Christ Church Dean wins legal victory as he launches a counter-attack against College

Camilla Turner
·2 min read
 The Very Rev Martyn Percy presides over the college and the cathedral
The Very Rev Martyn Percy presides over the college and the cathedral

The Dean of Christ Church has won a legal victory as he launches a counter-attack against the College following their failed attempts to oust him.

The Very Rev Martyn Percy, who presides over the college and the cathedral, has been embroiled in a longstanding row with fellow Oxford dons over his tenure.

 He is bringing a claim against Christ Church for religious and disability discrimination but the College attempted to have the case thrown out by arguing that he is not an employee.

Christ Church told an employment tribunal that since the Dean’s duties were set out in century-old statutes, rather than in a contract, he was not entitled to make discrimination claims.

 But Judge Andrew Clarke QC ruled in Dr Percy’s favour, finding that he was an employee of the College for the purposes of his claims under the Equality Act.

 It is the latest development in a long-running dispute which dates back to 2018 when Dr Percy was suspended from his £90,000-a-year post for alleged "immoral, scandalous and disgraceful behaviour".

An internal tribunal by Sir Andrew Smith, a retired high court judge, dismissed the complaints against the Anglican priest and theologian following an 11-day hearing behind closed doors last June. The full judgment was never published.

Last month, church officials cleared him of the safeguarding charges against him. They said that he had "acted entirely appropriately" in each of four cases referred earlier this year to its national safeguarding team by the college's governing body.

Earlier this year, the charity watchdog intervened in the dispute claiming that the row was"damaging" the college and "affecting its ability to govern itself “.

The Oxford college and Dr Percy were ordered by the regulator to enter a mediation process "without delay", and to refrain from making any further commentary while this is under way.

It came after 41 members of Christ Church's governing body wrote to the Charity Commission accusing Dr Percy of "unsound judgment" and "a consistent lack of moral compass" in a bid to have him removed from the board of trustees.

They also accused him of breaching his legal, fiduciary and safeguarding duties and of leaking confidential material to the press.

Allies of Dr Percy hit back, signing a letter accusing the governing body of employing "devious methods and offensive language" to try to depose him.

A spokesperson for Christ Church said: “Today’s judgment provides helpful clarification of the Dean’s relationship with Christ Church, in light of his unique status. Mediation continues and we hope this will provide an alternative resolution to the dispute.”