Child porn DoS resigns fellowship

Alex Coke-Woods 21 November 2008

Dr Nicholas Hammond, convicted paedophile and University Reader in Medieval and Modern Languages (MML), has resigned his fellowship at Gonville and Caius College.

Hammond, who was found guilty in September of possessing more than a thousand pornographic images of children, including some as young as two days old, was thanked for his contribution to College affairs by the Master of Gonville and Caius, Sir Christopher Hum.

“The College wishes to thank him warmly for the significant contribution which he made to teaching and to College matters over a period of thirteen years,” Sir Christopher said in a statement on Tuesday.

Hammond, whose offences include the possession of 30 ‘Level Five’ images, which depict child torture or bestiality, made the decision to step down from his prestigious position as a fellow after an Extraordinary General Meeting of the fellows of Gonville and Caius. The meeting, held a week ago last Friday, had been called to discuss Hammond’s status as a fellow of the College.

Speaking at the time, Sir Christopher said that the meeting was “an opportunity for fellows to express their views,” but that the final decision would be “a matter for the Master.”

Sir Christopher has since declined to discuss the verdict of the fellows’ meeting or to outline Dr Hammond’s reasons for stepping down. Dr Hammond himself was unavailable for comment.

Caius’ students had mixed reactions to the news. One second year student at the College summed up the views of many, saying simply: “I think that he has done the honorable thing.”

But fellow Caian and fourth year MML student, Matt Bramble, said: “I have a great deal of respect for Dr Hammond, and I can’t help but feel that his resignation will be a great loss for future generations of Caius and Cambridge linguists.

“By no means am I advocating Dr Hammond’s actions. I simply feel that a much more fruitful conclusion to the affair would have been possible if people had been able to differentiate his private and professional activities in their minds without falling foul of tabloid hysteria,” he added.

Despite resigning as a fellow, the University will continue to employ Dr Hammond as a Reader in French within the Modern Languages department. A University spokesperson confirmed that this latest turn of events will not preclude his returning to work. On special leave from the University since the beginning of Michaelmas term, Dr Hammond will recommence teaching in April, when he will be allowed to supervise students under strict conditions.

“For any student who objects to being taught by him, other arrangements will be made,” the University spokesperson said. He admitted that it was “hard to say” whether or not Dr Hammond’s controversial position on the University’s teaching staff might discourage potential students from applying to study MML at Cambridge.

Students were more forthcoming with their views. Target Officer at Gonville and Caius, James Polyblank, said that he believed that encouraging students to apply to the College would be a lot easier now that Dr Hammond had left the College.

“I was worried that the presence of a sex offender would cause concern for parents of prospective students,” he told The Cambridge Student (TCS).

“We have several occasions where younger students are coming to college for open days, summer schools, shadowing scheme and general tours and talks of college. They might have been deterred by the presence of Dr. Hammond, and made my job a lot harder,” he said.

Lauren Walden, a second year at Girton studying Dr Hammond’s subject of French, echoed the concerns of a number of students, saying: “Although he is an excellent lecturer I think I would always have in the back of my mind what he has done.”

“Would you feel comfortable being taught by a convicted paedophile?” she asked.

Alex Coke-Woods