Dear Dulwich College governors

A rap on the knuckles for the governing body of an august institution which seems to have forgotten about fair play and the presumption of innocence
Click to follow
The Independent Online
I note with alarm that you have appointed yourselves judge, jury and executioner in the case of the headmaster (properly known as the Master) of Dulwich College, Anthony Verity, who has been accused of sexually harassing his secretary. You have not even waited to hear his defence before implying that, be he innocent or be he guilty, it makes no difference since he can't have his job back. Sentence passed, M'Lud, nem con. What example of justice is this to set the young scholars in whose interests you allegedly sit on the board?

Mr Verity, I note, was offered a hefty "redundancy" payment and no publicity was guaranteed if he took his punishment like a man and left quietly. He rejected this easy option ... which leads to a mild presumption of innocence. Were he guilty you'd think he'd be glad to slink away and hang his head in well-paid shame, would you not? But that may be a diversionary tactic. I have no views as to the Master's likely guilt or innocence but I know injustice when it stares me in the face, and you, the governors of the college he has headed for eight years, are plainly guilty of injustice.

The clerk to the governors told Another Newspaper last week, "It is very difficult to see a happy outcome." (It is? Wouldn't his proven innocence be a happy outcome?) Wringing his hands, Heep-like, your clerk continued: "It is tragic for Mr Verity and has badly damaged his career." What is tragic? It is certainly unfortunate and no doubt unpleasant to be accused of sexual harassment, but unless and until guilt is proved it should not be damaging. "As a school we have to be seen to be setting moral standards." Ah, weasel words! What about setting a standard for open-mindedness? What about the noble presumption that is a cornerstone of justice in this country: the accused is innocent until proved guilty?

This unctuous clerk, asked whether, if Mr Verity's innocence were established, the Master could return and get on with his job, said, "It will be difficult to go back to where we were before." Why? An innocent man cleared of a malicious allegation has nothing to fear.

In theory, Mr Verity is due to retire in four years. Now that he has rejected behind-the-scenes offers ("early retirement, old boy ... sure the trustees will see their way to being most generous ... good long holiday, what? ... least said, soonest mended") and chosen to face the music, the evidence for sexual harassment must be scrutinised by the 12 of you, and his case decided on that basis: evidence, not foregone conclusions. It certainly should not be pre-judged by a pusillanimous coterie who would rather the whole unhappy saga had been hushed up. I seem to hear a phrase at the back of my mind ... something, could it be, about casting the first stone?

Shame on you, Governors! The college's motto - funny how the media always rake up the old school motto, isn't it? - is Detur gloria soli Deo. Mr Verity, a notable classicist, will know that this means, "let glory be given to God alone". As opposed to the governors.