Statement from Trinity Hall

Message from Gemma White QC: 25 September 2020

I am writing with a further update on progress with the Trinity Hall inquiry and to provide information as to the likely timescale for the remainder of the inquiry and reporting.

Since my last update on 7 July I have received further written contributions, met and spoken with many more of you and have requested and received a considerable volume of documentation, both from the College and from individuals. I have now met over 60 people and am in the process of scheduling my remaining meetings with those who have asked/offered to meet me. I will be inviting a limited number of further contributions from people who have not contacted me but who I consider likely to have important evidence to contribute and am arranging a second round of meetings with a small number of people who have already spoken to me. I thank all of you who have provided me with evidence to date.

The number of contributions, volume of documentation and range of subject matter covered by contributors means that producing the Inquiry Report will take some time. I am confident that I will be in a position to provide the overall Inquiry Report to the Inquiry Committee before the end of the Michaelmas term but cannot provide a more precise date at this point.

I am aware that many, including me, had hoped that I would report sooner. I have, therefore, considered whether there are any aspects of the inquiry on which I can properly report earlier or on an interim basis. As things stand, I anticipate being in a position to produce a separate report in relation to a discrete aspect of the inquiry in October and an interim report making some procedural recommendations to the Governing Body in good time for it to be considered before the next Governing Body meeting on 3 November 2020.

Finally, I’m sure it will not be a surprise to anyone to hear that I have received a large amount of personal information, including some highly sensitive personal information, in the course of the inquiry so far. The balance between reporting to the Governing Body in a sufficiently detailed way and respecting the privacy of individuals concerned will be delicate. Considering how this balance should be struck in certain areas covered by the inquiry has led me to request an amendment to my terms of reference. The Inquiry Committee has agreed that my terms of reference should be amended to add the following sentence to paragraph 5.5: Ms White may also produce and provide to the Inquiry Committee documents containing analysis of the evidence which, in her judgment, is unsuitable for inclusion in the Inquiry Report. The effect of this amendment is that I can provide analysis to the Inquiry Committee which will not be shared with other members of the Governing Body apart from in the very limited circumstances provided for by paragraph 6.2. I would like to reassure anyone who has spoken to me in complete confidence or asked me to receive particular information in confidence that this amendment does not alter my agreement not to provide your information to the Inquiry Committee. It simply enables me to assist the Inquiry Committee with analysis of the large volume of transcripts and documents which will be provided to them in any event pursuant to paragraph 5.5. The amended terms of reference are available in full here.

With very best wishes,

Gemma White QC

Message from Gemma White QC: 7 July 2020

I am writing with an update on progress with the Trinity Hall inquiry and start by thanking all of those people who have contacted me so far. I am aware that the inquiry launch and my call for contributions came at a particularly busy time for the academic community. I have nevertheless received a significant number of carefully compiled written submissions and have met (remotely) with more than 20 contributors to date. In addition to hearing from those who have chosen to contact me I have been identifying and approaching particular individuals who appear to me to be likely to have relevant information to contribute. I am in the process of scheduling meetings throughout July and anticipate continuing to approach and meet with contributors in August. As Covid-19 related restrictions ease I will be conducting certain meetings in person (and am visiting the College on 9 July) but will continue to meet most contributors remotely. Remote meetings provide increased flexibility and I have found them to be an efficient and effective means of hearing from a wide range of people in different parts of the UK and beyond.

I have been contacted by a number of people who have hesitated before contributing because they are unsure about whether the matters they wish to contribute fall within the terms of reference for the inquiry. Others have been concerned that what they have to say may not be sufficiently significant. My approach is to encourage all such contributions as they form an important part of the overall picture and will assist me to identify any themes and patterns in the College’s approach. If you feel you may have relevant information but have not yet contributed please do get in touch with me (gwthinquiry@blackstonechambers.com). I know that some people are concerned about confidentiality and the dissemination/use of information which they may provide. I am very happy to answer any questions contributors may have and to consider how any concerns can be met. If you have not contributed to the inquiry but think you may wish to do so, please contact me by 19 July 2020.

I look forward to hearing from, and meeting with, more of you over the summer.

Gemma White QC

Inquiry Letter: 1 June 2020

We have this week sent the following letter from Gemma White QC to our college communities, inviting contributions to her Inquiry.

Read the Inquiry letter

Read the Privacy Notice

Read the Terms of Reference

The College acknowledges that it has taken longer than anticipated to reach this point. The particular issues encountered included the care that was needed in defining the Terms of Reference; the complex privacy issues over the exchange with Ms White QC of some potentially highly confidential information; and, of course, the challenges of adjusting working methods as a result of Covid-19. The College remains thoroughly committed to the independent Inquiry and hopes that all those with relevant contributions will contact Ms White, as she asks in the letter.

Terms of Reference: 21 May 2020

Further to our statement dated 23 April 2020, Trinity Hall is publishing the terms of reference for the Inquiry being conducted by Gemma White QC, leading barrister of Blackstone Chambers.

Read the Terms of Reference

Gemma White QC will publish communications shortly, which we expect to make available here.

Statement of 23 April 2020

Further to our statement dated 2 April 2020, we wish to update our community at Trinity Hall about the external Inquiry into the College’s handling of all the allegations raised, and matters referred to, in the Tortoise Media article of 18 February 2020, and into the complaint made by the student named ‘John’ in the article.

Gemma White QC, leading barrister of Blackstone Chambers, who has been appointed to conduct the Inquiry, has now begun the preliminary stages of her work, which include reading into the matter, considering documentation and identifying individuals she may wish to meet.

Dr William O’Reilly and The Revd Canon Dr Jeremy Morris have been granted leave of absence by the Governing Body in order to assist the College in the conduct of the Inquiry.

Notwithstanding the unprecedented turn of events brought by the COVID-19 pandemic and the latest Government restrictions, this Inquiry remains a very high priority for the College.

A further update to our community will follow in due course.

Finally, the College Mental Health and Wellbeing Team continues to provide confidential online support for any students, staff, or Fellows affected by these matters

Edited 14/05/20 regarding the possible impact of COVID-19.

Statement of 2 April 2020

As promised in our statement dated 12 March 2020, we wish to update our community at Trinity Hall about the external Inquiry into the College’s handling of all the allegations raised, and matters referred to, in the Tortoise Media article of 18 February 2020, and into the complaint made by the student named ‘John’ in the article.

Since 12 March 2020 progress has been made advancing the formal details and related legal issues of the appointment of leading barrister Gemma White QC, of Blackstone Chambers to conduct the Inquiry. Ms White QC has a broad-based legal practice which includes professional discipline, discrimination and education. She has particular experience of running complex and confidential internal investigations and conducted Parliament’s independent inquiry into bullying and harassment of MPs’ parliamentary staff, which reported in July last year.

Ms White will now begin the preliminary stages of her work, which include reading into the matter, considering documentation and identifying individuals she may wish to meet. It will be appreciated that Ms White’s progress with the Inquiry, particularly in attending meetings with individuals, will inevitably be impacted by the restrictions imposed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we can assure our community that Ms White’s work is continuing as far as it is able.

Notwithstanding the unprecedented turn of events brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, this Inquiry remains a priority for the College and we will continue to report to our community about it.

A further update to our community will follow in 21 days.