Former student fails to force harassment policy review

first_imgElizabeth Ramey, a former Oxford postgraduate student, has failed in her attempt to force a judicial review of the University’s harassment procedure.She had claimed that the University’s policy only to conduct an enquiry into allegations in extremely limited circumstances was unlawful.Ramey, who now lives in the US, had reported an assault in 2011 and waived her right to anonymity. While there was a police investigation, no one was ever prosecuted due to evidential problems.Consequently, she brought forward a claim through the University’s complaints procedure, but, she argues, the University did not investigate properly and took no action against her alleged assailant.Following a further appeal, her claim to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator of Higher Education was partially upheld and the adjudicator issued a recommendation that Oxford clarify and amend its policies.According to Ramey’s legal representatives, the revised harassment policy allegedly still does not oblige the University to investigate most allegations of serious sexual assault, leading them to the High Court in London last week seeking a judicial review.Ramey’s case was supported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which has funded her case, and the End Violence Against Women coalition.A University spokesperson told Cherwell, “The University has noted the outcome of last week’s hearing and welcomes the decision not to proceed with a judicial review of its harassment policy.”Mr Justice Edis, who presided over the case, said, “It appears to me that it is inappropriate for the claimant to be granted permission to bring judicial review to question not the terms of the policy itself, but its application in circumstances in which it has never actually been applied.”This leaves open the possibility that someone who has used the new procedure since it was put in place might yet be successful in the High Court at gaining a judicial review.Louise Whitfield, Ramey’s solicitor, shared with Cherwell comments that she had made after the decision, stating, “My client is very disappointed with this result and the fact that more women must be the victims of serious sexual violence before it can be established that the university’s policy is unlawful, that it discriminates against women and creates a hostile environment in which they are expected to study with no redress against those who assault them.”Anna Bradshaw, OUSU Vice-President (Women) told Cherwell, “It is important that we listen carefully and seriously to women who come forward when they feel that an institution has failed them.“In the period of time since Elizabeth was a student at Oxford University, the University has updated its harassment policy and procedures. I believe that the University is starting to do better at listening to students like Elizabeth, even though this particular case has fallen. There is of course still a lot of work to be done, and OUSU is working hard to improve the policies and the support around harassment that are offered by the University.”last_img read more