The suggestion that we would be covering the subject of the risk assessments under which the Dean is obliged to live led to a flurry of remarkably similar emails from some curiously anxious parties. Much concern was expressed about the privacy of personal data – not that this ever seems to have troubled those attacking the Dean.
Since last week, TP has received several communications from various participants in the Martyn Percy saga. One of them was unwise enough to accuse the Dean of sexual assault. This claim has never been made to the police and nowhere features in the College’s case against the Dean. The Clergy Disciplinary Measure launched against him specifically found there was no evidence of a sexual motive in a claim that he had touched an individual’s hair.
Sexual assault is a serious criminal matter. The police have already investigated the claims and found nothing to pursue. It is a risky affair to use the term in an email to a website. Similarly, members of the Christ Church hierarchy who tell total strangers that the Dean is an incorrigible liar might want to think how on earth they would justify such an accusation up in a court of law.
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M’learned friends have many reasons to be grateful to the generous members of Christ Church’s Governing Body, who have been spraying work in their direction with all the finesse and energy of an orbital muck spreader. TP estimates that up to £2m has gone to line the pockets of assorted solicitors, QCs and associated “reputation management” experts, since the Fellows first locked horns with their Dean.
This is clearly a very good cause. But it is not so clear whether the tutors’ erudition stretches to the finer points of the English defamation laws. We are here to help. Lesson one in defamation is that the burden of proof is on the defendant. In other words, if you are sued for libel, it is up to you to prove the truth of your words. A primer can be found here.
TP knows that the College has deep pockets. But it’s hard to believe the Charity Commission would approve of showering even more money on the legal profession when they seem certain to lose …
We hope to have further new material by the end of this week; specifically, an update on the continuing investigation by the Solicitors Regulation Authority into some of the lawyers acting for Christ Church. Such investigations are rare and take time; one might suppose that the solicitors involved would recuse themselves until matters are concluded. More on this very soon.
Next week, we want to tackle the question of the Dean’s suspension from all activity in the Cathedral and at Christ Church, now compounded by attempts by the Bishop of Oxford to prevent the Dean from speaking about his own writings at a conference. Martyn Percy has been cleared by the police and investigated in a CDM in which the President of Tribunals ruled that no further Church disciplinary action was justified or necessary. Very few organisations would apply a blanket suspension in a case of this kind, if indeed they applied anything more than an agreement that complainant and accused must not work together until matters are resolved. We would be very interested to hear from GB members or the Christ Church Censors a justification for their banning the Dean from all aspects of his work other than writing and research.
The Dean is prohibited from all ministry, from any activities at Christ Church, and from nearly all contact with anyone at Christ Church. This is an extraordinary and punitive regime and no good reason has ever been given for it.
Perhaps the Bishop of Oxford and Christ Church’s Governing Body might like to be reminded of Article 10 of the Human Rights Act. It states
‘Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.’
Those who seek to curtail Martyn Percy’s speaking in public (say, for example, at St Martin-in-the-Fields) may find themselves in some difficulties.