A don convicted of downloading child pornography is set to resume work in April.

Nicholas Hammond, a Fellow of Caius and University Reader in the MML Faculty, was given a twelve-month suspended sentence after pleading guilty to possessing images of child pornography – including the most serious ‘Level Five’ images – in July.

The University has announced that Dr Hammond will resume his duties in teaching ‘Early Modern French thought and drama’ at the beginning of the Easter term, having been on leave since last Michaelmas. Tim Holt, Deputy Head of Communications, has stressed that the don will work “under strict conditions”, although the details of his terms of employment have not yet been finalised.

According to the University, Dr Hammond will only teach those who consent to work with him, and will not be allowed any contact with anyone under the age of sixteen.

Cambridge has no official policy on employing people with criminal convictions. Each case is treated on its individual merits and, according to Mr Holt, the University is confident that Dr Hammond “does not pose a threat”, and that “rehabilitation” is appropriate for the don.

It has not yet been decided whether Dr Hammond will continue as a Fellow of Caius. All the College’s Fellows are due to meet today to discuss the issue.

Last week, a senior Fellow of Caius circulated a message to all his colleagues which was then leaked to Varsity. The leaked document warned against the influence of public pressure.
 
J.H. Prynne, a poet who is a Life Fellow of the College, dismissed the idea that they “should give consideration to questions of possible public interest and outside reactions, including those of the larger Caian community, parents and benefactors, Cambridge University at all levels, the academic profession and wider public opinion”.

Mr Prynne concluded by saying, “We are a sovereign community of Fellows and we should act in the light of our individual conscience and judgement” in order to achieve “a just and fair decision.” However, Sir Christopher Hum, Master of Caius, has said that “the meeting of Fellows on Friday will not take decisions, which are a matter for the Master, but will be an opportunity for Fellows to express their views.”

Child protection charities have criticised the apparent readiness of the University to continue to employ Dr Hammond. Claude Knights, director of Kidscape, said, “I’m disgusted. The punishment here does not fit the crime”. She added: “The university has closed ranks – it’s like when the Church goes behind closed doors. They cannot operate behind a veil of secrecy to cushion one of their own from a long fall. You can’t help feel if this was unemployed Joe Bloggs who had this nasty habit he would not get the same treatment.”

Some students have spoken out against Hammond. “I don’t think we should take him back,” argues second-year Caian Alex Walton. “It would present a bad image for the College and the University as a whole.”

Hugo Gye

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