Questions 5 – Conflicts of Interest

In March 2020, six months before the 7th October 2020 allegation, Dean Martyn Percy began to received detailed written reports and emails detailing the attempts of clergy, Luther Pendragon and Winckworth Sherwood (appointed to “act against the Dean”) that concerted attempts were being made to plant stories that there were “safeguarding concerns” relating to the Dean.

College dons and Christ Church clergy, having failed to remove the Dean under the statutes for “immoral, scandalous or disgraceful conduct”, were touting ‘manufactured’ allegations to Thames Valley Police, the NST, LADO, several journalists (press and radio) and other media saying there are “safeguarding concerns” about the Dean. In early March, a Senior Partner at Winckworth Sherwood was directly contacting the media to plant fabricated allegations.

Unsurprisingly, the NST announced an immediate “investigation” into these “concerns”, despite there being no complainants.  We know this because Lambeth Palace had been “briefed” about the concerns, and so the NST were primed.

Peter Hay, Head of Safeguarding for Oxford, chaired the first meetings of the Core Group. It is not disputed that:

  • Winckworth Sherwood tried to muscle in and have at seat at the Core Group table.  Dons and clergy already litigating against the Dean were allowed to be part of this Core Group.
  • The Bishop had his own staff on this Core Group too, but did nothing until the Dean complained. Peter Hay failed to check that minutes were being taken. None were taken, which is odd for a case involving any Cathedral Dean.
  • Peter Hay did not know that there was no conflicts of interest policy to govern Core Groups.  He nonetheless wrote to the Dean to tell him to stay away from school children and students, as the Core Group had reached this decision after a “robust process”.  Peter Hay did not request any risk assessment to justify these highly aggressive strictures that he proposed to impose.
  • When asked, what kinds of “students” the Dean was meant to avoid (e.g., mature, graduate, his own PhD tutees, students the Dean was lecturing to overseas, students that he met at conferences, etc.), Peter Hay could not explain what was meant, but nonetheless continued to assert everything had been done properly, and was the result of a “robust process”.


  1. Given the above, why were the Dean’s protests and repeated alarm at this dubious procedure batted away by the Bishop?
  2. Does the Bishop think all of this suggests sound safeguarding practice in the Diocese? Does the Bishop understand that core group run at a National Level under the aegis of the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team might raise legitimate deep concern about process competence and even bona fides?   In the light of the concerns expressed above does the Bishop understand that his reassurance to the Diocesan Synod and Bishop’s Council that there are no failures in his stewardship might be open to challenge?
  3. Will the Bishop please explain how he came to the view that Canon Graham Ward was a suitably impartial person to be entrusted with the role of risk assessor, given his involvement with multiple failed complaints against the Dean, which were plainly motivated and tainted by a past history of animus?
  4. Why has the Bishop continually briefed his Diocesan Synod and Bishop’s Council that there are “no systemic failures” on his watch? Why did an “independent review” of issues, chaired by the Bishop of Reading, merely agree with the Bishop of Oxford…that there was nothing to see here…?  Why did the Bishop of Reading report this to Bishop’s Council, but not to Dean Percy?
  5. Can the Bishop perhaps begin to understand why some people have no trust or confidence in his safeguarding practice and oversight, and also do not believe what he says to the Diocese or in media statements?
  6. Did there ever come a time when the Bishop felt the need to reconsider the suitability of Canon Richard Peers for the role of being the ongoing impartial risk assessor against the Dean? Does the Bishop consider “secret” Risk Assessments not shared with the Dean, or available to any others, yet declared by his lawyers as legitimate, to be a sound practice in safeguarding?
  7. Does the Bishop recall Dr. Percy sharing with him correspondence which confirmed that Winckworth Sherwood had been instructed to act “against the Dean” If so, did that make him wonder about conflicts of interest with a firm that had accepted instructions to act under instruction from the Committee of the Governing body charged with evicting the Dean from office, whilst simultaneously providing advice to the Bishop in person, the Diocese, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Province of Canterbury and the NST? If he did think about this what did he do?  If he did not think about it, does he now think that was a mistake on his part for which he ought to apologize?
  8. At what point in this chain of events did the Bishop decide/was he advised to cease instructing Winckworth Sherwood and to instruct separate lawyers?  Did the Bishop ever ask how it came to pass that Canon Ward had been able to secure access to the Core Group devising the terms of reference for inquiry into matters against Dean Percy of which he (Canon Ward) was a principal complainant?
  9. Why did the Diocesan Secretary, Mark Humphriss, write to Dean Percy requesting him to hand back or destroy evidence of another safeguarding allegation made against the Dean?  Why was this allegation “investigated” without the Dean ever being informed, and to this day, the Dean still never being told what the allegation was? Why did the (then) Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor keep this secret from the Dean, but report it to Bishop’s Council?  In the light of this, what reasons would Mr. Humphriss have for requesting the destruction of evidence that may be needed later to establish the scale of this misconduct? Was he acting on the instructions of or with the approval of the Bishop ?