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Christ Church threatened with regulatory action by Charity Commission

CW: Sexual Assault

As reported in The Times, the charities regulator has sent emails to Christ Church stating that they are “concerned” by “the very protracted and public dispute” between Very Rev Martyn Percy and the college. As Christ Church is a registered charity, the Charity Commission has the power to take regulatory actions against the college. 

Helen Earner, the Charity Commission’s director of regulatory services, warned the College that it may use its “regulatory powers” if trustees do not respond by September 30th. The Charity Commission could replace some of the College’s charity trustees responsible for the management of the college. 

Very Rev Martyn Percy, who was the Dean at Christ Church but is now suspended on full pay, has been involved in various disputes with the college for over 3 years. The disputes started in 2018, when Dr Percy questioned the College’s pay structure, and requested an increase in his salary after realising he earned less than other College heads.

In November 2018, Dr Percy was cleared of 27 charges of improper conduct by a High Court Judge in an internal tribunal. Percy is currently taking action against the college in an ongoing Employment Tribunal. He hopes to recover the expenses paid on legal action.

One article on the The Financial Times calls Christ Church to be “virtually ungovernable” in late 2019, while Jonathan Aitken, who was a former government minister, criticised the college’s “wrongful charitable governance” in 2019.

The Very Rev Martyn Percy was also accused of sexually assaulting a woman by stroking her hair while alone in the college cathedral’s sacristy at the end of last year. After Thames Valley police did not press charges against Percy, the College appointed a former police officer to investigate the incident. Kate Wood, the former police officer who led the internal investigations into the sexual assault case, found the complainant to be “credible”. 

An investigation by The Church of England stated that it would be “entirely disproportionate” for the case to move to a church tribunal. 

Supporters of Dr Percy have claimed he was the victim of a “black ops” campaign, who was being penalised for attempts to reform the College’s pay structure and admissions.

Attempts were made for mediation, but talks broke down this summer. In her email to the members of the college’s governing body, Helen Earner stated: As mediation between the two parties was halted, we continue to see the dispute as damaging to the reputation of the charity [Christ Church] and affecting its ability to govern itself. We continue to be concerned of [sic] the toll that the dispute is placing on all involved and are now considering whether it is appropriate to use our regulatory powers.” 

Christ Church told Cherwell they were “unable to comment on ongoing conversations between Christ Church and the regulator”.

The Very Reverend Martyn Percy has been approached for comment.

Image: Dylan Moore/CC BY-SA 2.0 via geograph.co.uk

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