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Oxford Union apologises unreservedly to a blind, Black student and accepts the need for institutional change

Related Member(s):
Helen Mountfield QC, Ben Silverstone

On 1 September 2020 the Oxford Union Society published an unreserved apology to Ebenezer Azamati, a post-graduate student at Oxford University. Mr Azamati, who is blind and Black, was ejected from the Oxford Union debating chamber by security staff in October 2019. Footage of the incident circulated widely on news websites and on social media, resulting in significant public concern about the Union’s treatment of Mr Azamati and its approach to accessibility and diversity. The Union also subjected Mr Azamati to disciplinary proceedings, which were subsequently withdrawn by the Union on appeal.

The Union has now publicly apologised to Mr Azamati, accepting that what happened to him was fundamentally wrong, and that the allegations made against him by the Union were wholly unfounded and untrue. As part of the settlement, the Union has agreed to make a compensatory payment to Mr Azamati, and to commission an independent Equality and Access Review to identify changes to be made to its rules, policies, procedures, practices, staff roles and responsibilities and training requirements.

The Oxford Union’s public statement is available here.

Mr Azamati was represented by Ruth Brander of Doughty Street Chambers and Ben Silverstone of Matrix Chambers, instructed by John Halford and Farhana Patel of Bindmans LLP. In the disciplinary proceedings, Mr Azamati was assisted by Helen Mountfield QC of Matrix Chambers in her capacity as Principal of Mansfield College, Oxford (of which Mr Azamati is a former student).