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Dean of Llandaff cleared of misconduct in Holy Orders

24 Mar 2024 6 minute read
Father Richard Peers

Martin Shipton

The Dean of Llandaff has been found not guilty of misconduct in Holy Orders as the latest development in a bitter dispute within the Church of England that has set senior clerics and their followers against each other for years.

Before taking up his current post in 2022, Richard Peers was the Sub-Dean at Christ Church, Oxford, which doubles as the city’s cathedral and one of the colleges at the world-renowned university.

During Canon Peers’ time at Christ Church, a large faction within the diocese was involved in a campaign to remove the then Dean, Martyn Percy. A series of allegations was brought against Dean Percy that resulted in disciplinary charges against him, all of which were disproven.

Dean Peers appeared in March 2024 at a Church of England tribunal that investigated his meetings and correspondence with six individuals in the wake of an allegation of sexual harassment made against Martyn Percy by a cathedral verger called Alannah Jeune. Ms Jeune has waived her right to anonymity.

Dispute

With the latest allegation raising the temperature of the dispute even higher, the Sub-Dean decided as a senior pastor at Christ Church to meet a number of influential people in a bid to halt the spread of ill-informed gossip and social media commentary. It was the nature of these conversations that formed the basis of the charge he faced.

A formal complaint was made against him by Karen Gadd, a supporter of Dean Percy’s. Mrs Gadd claimed the then Sub-Dean had made a series of derogatory comments about Dean Percy during a meeting in the cathedral garden aimed at turning her and his other supporters against him:

* “Within 10 minutes of the ‘victim’ coming down from the vestry he was on the phone to the Diocese to log the complaint formally.”

* “No one at Christ Church College or employed by them has informed the press of anything against the Dean at any time in the last three years. He says all press leaks have come from the Dean and his supporters.”:

* “The Dean is lying about the incident.”

* “No one in the cathedral or college supports the Dean and everyone wants him to leave.”

* “The incident between the Dean and the victim is much worse than reported.”

* “The Dean’s secretary was at risk working alone with him in the next room to his study.”

* “It is the Dean who has caused himself and the cathedral expensive legal costs by refusing arbitration and the cathedral have had to hire a company which costs 10 times more than their usual firm of solicitors.”

* “There is a list of people who must be sacked after this is resolved.”:

* “There are two outcomes for the Dean – one he accepts settlement and restarts his career as a writer or he fights on and no one will touch him with a barge-pole.”

* “This is not the first time he has had his boss removed for improper behaviour – he cites a case of a headmistress who wrote three love letters to a younger member of staff, who showed him the letters and was immediately encouraged to report her. He claims the incident is similar.”

‘Insignificant’

Dean Peers denied making any of the comments. With one exception, and that considered insignificant, the Tribunal preferred Dean Peers’ account to Mrs Gadd’s. The adjudication said of Mrs Gadd’s testimony: “Mrs Gadd was an emotional witness. She clearly cared deeply about Christ Church and her strongest moments during her time giving evidence came when she touched on her own role in the cathedral or her family’s long ties to it. She also had a clear and sharp recall of some aspects of the case, particularly the various processes which have led to this hearing.

“However, she lacked specificity and recall in other aspects of her evidence, notably when pressed as to her involvement with third parties on confidential aspects of the case. On several occasions her evidence was obscure and she sought to avoid providing direct answers. She frequently referred to a desire to reference emails to improve her recall.

“The Tribunal found her evidence, written and oral, to be prone to exaggeration and lacking in balance and occasionally simply untrue.”

The evidence given against Dean Peers by other witnesses had the same effect, with the Tribunal preferring the testimony of him to those who gave evidence against him.

Perjury

Among those who did so was former Tory Cabinet Minister Jonathan Aitken, who was jailed for perjury in 1999 following a notorious failed libel action against the Guardian and is now a priest.

The adjudication concluded: “[All] of the allegations relied upon for this charge have been found not proved or not to amount to conduct unbecoming or inappropriate to the office of a clerk in Holy Orders. As such the allegation shall stand dismissed.”

The adjudication also included the following: “The Panel also records here its deep concern at some of the conduct that has been revealed in the course of this matter. Prima facie breaches of confidentiality in the process have come to light. As to the wider history of the matter – which the Panel has had to review – as well as social media and gossip playing a part in aggravating a highly complex and delicate situation, there have also been misguided expressions of deeply entrenched views against the Respondent [Dean Peers], including through a sermon and the circulation of derogatory cartoons amongst members of the cathedral congregation and receipt by the Respondent of a grossly offensive and threatening letter containing a white powder.

“The Panel makes no findings as to these matters. Save where explicitly stated, they are not matters which have been other than tangentially relevant to the issues before the Panel and the Panel has carefully treated them as such.

“Nonetheless, such an unedifying picture of unkindness and immaturity has emerged as part of the background to the case that the Panel is moved to observe that this has done many involved serious discredit. The Panel expresses the sincere hope that this decision will bring a full stop to what has been an extremely damaging saga to all concerned.”


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Gaynor
Gaynor
16 days ago

Did anybody understand this episode of the Barchester Chronicles?

Jonathan
Jonathan
15 days ago
Reply to  Gaynor

Certainly not its relevance to Wales

Martin Reynolds
Martin Reynolds
13 days ago

I think it’s relevant in a few areas.
firstly the allegation was reported at length by Martin Shipton and it’s important to see the report of the Dean’s complete exoneration by a distinguished panel of judges who found the evidence against him untrue, untrustworthy, unreliable and manufactured.
The credibility of a senior priest in the Church in Wales was called into question and he has emerged as honest and reliable and credible while his accusers have been dismissed as the opposite!
Very important for this priest and for the Church and the wider community he serves.

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