Home   News   Article

Subscribe Now

Jesus College will not pay legal costs for Rustat Memorial Group’s defence



More news, no ads

LEARN MORE


The legal costs of the 65 alumni who successfully petitioned to keep the memorial to slave trade investor Tobias Rustat on the west wall of Jesus College chapel will not be paid by the college following a ruling by David Hodge QC of the Consistory Court of the Diocese of Ely.

Jesus College Chapel. Picture: Keith Heppell
Jesus College Chapel. Picture: Keith Heppell

A three-day hearing took place in February to determine whether the diocese would approve Jesus College’s request to remove the memorial to an exhibition space elsewhere on college grounds.

The hearing was overseen by David Hodge, who had been appointed as deputy chancellor to consider the college’s petition. In late March, the verdict was issued in a 108-page statement: the memorial will stay where it is. The unsuccessful case cost Jesus College £120,000.

David Hodge QC accepted, in his ruling date June 5, 2022 and made public on June 7, that it is convention for unsuccessful parties to pay the legal fees for the winning party in conventional hearings, but “that general rule does not apply in contested faculty proceedings in the consistory court,” he wrote.

He continued: “The general practice in the consistory court is that the parties are expected to meet their own legal expenses. This means that the Chancellor will generally not make any order in respect of costs as between the parties. An award of costs does not depend upon nor follow automatically from the ‘success’ of a party to the proceedings.”

Costs can be awarded in some circumstances, the ruling added, “when unreasonable behaviour is held to have occurred”.

Tobias Rustat wrote his own memorial and financed the 3.5-tonne design and construction
Tobias Rustat wrote his own memorial and financed the 3.5-tonne design and construction

The ruling notes that “expressing strong feelings on the subject in issue” does not constitute unreasonable behaviour. ‘Unreasonable behaviour’ relates either to “procedural matters or the substantive issues in dispute”.

The verdict continues: “It is most likely to occur when a party has caused the other party unnecessary expense, for example, by failing to comply with procedural directions, or failing to provide information in good time, or making no attempt to seek a compromise solution.”

Mr Hodge QC noted: “I am satisfied that the college did not act at all unreasonably in the way in which it approached and conducted this inevitable litigation.”

A spokesperson for the alumni decline to respond to a a request for comment.

A spokesperson for the Church of England also decline to a request for comment: the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, twice commented on the hearing – initially to encourage the removal of the memorial, and subsequently to lament the outcome.

The memorial dedicated to Tobias Rustat remains on the West wall of Jesus College Chapel. Picture: Keith Heppell
The memorial dedicated to Tobias Rustat remains on the West wall of Jesus College Chapel. Picture: Keith Heppell

A spokesperson for Cambridge Stand up To Racism said: “I cannot believe how low the Rustat Memorial Group have stooped in their attempt to get the college to pay their legal expenses.

“They have shown their determination to honour a slave trader and their contempt for Sonita Alleyne, who has put her case for the removal of the plaque from Jesus College with determination and dignity. It is they that should compensate the College.

“Stand Up To Racism will continue with their campaign to make public the historic links of Cambridge University to the slave trade and we give our whole-hearted support to all those students and staff who are determined that the truth should be told.”

A Jesus College spokesperson said: “We very much welcome the ruling which confirms the college acted reasonably in bringing this case forward for consideration, despite the limitations of the ecclesiastical court process.”



This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More