Martyn Percy Dean of Christ Church Oxford
From Messrs David Lamming and Martin Sewell
Sir, — The further attempt by malcontents on the Governing Body at Christ Church, Oxford, to oust the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy from his position as Dean of the college has spectacularly failed, as an investigation by the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team (NST) found that he acted “entirely appropriately” in respect of four instances when he received confidential information from former students of the college, all competent adults (News, 11 September).
The statement by the lead bishop on safeguarding, Dr Jonathan Gibbs, does not just report a finding that Dr Percy is “not guilty” of the baseless allegations: it is a positive affirmation that the Dean acted wholly properly.
Accordingly, the college’s announcement on its website, stating that it “will be reviewing the NST’s findings with regard to Christ Church’s safeguarding responsibilities”, is graceless: it ought to celebrate the reassurance that the Dean understands safeguarding practice better than his accusers, who should now consider their own positions on the Governing Body.
But there is also a lesson for the Church. We are the “two supporters” of the Dean who wrote to General Synod members in June stating that the NST was being “used” by the malcontents (effectively as a cat’s paw) to further their vendetta against the Dean, having lost a costly 11-day tribunal hearing in 2019 chaired by a retired High Court judge (News, 19 June).
As we pointed out, “No person, survivor of abuse, or vulnerable adult has made any complaint, ever, against Dean Percy.” The NST announcement on 8 September vindicates our assessment.
While the outcome for the Dean is indeed welcome, there must now be an investigation into the way in which the Church came to be so embroiled. As the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, has commented (on the Thinking Anglicans blog), “a full interrogation of how the NST became the patsy of the CC Oxford dons/plotters and into the procedures the NST employ must now take place.”
On 14 August, you reported the letter sent to the Charity Commission by many survivors, lawyers, academics, and Synod members, urging the Commission to intervene in the light of the Archbishops’ Council’s failure to call to account those with operational responsibility for the Church’s safeguarding practice. That letter was acknowledged on 11 September, a senior specialist case manager noting the “serious concerns” that the letter raises.
The Archbishops’ Council should now state how it intends to respond.
(General Synod members)