay the Dean’s first Tribunal legal fees”. Again, I am left blindsided: what evidence do you have that this is true? The Chapter has had no discussion in my memory about the payment of legal fees, and again you are making the assertion that the CDM issue is related to previous matters of dispute.
I’m sorry if this reply can go into no further discussion of the plans you and your “legal advisees” are making “for Judicial Review proceedings”, I remain stunned by the range of your misrepresentations.
This is all a bit odd. Canon Ward appears to have forgotten that he was one of the original complainants who launched the Smith Tribunal, which determined that the Dean had been falsely accused of “immoral, scandalous and disgraceful behaviour”. He appears to have no recollection that he sat on the NST Core Group that falsely accused the Dean of being a serious safeguarding risk. He seems to have dismissed from his mind that he was one of the signatories of the letter to the Charity Commission asserting falsely that the Dean showed “a consistent lack of moral compass”. If this isn’t evidence of a certain hostility toward the Dean, not to say a distinct agenda to damage his reputation and good standing, it isn’t clear what is.
What is more interesting is the concern Canon Ward shows that CDM confidentiality has been breached and that Jonathan Aitken knows the name of the complainant (/victim). In fact he was first told her name by a Daily Mail journalist, who appears to have been told this by a senior member of the Governing Body who approached the Editor of the Daily Mail with a lurid version of the complainant’s alleged story, including names. The Daily Mail investigated this and subsequently found it to be unreliable in many respects. This “toxic leaking” from the Governing Body and/or the Cathedral Chapter is, he believes, “a planned part of the attack on the Dean”.
He is also party to detailed information and primary source evidence that the Chapter backed the refusal to pay the Dean’s legal costs, and that the latest CDM is indeed neither separate from nor unconnected with the campaign to oust the Dean.
The harrowing of Martyn Percy is no longer simply a chronic case of institutional bullying, systematic degradation and harassment, but a full-blown conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Godspeed the Judicial Review.