Hutchinson, photographed for Varsity after he was cleared of sexual assault in 2006DYLAN SPENCER-DAVIDSON

A Trinity Hall fellow has apologised today for comments made about female students’ appearance during supervisions in 2014 and 2015.

Dr Peter Hutchinson, former deputy head of the Department of German, was accused by ten female students of making “unwanted” comments of an “inappropriate sexual and sexist nature” in 2015. This led to an internal investigation by the university, which resulted in his being banned from any contact with undergraduates.

In a statement issued through the University, Hutchinson apologised “to anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of an unwanted comment by me that they felt crossed the line in any way.

“I have nothing but the utmost respect for women, and I have had the chance to reflect that within the dynamic of a teacher-student relationship, it can be difficult for a student to find their voice in the moment and challenge comments that make them uncomfortable.

“I continue to deeply regret the comments I made, and the impact they had on the student concerned”, he said.

Read Hutchinson's statement in full

"In August 2015, 10 Trinity Hall students submitted a complaint to the College detailing comments I had made over several months in 2014-15 that were of an inappropriate sexual and sexist nature.

The College, quite rightly, took these complaints very seriously and conducted an investigation, at the conclusion of which I ceased to teach or to have interaction with students. The action agreed was both firm and proportionate, and was communicated to the students who had made the complaint, who expressed their satisfaction with the action taken.

I said from the start I was sorry for any distress I had caused. I continue to deeply regret the comments I made, and the impact they had on the students concerned. I would like to take this opportunity to publicly apologise to those students, and again emphasise that I believe it is unacceptable for anyone to be made to feel uncomfortable in their place of study.

I also want to apologise to anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of an unwanted comment by me that they felt crossed the line in any way.

At the time I did not question the comments I made as I was not made aware of the impact they were having. Having had time to reflect, to step back and consider how these students said I'd made them feel, I realise these comments were thoughtless, insensitive and caused offence.

I have nothing but the utmost respect for women, and I have had the chance to reflect that within the dynamic of a teacher-student relationship, it can be difficult for a student to find their voice in the moment and challenge comments that make them uncomfortable.

I want to express my deep sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others with my words."

In addition, endorsing the University and Colleges' efforts to combat sexual harassment under the Breaking the Silence campaign, he added: "I have learned from this experience and am fully supportive of efforts to ensure this kind of incident never happens again."

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Dr Hutchinson, formerly vice-master of Trinity Hall, officially retired in 2011, but continued to teach as a non-stipendiary fellow of the college until complaints about his behaviour initiated an internal university investigation in 2015.

He was previously tried and cleared of sexual assault in 2006, after groping an ex-student in his college rooms. His accuser, at that point a trainee police officer, threatened to punch Hutchinson after he allegedly grabbed her bottom while making “a pervy, Benny Hill, lascivious, groaning” noise.

Dr Hutchinson told Norwich Crown Court in 2006 that he had twice patted her bottom on previous occasions and she had not objected. “I just cannot understand how something which seemed so trivial was so important to her,” he told detectives after his arrest at the time, suggesting that the gin had gone to his head.

In his statement, issued through the University, Hutchinson endorsed the University and Colleges’ efforts to combat sexual harassment under the Breaking the Silence campaign, launched in October and backed by figures such as Emma Thompson.

Breaking the Silence aims to establish a formal approach to relations between students and staff and to convey the university’s ‘zero tolerance’ stance on harassment and sexual assault.

A CUSU survey, released as part of the campaign’s launch, revealed that 77 per cent of respondents had experienced sexual harassment, and 30 per cent had been sexually assaulted.

Commenting on the campaign to combat harassment, Dr Hutchinson noted: “I have learned from this experience and am fully supportive of efforts to ensure this kind of incident never happens again”.

Trinity Hall said that they had a 'zero tolerance' policy on sexual harassmentLouis Ashworth

Dr Hutchinson will continue to hold an advisory role at Trinity Hall as a member of its investments committee, but will have no involvement or contact with students.

A Trinity Hall spokeswoman welcomed Dr Hutchinson’s statement and re-emphasised the university’s “zero tolerance”, saying that there was “no place for any form of harassment or sexual misconduct” at the college.

“The resulting action taken after the informal investigation was communicated directly to the students concerned and was accepted and welcomed by them as a satisfactory resolution of their complaint against Dr Hutchinson.

“Trinity Hall remains dedicated to maintaining a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment that allows our students to flourish”, she added.

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