Update 2 August 2021: How much of a risk is the Dean?

Last week we promised more on the question of the various risk assessments carried out in connection with the Dean in the wake of the allegation made about him by a member of the Cathedral staff late last year. Detailed risk assessment documents were included in the Clergy Disciplinary Measure [CDM] complaint brought against the Dean, but their authorship remains opaque – not for want of trying. Questions have been asked and FoI requests made, but both Christ Church and the Bishop of Oxford seem remarkably unwilling to provide any clarity on their authorship, status or proportionality.

Turbulent Priest has been in touch with our lawyers, including obtaining advice from an eminent legal expert in defamation. Their preliminary view is that a strong case can be made that the risk assessments seriously defame the Dean, and we are currently considering how best to act on that advice. For that reason, we are not going to publish the full risk assessments here at the moment, but readers might be interested in the following summary of their content, and in a letter of explanation, sent by the Senior Censor, setting out the terms of the Dean’spermitted conduct.

There is also a useful article at


It is important to understand that there are several extant risk assessments with different individuals named as preparing them or being responsible for implementing them. Some are on Church of England stationery, and some are linked to Christ Church. Intriguingly, some of the named authors have publicly denied having played any part in the drafting. No one will confirm whether or not they have been seen in their entirety by Christ Church Governing Body when considering the Dean’s continued suspension.

Christ Church continues to maintain that the Dean is a current danger to anyone who might come into contact with him despite the police’s decision that there was no criminal matter to investigate, and the CDM decision by Dame Sarah Asplin, President of CoE Tribunals, that it would be entirely disproportionate to take the matter to a Church tribunal, and her finding that there was no evidence of sexual intent in what was alleged by the complainant. Dr Percy is barred from seeing staff, students, Choir School pupils – or indeed anyone apart from his immediate family without supervision because of the risk of sexual harassment/assault.

In her letter of clarification to the Dean, the (then) Senior Censor made clear that he must fully withdraw from all his duties and responsibilities as Dean of Christ Church. He is forbidden to officiate as a priest anywhere without separate licence obtained from the Bishop; to attend any University function at which he is identified as Dean; to comment on any subjects as Dean; to have any pastoral interaction with members of the Cathedral congregation; or to speak at conferences or give lectures where people might suppose he was doing so as Dean of Christ Church.

The Senior Censor allowed that he might be permitted to attend social events, but that before doing so he might like to check on a case-by-case basis with the College’s Censor Theologiae. After all that, it is quite a relief to find that she is content for the Dean to speak to his family and non-Christ Church friends.

We leave it to readers to form their own view on whether such draconian restrictions are proportionate and reasonable given the nature of the allegation made against the Dean – an allegation which, the widest possible publicity, remains the only one made against him.

Dame Sarah’s conclusion, having read the fruits of a thorough independent investigation into the matter, was as follows:

‘Although I do not intend to trivialise [the woman’s] allegations in any way, it seems to me that it would not be proportionate to refer this matter to a tribunal. The incident itself was extremely short, the alleged hair stroking was even shorter and the language and the conduct as a whole was not overtly sexual.

If this is put together with: the fact that [the woman] accepts that she was not upset in any way; stated originally that she was not perturbed (albeit she told the police that she was concerned what would happen next); the incident took place in a room which was or could be accessed by others; and [the woman] stated that she would have accepted an apology if the Dean had admitted what she says took place, it seems to me that it is entirely disproportionate that this matter should be referred to a tribunal.’

Who has a proper sense of proportion over all this: Dame Sarah, or the mysteriously anonymous Christ Church authors?