26 NOVEMBER 2019
Statement by the Society of Antiquaries of London in response to the article concerning Hubert Chesshyre (November 23rd)
The Society of Antiquaries wishes to make clear that it deplores the abuse which Mr Chesshyre was found to have committed against a minor in a “trial of the facts”. The Observer’s article incorrectly states that the Society has “stood by” Mr Chesshyre. That is not the case.
The Society is committed to acting in a way which is consistent both as its status as an educational charity, which operates for the public benefit, and an institution which confers public recognition of the achievements of its Fellows. In Council’s view, as the Society’s board of trustees, this means taking action to ensure the Society is seen to act charitably, with care and respect for the victims of abuse, and to remove Fellowship from people who do not live up to the Society’s rightly high standards.
In June this year, the Society wrote to the victim (who is now an adult) to inform him that Council had unanimously decided to put a resolution to its Fellowship to remove Mr Chesshyre as a Fellow of the Society. This is the removal process specified by the Society’s constitution, which requires the resolution to be passed by a majority of two-thirds of the Fellows present and voting. It is at present the only way in which the Society can remove a Fellow. Unfortunately, this resolution was defeated.
The Society took the step of seeking Mr Chesshyre’s removal, as a result of its commitment to the principles summarised above. In the light of the outcome of the resolution and Council’s view that the Society must be able to act to uphold its standards, Council is clear that in this respect the existing governance procedures are not fit for purpose and Council is actively working on reform to the Statutes that will enable the Society to take action in cases such as these.
Council therefore welcomes the support of the many Fellows who have written to express their dismay at the outcome of the meeting to remove Mr Chesshyre and shares their desire for reform. The continued support of Fellows will be essential if Council’s programme of reform is to be enacted and Council would urge Fellows to remain members of the charity so they can support reform.
The Society has been in touch with the victim throughout this process and is grateful to have received his cooperation throughout. Council deeply regrets that the resolution was not successful. On behalf of the Society, Council unreservedly apologises to the victim for any hurt which the Society’s unsuccessful attempt to remove Mr Chesshyre may have caused him.
President, Society of Antiquaries of London
On behalf of the Council of the Society of Antiquaries of London.