1. Statement re Charity Commission Official Warning Issued to Christ Church Oxford

Statement re the Charity Commission Official Warning

This is a devastating finding against a charity that was clearly out of control. Detailed concerns were first raised with the Charity Commission in March 2019. We are hugely grateful for their considered, thorough and forensic review of Christ Church, and their conclusions.

It is illogical to suggest that Christ Church Governing Body properly incurred these costs in a relentless, wasteful and unsuccessful campaign to prosecute Prof. Percy. Millions of pounds in charitable funds were spent on driving multiple prosecutions of the Dean. He had no choice but defend himself – and at great personal cost. It is now beyond doubt that a small group of trustees (i.e., the ‘Senate of Ex-Censors’ and a handful of their enforcers) at Christ Church were determined to get rid of Prof. Percy at any cost. The Charity Commission has correctly identified this in their statement, by drawing attention to the failure of trustees in the exercise of their fiduciary duties.

Notably, the Charity Commission plainly states in paragraph 9 that: “In the context of a long running dispute with the former Dean, the Commission has determined there has been mismanagement and/ or misconduct in the management and administration of the Charity”.

Paragraph 72 states: “There is a sense from reading the papers that whatever the cost of taking action against the Dean, the Charity was prepared to take it, which is not consistent with managing the Charity’s resources responsibly.”

Paragraph 76 states:   The Charity in its representations also raised concerns about its view that the Commission did not take action to intervene in the dispute by using its powers to remove the Dean as a trustee (and that this added to the costs incurred). The Reviewer can see that in 2019 the trustees made an application to the Commission for it to disqualify the Dean using its formal powers. The Commission rejected that proposal having assessed that no grounds had been provided to disqualify him…“.

Paragraph 76 then continues:

“The Reviewer also observes that it is hard to avoid a view, having read the case files, that the trustees, or a proportion of them, were determined to remove the Dean from the Charity at almost any cost and this is exactly why the Commission has had such concern about the size of the costs incurred in the dispute with him and that this warranted consideration of an Official Warning.”

Paragraph 81 adds:   “There was an obligation on the trustees to be accountable for the way they spent the Charity’s funds and this requires openness amongst the Governing Body about costs.”

It is patently clear there was no effective oversight – and that there was a deliberate attempt to hide, and therefore mislead the public and alumni – about the legal and PR costs of the campaign to oust and smear Prof. Percy. 

Alumni and donors will be shocked that £6.6m –  money ostensibly earmarked for education – was instead squandered on lawyers and PR agencies. This was then covered up in the accounts under ‘education’. The deliberate “weaponization of multiple groundless safeguarding allegations”, all perpetrated by the individuals driving this campaign, which included clergy and church lawyers, remains a major concern. 

During the protracted dispute, mediation had made little headway as the nominees acting for Christ Church mostly refused to meet with the Dean face-to-face to try and resolve matters. The nominees would then report back to Governing Body that Professor Percy was being intransigent and highly unreasonable, yet failed to disclose they had refused to meet with him. Having accused Martyn of “immoral, scandalous and disgraceful conduct”, “safeguarding failures” and also trying to remove him for alleged “mental incapacity”, the foundations for a mediated settlement were bound to be challenging for the former Dean.

Professor Percy states: “We remain deeply grateful for the support we have had throughout this ordeal.  We have now moved on, and sincerely hope Christ Church can come to terms with what has taken place and take remedial steps to reform its operations. All of the 40-plus charges against me over the past four years – across various legal processes (e.g., police, safeguarding, tribunals, clergy discipline, etc) – ruled in my favour, were dismissed, or simply failed. Throughout this ordeal we have been sustained by kind and caring advocates, and our Christian faith. We remain profoundly grateful for the support of so many people”.

However, the matter cannot be left there. Those responsible for mismanagement and/or misconduct should be held to account (see below re those who may potentially have a case to answer).  Christ Church cannot recover from this episode until that happens.

We note that the College pleaded with the Charity Commission to conceal the findings from the public – claiming it would cause “reputational damage.” That suggests that, even now, a small group of unaccountable dons still running Christ Church has failed to learn the meaning of transparency and accountability.  The Charity Commission is to be congratulated on resisting this pressure.

Members of the Senate (or Committee) of Ex-Censors

  1. David Hine
  2. Lindsay Judson
  3. Richard Rutherford
  4. Brian Young
  5. Ian Watson
  6. Dirk Aarts
  7. Geraldine Johnson
  8. Kevin McGerty
  9. Belinda Jack
  10. Edwin Simpson

Members of Chapter

  1. Richard Peers
  2. Sarah Foot
  3. Graham Ward

Others Involved

  1. James Lawrie
  2. Karl Sternberg
  3. Joseph Schear