Ex-student in policy challenge bid

Published: Friday 8th May 2015 by The News Editor

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A former graduate student is today launching a legal challenge against Oxford University after accusing it of operating an unlawful policy not to investigate allegations of rape and sexual assault, except in extremely limited circumstances.

Elizabeth Ramey, who reported an assault in 2011, has waived her right to anonymity and is seeking a judicial review at the High Court in London with support from the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW).

Ms Ramey followed the university’s complaints procedure, but said there was a failure to investigate her allegation properly or to take any action against the person she accused.

The university regulator, the Office of the Independent Adjudicator, recommended that Oxford clarify and amend its policies.

But Ms Ramey, who is represented by solicitor Louise Whitfield, of law firm Deighton Pierce Glynn, argues the amended policy and procedure on harassment still allows Oxford to avoid investigating serious sexual assaults, leaving women at risk.

She will seek High Court permission today to bring a full legal challenge, saying the university is failing to recognise its legal responsibilities and indirectly discriminating against women by creating a hostile environment.

Her legal team is expected to argue on her behalf that the policy creates a substantial risk that women’s human rights will be violated if such assaults are not investigated.

EVAW Coalition representatives met Business Secretary Vince Cable in March and said he indicated that his department was willing to communicate “high level concern” about campus rape to university vice chancellors directly.

Ms Ramey is accusing Oxford of breaching its public sector equality duty by failing to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination and harassment of women when deciding on a policy that generally excludes investigations of serious sexual assaults.

In written submissions already lodged with the High Court, Ms Ramey said: “The university’s new policy will further discourage women from reporting sexual assaults, knowing that their cases are unlikely to be investigated or lead to disciplinary proceedings.”

She argued this not only placed “an unfair emotional burden on women” but put them at greater risk, as research showed that the vast majority of campus rape was committed by repeat offenders.

Her legal action is funded by the Equality & Human Rights Commission.

EVAW’s acting director Sarah Green said: “This is a very widespread and serious problem.

“A National Union of Students survey found that one in four women students experienced some form of sexual assault, and 7% had been subject to a serious sexual assault.

“It is essential that universities have robust policies for investigating rape to ensure women students are safe on campus.”

A university spokesman said: ” The university is robustly defending this application on all grounds and Ms Ramey’s application has already been refused permission on the papers.

“The harassment policy was developed through consultation with students and other interested parties and had regard to practice across UK higher education generally.”

Published: Friday 8th May 2015 by The News Editor

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