The Dean of Oxford University's Christ Church College, the Very Rev Professor Martyn Percy, is set to face yet another investigation into his conduct.
On Monday, the Governing Body of the college said it was to decide on whether to initiate a tribunal in response to a complaint made against Dean Percy last year. While the specifics remain unknown, the complaint appears to be in relation to an alleged incident of harassment at the Cathedral in October.
The college will seek an independent senior lawyer to chair the tribunal after an independent investigator judged that the complaint was to be "supported by sufficient evidence which could, if proved, constitute good cause for the removal of the Dean from office”.
The latest complaint has also triggered a church investigation under the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM). In addition, due to the complaint mentioning sexual harassment, the National Safeguarding Team (NST) has now become involved.
This is the second time Dean Percy has been investigated by the NST after being was exonerated last September following a complaint made by the college authorities.
Allies of Percy tell The Telegraph that the latest situation is “certainly not a safeguarding issue” but instead part of a long-running “persecution” of the Dean by a number of Oxford dons who want to see him gone. “This has just become a vendetta against him,” a friend of Percy's insisted.
A leaked email trail from 2018 revealed Oxford dons calling Percy a "little Hitler" and even suggesting that he be poisoned.
"[Think of] the Inspector Morse episode we could make when his wrinkly withered little body' is found in the Thames," read one message.
In a statement, Christ Church said that they “unequivocally condemn sexual harassment in any form” and will treat all complaints with “the utmost seriousness”.
"When a current member of Christ Church staff made an allegation of sexual harassment against a senior member in October 2020, we followed our formal internal processes," they said. “There have been attempts to suggest that this allegation is connected to historic matters at Christ Church. There is no truth in this and to suggest otherwise is an insult to the victim."
The college added: “Christ Church appointed an independent investigator to look into this incident, to interview all relevant parties and witnesses, and to produce a report. Governing Body will now consider the report, and the advice of an independent QC, to decide whether an internal disciplinary process should follow to consider the allegation and decide upon any subsequent sanctions. Christ Church’s statutes state the form this process must take."
In its own statement, the Diocese of Oxford said:
"Bishop Steven continues to hold the difficult situation at Christ Church in prayer and, where possible, is in regular contact with all involved. We are disappointed that anyone should seek to downplay the severity of the complaint. It is entirely right that allegations against clergy and church officers are properly investigated when they are made, and all parties supported — particularly those who have brought the complaint.
"Christ Church Oxford is unique as a dual foundation comprising both College and Cathedral. In November last year, the Bishop of Oxford agreed with the Very Revd Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church, that Martyn would step back from office while a complaint, which was brought to the Church under the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM), is investigated.
"The complaint is also being considered by Christ Church, in accordance with their internal processes and statutes. It is a separate process and independent of the Church."
Percy has been embroiled in a three-year battle with Oxford dons over his position as both the head of the Cathedral and prestigious Oxford college. He has previously been exonerated of all charges relating to improper conduct, though a further employment tribunal - said to be in relation to Percy claiming back £400,000 in legal expenses - is still pending.
The college is thought to have spent a total of more than £2 million over the past few years attempting to remove Dean Percy from his position.
Dean Percy voluntarily stepped back from his duties in November, before being signed off work on medical grounds.