The Terms of Reference outline the scope of the Inquiry, led by Gemma WhiteLouis Ashworth

Content Note: This article contains discussion of disciplinary proceedings concerning issues of sexual harassment and assault.

The independent Inquiry which was commissioned in response to allegations of sexual assault levelled against three Trinity Hall members, including two fellows, has begun its investigations. The allegations, which led to a series of resignations of senior College staff, were published following an investigation by Tortoise media in February.

The Inquiry is led by Gemma White QC of Blackstone Chambers, who previously investigated bullying, harassment and sexual harassment perpetrated by MPs, presented to the House of Commons in 2019.

The Inquiry’s ‘Terms of Reference’, which outlines the scope of the forthcoming Inquiry, was agreed to by four Trinity Hall fellows forming the ‘Inquiry Committee’. They were appointed by members of the College’s Governing Body.

The Terms of Reference outline the Inquiry’s two main goals: to investigate both ‘the College’s handling of all the allegations raised’ and ’under the College’s procedures [...] the complaint made by the student named ‘John’’.

White will be able to amend the Terms of Reference, subject to the approval of the Inquiry Committee.

Significantly, the Terms of Reference do not permit White to re-open past complaints or investigate new ones. In light of this, in a letter sent to Trinity Hall members, she has asked that the contributions of College members to her investigation focus on ‘(save in relation to “John”) the way in which the College has handled complaints of sexual assault and sexual harassment rather than on the substance of any matters complained about’.

This request for contributions has been distributed widely among members of the College, past and present, including students, fellows and other staff.

At the end of her Inquiry, White will be expected to produce a report detailing her methodology, evidence and recommendations for further action.

This report, given that it ‘may contain significant personal information’, will only be distributed to members of the College’s Governing Body. All members of the Governing Body will be required to agree to keep matters in the report confidential. Only the four members of the Inquiry Committee will be permitted to access copies of this report.

An anonymised version of the report, which will protect the identities of people involved in the Inquiry, will be made widely available.


Mountain View

Trinity Hall investigation fallout continues

Ioana Diac, Trinity Hall JCR’s Women & Non-Binary Officer, who has been heavily involved in coordinating the student response to the Tortoise article, told Varsity that: “the communication from Gemma White’s side has been encouraging”.

There was a strong reaction to the news about Trinity Hall’s alleged mishandling of sexual assault and harassment claims when the news broke in February. An open letter, which received over 1000 signatures, hoping for ‘one system that students can have faith in, and that the colleges will demonstrate their commitment to student safety over collegiate autonomy’.

Social media groups to provide students with a platform to discuss and coordinate their response to the Tortoise article have also emerged. In the immediate aftermath of the investigation’s publication, these networks offered temporary respite for students who felt uncomfortable visiting Trinity Hall’s central site.

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