Bradford spoke to Channel 4 News earlier todayChannel 4 News/Youtube

Content Note: This article contains detailed discussion of sexual misconduct, and legal proceedings concerning these issues. Resources for support and guidance can be found at the bottom of this article.

Recent Cambridge graduate Danielle Bradford told Channel 4 News this evening that she is suing the University over their handling of her formal complaint of sexual misconduct.

Bradford, who now researches sexual harassment in academic fieldwork, said that her experience of the disciplinary procedure left her feeling vulnerable and “revictimised”, saying that she was pressured to drop her complaint.

In the interview, she explained: “I was told that I should think about it very carefully because making a complaint could affect my place in my department”. The University has denied this.

Bradford told Channel 4 that she is suing the University for discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. 

Bradford’s formal complaint was upheld by the University under the criminal standard of proof of beyond reasonable doubt. The verdict mandated an apology letter from her harasser and imposed sanctions of no-contact.

However, these sanctions meant that Cambridge also restricted Bradford’s access to certain University sites, and her confidentiality agreement prevented her from explaining to others why she had been banned from these locations. Breaking a confidentiality agreement involving a University investigation of a formal complaint can make complainants vulnerable to legal claims of harassment themselves.

This evening, shortly after her interview with Channel 4 was aired, Bradford wrote on Twitter: “I was treated as just another witness, not a complainant, so I had no rights and no representation. I did not have the right to appeal any decisions made, have any input into said decisions, no right to a lawyer, or to see the documentation.”

However, Bradford said that her harasser, a student who had been “in a supervisory role” over Bradford, had access to her testimony, “was allowed to pick the composition of the panel that tried the case [and] was allowed to appeal any decision made”, which she said she was not.

She said that the fieldwork site where the incidents of harassment occurred is still advertised by the University, and that her harasser “still goes to the same field site with young undergraduate women each year”, noting that “no restrictions were put on his teaching”. The University did not comment on this aspect of Bradford’s statement in an email to Varsity.

A Cambridge spokesperson told Varsity: “The University of Cambridge takes the personal safety of its students very seriously and is recognised within the higher education sector for its leading role in tackling harassment and sexual misconduct. We accept that in the past the adoption of the criminal standard of proof in our disciplinary process has affected students’ confidence in the procedure and was out of line with other universities.”

Georgina Calvert-Lee, the lawyer at solicitors' firm McAllister Olivarius who is leading Bradford's case, said to Varsity: “Although Dani's complaint was upheld, this was despite many failings of process on the university's part, which saw Dani systematically disadvantaged at every stage. ”

Cambridge’s disciplinary procedure has come under heightened scrutiny this past month, after a Varsity report revealed that a decision by one chair of the University’s disciplinary committee halted sexual misconduct complaints from being investigated if they occurred prior to 1st October, unless they also met a separate claim of ‘harassment’. Two students have said that their sexual misconduct complaints were dismissed without investigation as a result of this ruling.

Legal experts and women’s groups advocates have described the rule change as “unlawful”, and Queens’ fellow Dr Charlotte Proudman has called for an independent inquiry into the University’s handling of complaints following the June rule change.

Bradford, whose complaint was concluded significantly prior to the June rule change, wrote an opinion piece for Varsity regarding the new ruling. She wrote: “Cambridge is not at the “forefront” of anything – the university is lagging painfully behind other institutions, dragging down vulnerable students with it and falling far short in its duty of care.”

The University added in its statement: “To help counter this the University put in place additional measures specifically targeting harassment and sexual misconduct and offers specialist support to students who have been subjected to any form of sexual misconduct.

“From October 1, the disciplinary rules will change so that a finding of breach of our disciplinary code can be made on the ‘balance of probabilities’ rather than ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.”


Mountain View

Cambridge is not adequately protecting students from sexual violence. Senior officials refuse to admit it.

Calvert-Lee said: “Students facing similar difficulties [as Bradford] should seek legal advice and consider suing their university for breaches of the Equality Act or negligence. Those barred from making a complaint by the nonsensical June ruling might consider bringing a judicial review of the decision itself, if they act quickly. ”

Students have also come forward previously regarding their experience of college-level procedures around sexual misconduct. A King’s student told Varsity in April that her college tutor discouraged her from pursuing a complaint, and defended her harasser's actions to her. College-level complaints are separate from the University, and were unaffected by the June rule change.

In the final minutes of the Channel 4 interview, Bradford added: “If nothing is done to protect the people involved and the wider university community, then that process isn’t working”.

Updated, 9.49pm: This article was updated to include comment from Bradford's legal representation.

If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, the following organisations provide support and resources: