Winchester chaplains' turmoil

1st October 2004 at 01:00
Two chaplains at Winchester college sacked for professional misconduct are in legal limbo, unable to appeal because the school's "Visitor" is on sabbatical.

The Rev Robert Ferguson and the Rev Nicholas von Malaise were sacked in the summer for their alleged involvement in leaking confidential information.

Their appeals to the college governing body failed last month, leaving them the last option of appeal to the Visitor, the Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Rev Michael Scott-Joynt. However, the bishop is on sabbatical until the end of November, in the Scottish Highlands and Israel.

A spokeswoman for the bishop said he had no power to delegate the matter.

She said it was up to the college to appoint a deputy.

But Winchester's head Tommy Cookson has insisted the appeal must be left to the bishop.

It is still unclear why the two priests were sacked. In August, Mr Cookson wrote to parents saying pupils had hacked into college computers to get private files which were leaked to The Times.

Mr Cookson said only that the chaplains "had not adhered to the standards expected of senior members of staff ."

Both men, who have refused to speak publicly about the affair, are believed to be preparing for employment tribunals.

They have received widespread support. One former pupil, William Tibbits, 23, said: "Both men are of such integrity that I can't believe there is any truth in any allegation. Everyone is looking forward to the tribunals."

The issue raises questions about the modern role of Visitors, who traditionally dealt with internal disputes at the college but whose role is now largely honorary.

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