Trinity Hall

Content note: This article contains discussion of sexual assault and harassment. A list of support and resources can be found at the bottom of the article.

Three former students whose sexual misconduct complaints were said to have been mishandled by Trinity Hall have today outlined how they feel the college should now proceed.

In the statement, the women have called for the resignation of the current master of the college, the Revd Canon Jeremy Morris, and for new leadership that can “command the confidence of the student body”.

They continue, “The governing body has clearly struggled to find fellows without conflicts of interest” and requested they seek external management and supervision as an interim measure.

A Tortoise investigation published last week revealed that the Acting Senior Tutor Dr William O'Reilly, the person in charge of overseeing the investigation into the womens’ complaints, had a “close relationship” with the accused student. Formal complaints against the student, which included reports of sexual assault and rape, were made by two of the women in early 2018 (the third woman offered supporting testimony). 

In full The women call for Tit Hall to take action

“We have been moved and encouraged by the response from the student and alumni community. Thank you for fighting on our behalf, and for continuing to work so hard to make Trinity Hall a safer place.

We are endlessly grateful to Dr Nick Guyatt for the support he offered us, and are appalled to discover the extent of his mistreatment by the College.

1. The Revd Canon Dr Jeremy Morris should resign as Master.

2. New leadership will be required that can command the confidence of the student body. The governing body has clearly struggled to find fellows without conflicts of interest. It should, therefore, seek external management and supervision as an interim measure after the resignation of the Master.

3. There should be a disciplinary and safeguarding inquiry into Dr William O’Reilly.

4. In place of the college’s proposed reviews, there should be an external, independent and transparent investigation into the handling of sexual misconduct cases at Trinity Hall. This should be commissioned from an expert, have a remit to engage beyond the specific cases raised by the article and consider the wider culture and management of the College. The results of this investigation should be made public as far as possible.

Our experience is not exceptional, and we stand in solidarity with all survivors of sexual misconduct - including those whose cases have been mishandled by institutions they trusted to treat them fairly and sensitively.”

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This second demand is likely in reference to concerns about current senior fellows at Trinity Hall such as Junior Bursar Glen Sharp who – in a JCR meeting this week – was seen as “too involved in matters” to be involved in the panel looking into the alleged mishandling of complaints.

The current Vice-Master Nick Bampos, who Tortoise say chaired the Junior Members Committee (JMC) that dealt with the women's complaints, is also likely to be seen as an inappropriate candidate for Morris’ position, even in the interim.

The statement from the women also calls for a “disciplinary and safeguarding inquiry into Dr William O’Reilly”.

In May 2018, Morris heard a sexual assault complaint against O’Reilly, yet allowed the then-Acting Senior Tutor to remain in his post for five months with no investigation or action taken against him, even as he handled the disciplinary procedure for the womens’ complaints.

In full O'Reilly's response to the allegations

A spokesperson for Dr William O'Reilly said: "Dr O'Reilly believes he acted with integrity and followed appropriate safeguarding advice throughout the various internal processes at Trinity Hall. He rejects any suggestion that he behaved improperly and is appalled that what should have been confidential procedures have been made public.

"He strenuously denies the serious allegation made against him by someone for whom he acted as tutor. He first became aware of it when he voluntarily attended the police station in October 2018; in early November 2018 police informed him the matter was not being pursued. During that time he withdrew himself from supervisory teaching duties. No charges were made, he was not arrested, and no further action has been taken.

“In 14 years at Cambridge University Dr O'Reilly has acted as a supervisor and a tutor to many hundreds of students, usually on a one-to-one basis, and has never previously had a complaint levelled against him."

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O’Reilly denies all the allegations and “rejects any suggestion he behaved improperly”. He attended a voluntary interview with the police in October 2018 but was never arrested or charged and no further action was taken by the police.


Mountain View

Trinity Hall Master and accused Fellow to stand down pending investigation

The final request by the women is for a public “external, independent and transparent investigation into the handling of sexual misconduct cases at Trinity Hall” conducted by an expert.

