CHRIST Church’s former Dean questioned who he was paying £4,500 in legal costs to – after his bid to sue the Church of England’s Independent Safeguarding Board hit the buffers last week.

Prof Martyn Percy, who reportedly received a £1.2m payout in the spring following a four-year dispute with the fellows, had issued a claim against the ISB for £7,000 in July.

He said he had spent more than £5,000 on legal advice to prevent the board’s ‘continued misrepresentations’ that it was an ‘independent body capable of handling complex legal cases’ where he claimed it in fact had ‘no power, experience or any expertise to do so at all’.

The ISB, which was set up by the Church of England’s Archbishops Council in 2020, was in the process of reviewing safeguarding investigations at Christ Church. On October 20, it was announced the board was ‘pausing’ the work.

Prof Percy’s claim against the ISB ended at Oxford County Court on Friday, when District Judge Richard Lumb agreed with the board’s barrister that the legal action – launched through a Ministry of Justice-sponsored pilot where small claims can be filed online – had been brought under the wrong process. The board itself was not a legal entity against whom a legal clam could be brought, the court heard.

Judge Lumb described the claim as ‘misconceived’. “There may or may not be a claim you can bring properly but it may well be on careful reflection you may consider a claim against this board is doomed to failure. I say that to try and help you and give you that opportunity.”

He added that he could not see how members of the board could be held liable for Prof Percy’s legal fees ‘even if you bring a claim under the proper process’.

Prof Percy formally withdrew the claim. After an argument from the ISB's barrister that the former Christ Church Dean had acted 'unreasonably' he was ordered to pay £4,500 in costs to the board, which hired solicitors’ firm Plexus Law to fight the disputed claim.

Prof Percy questioned who was being reimbursed, telling Judge Lumb: “From the perspective of myself, it’s been very hard to know who we are dealing with here.

“The two remaining members of the ISB Steve Reeves and Jasvinder Sanghera quite clearly did not instruct Plexus and so it’s very hard to know who is actually operating this body.

“I could make guesses but that’s not fair but I am concerned that it’s very hard to know who’s incurred costs here.”

The judge replied that he had a certificate signed by the defendant’s solicitor setting out the costs incurred. “[She] is an officer of the court. I can’t look behind that certificate,” Judge Lumb said.

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This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire's court and crime reporter.  

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