Statement by the former Master of Trinity Hall, September 2022
I welcome the publication by Trinity Hall of the final version of Gemma White QC’s report into the substance of the matters that were the subject of an online article by Tortoise Media in February 2020. The last two and a half years will have been stressful for all concerned in the allegations raised there. I have never doubted their seriousness, nor sought to minimize or marginalize them.
I also welcome many of the findings and recommendations made by Gemma White. I supported the proposal to have an external investigation, as I was well aware of the distress these matters had caused to those involved in them. I realize that my handling of the allegation made by ‘John’ was not as thorough as it ought to have been, and for the distress he has suffered as a result of my decisions I am very sorry. I never prejudged this matter, believed I was following the legal advice I had been given, had strong support for my actions from all my senior colleagues bar one, and was not at any time contacted by ‘John’ himself to say he was dissatisfied with the outcome of the police investigation until November 2019, whereupon I invited him to contact me. In addition, I was reassured throughout this matter by the involvement of the Director of Studies (or ‘Tutor’ in the Tortoise article) of ‘John’, who, with me, believed the matter was being handled correctly. It is the Tutor, in the Cambridge system, who carries direct pastoral responsibility for a student; it is therefore surprising to me that I am the only one, as Head of House with no direct pastoral responsibility for individual students, to have been singled out for criticism specifically for a lack of consideration for student welfare. I have learnt from my failure to question the legal advice I received, and I continue to be committed to the safeguarding and well-being of all students. I have always strongly supported Cambridge University’s ‘Breaking the Silence’ initiative. I am also grateful for Gemma White’s acknowledgement of the positive contributions she received from people I have supported over the years, including those who presented as survivors of sexual violence.
It is beyond understanding that it has taken Trinity Hall two and a half years to get to this point. Significant questions about its handling of this matter remain. Former colleagues of mine who were also named in the Tortoise article, or who were implicated, remained members of key decision-making bodies, despite an evident conflict of interest. The original draft report was produced in December 2020, twenty months ago. There was no ‘Maxwellisation’ process to give me an opportunity to comment on the draft before it went to the College’s Governing Body for discussion, and yet when I was finally shown the report in late February 2021 it contained inaccuracies and misleading statements about me. I was repeatedly denied the opportunity to address the Governing Body in person. My seven-year term of office was due to expire in September 2021 – nearly ten months after the draft report was received. Yet by July 2021 the College had not appointed (even ‘in waiting’) a disciplinary tribunal as required by College’s Statutes and Ordinances and implied by the report’s recommendation. When, finally, that step was taken, it was impossible to schedule a disciplinary process – which I am confident would not have recommended dismissal – to conclude before the end of September. It was with great reluctance then that I sought a mediated resolution as the only constructive way forward. At no point before my resignation was the College willing to bear any part of the legal fees which I incurred in defence of actions I undertook in good conscience in pursuit of my responsibilities as Master.
Once again, as I have before, I would like to thank all those from the College community and further afield who have supported me over the last two and a half years.
Personal statement from Jeremy Morris
A joint statement from me and Trinity Hall will shortly appear on the College’s website announcing my resignation as Master. This is an additional personal statement to add more context to the announcement.
The last twenty months, since an article appeared on an online news platform outlining certain allegations concerning the College’s handling of a number of complaints, have been very difficult for all concerned. The article was misleading in a number of respects and contained significant inaccuracies, but it was not possible for the College to rebut it in public and in detail without breaching the confidentiality of the individuals involved.
Our inability to address the issues raised publicly left a number of questions unanswered and presented significant difficulties for the College community. For that reason I supported the proposal to have an external investigation, and voluntarily stepped aside temporarily from my duties as Master.
I fully recognize how hard it is for those who experience sexual harassment to come forward with a complaint. In the case of allegations brought to my attention during my time as Master I did not prejudge matters, and always sought to follow appropriate legal advice to the best of my ability. I have worked hard to protect the welfare of students in my time at Trinity Hall as Dean and as Master, and it has been distressing to me to know that some think otherwise, despite the evidence. I have never had a complaint laid against me personally regarding my own behaviour.
But my term of office is drawing to an end, and whilst I am fully confident that any ongoing process by the College following the conclusions of the investigation would determine that I had done nothing wrong, I also recognize that the continuing, protracted nature of the investigation would mean many more months of distress for me and my family, and for others. Therefore I have decided to resign as Master from 23 August 2021.
I would like to thank all those from the College community and further afield who have supported me over the last twenty months.
31 August 2021