An open letter signed by over 720 students has called on all Cambridge colleges to recognise they are “inadequately equipped to handle cases of sexual misconduct” and “make a commitment to refer all cases of sexual misconduct to the Office of Student Conduct, Complaints and Appeals” (OSCCA).

CUSU has also called for Morris’ resignation from his position as Master of Trinity Hall and member of University Council, Cambridge’s executive decision-making body.

On Tuesday, in a statement in response to the Tortoise investigation, Morris revealed “the Governing Body of the College has taken a decision to mount two procedural Reviews in 2020”, one of Governance and one of “Disciplinary, Harassment and other associated processes”.

In full Master's statement on the reports

“We understand that any allegations of this kind at our College will be a matter of deep concern to everyone in our community, and we take them extremely seriously. There is no place for misconduct or inappropriate behaviour of any kind at Trinity Hall, and we are highly aware how important it is to deal with any issues which may arise in a clear and appropriate manner. The safety and welfare of students and staff at the College is a priority for us, and a natural expectation of anyone who comes to study and work here.

“As part of living up to these requirements – alongside the University of Cambridge and its ‘Breaking The Silence’ campaign – we are committed to a zero tolerance policy, providing the support and protection all our College members need in order to go about their daily work. Our students, staff and alumni need not only to be informed about our complaints policies, and where to seek help at difficult times, but also to trust the College’s procedures to handle any complaints fairly and correctly.

“The College will always seek to address any complaints it receives and to determine the most appropriate procedure under which to consider them, in conjunction, importantly, with the complainant’s own wishes. We have substantially revised our processes in the last two years, in the light both of experience and of changing sector guidance on the handling of complaints of harassment and misconduct. In addition to the College’s own procedures, this may include referring the matter to the University of Cambridge’s Office of Student Conduct, Complaints and Appeals (OSCCA). It should be recognised that, in line with sector guidance, any criminal process must take priority.

“For reasons of duty of care and confidentiality, we are unable to comment specifically about individual cases, even in a number of circumstances where the information is incorrect, misleading or requires a fuller detailed explanation.

“Nonetheless, we understand that any complaints, which are often highly sensitive and complex, require the highest possible standards in terms of explaining the processes and potential outcomes, in addition to clear and consistent communications with all concerned, and alongside providing pastoral or other appropriate support. Like many other Higher Education institutions which are facing similar issues, we are therefore obliged to ensure that we are constantly reviewing our processes in the light of our experience.

“For this reason, as outlined in November 2019, the Governing Body of the College has taken a decision to mount two procedural Reviews in 2020: one of Governance, to consider any improvements to the executive processes of the College, including matters of transparency and representation; and one of Disciplinary, Harassment and other associated processes to consider any deficiencies in its procedures and to give reassurance to students, staff and alumni that any specific claims or complaints we receive are thoroughly and carefully handled, in accordance with best practice. To ensure these Reviews are as robust and transparent as possible, the College will be engaging independent external experts. We will be making an announcement about the composition of the two Reviews following the next Governing Body meeting in February and will be making public the outcome of these Reviews in due course. The work will be undertaken during the Spring and Summer, with the work completed in time for presentation to the Governing Body in October 2020.

“We are aware that many of our students, staff and alumni have expressed important views on these topics in recent times, for which we are grateful, and hope that they will continue to engage with us in the future. We in turn are committed to listening and learning from previous instances of dealing with often challenging matters in the most rigorous manner possible.”

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The reviews will engage “independent external experts” and results are due for presentation to the Governing Body in October 2020. 

The statement also mentions Dr Nick Guyatt, as the women say they are “appalled to discover the extent of his mistreatment by the College.”

Guyatt initially handled the cases of the women, before being accused of encouraging the women to come forward to for ‘political’ ends.

He was suspended from his position as tutor and investigated, placed under review for six months, before being cleared of all wrongdoing. He has since moved to Jesus College.

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