TW: Child Pornography, sexual abuse
Philosophy tutor Peter King entered a guilty plea on Thursday, charged with possession of child pornography.
Previously a Stipendiary Lecturer at Pembroke, King has since been suspended from his position.
A spokesperson for the college told Cherwell: “Pembroke was made aware of the police investigation and charges against Peter King only the day before his court appearance.
He was immediately suspended from his employment, pending disciplinary proceedings.
The College moved swiftly to put in place welfare and counselling arrangements for students and staff, and alternative teaching arrangements and academic support for all affected students.”
According to The Guardian, Oxford Crown Court confirmed that King has pleaded guilty to three counts of producing indecent photos of a child between 2010 and 2018. Production is understood to mean generating copies of digital media.
King will be sentenced on March 19th.
Philosophy students, and all members of Pembroke’s JCR and MCR, were informed of the matter in an email this week, in which the college stated King was “expected to plead guilty”.
It is understood that members of staff were unaware of the investigation into Dr King until his court appearance.
As well as removing King’s staff page and Oxford email address, Pembroke College has offered welfare support to all students, saying they shall provide “fast-track access to the University Counselling Service”.
Students who did not study philosophy were told of “a serious situation involving one of the Philosophy tutors” the same day, but not of the details of the case.
An email sent out on Thursday read: “We have written today to students of Philosophy regarding a serious situation involving one of the Philosophy tutors. We appreciate that the nature of the charges against him may cause distress to individuals and we want to reach out to anyone who may be particularly affected.”
King described his research as relating to “both metaethics and practical ethics”, and in 2008 published a paper entitled “No Plaything: Ethical Issues Concerning Child Pornography”.
In the paper, published in the journal Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, he argues for the existence of a “morally neutral” form of child pornography, which “if it reduces the market for abusive material… might even be morally good”.
Despite terming this hypothetical content “genuinely possible”, King concludes that “child-pornography is morally wrong.”
The paper begins “Academic discussion of pornography is generally restricted to issues arising from the depiction of adults.”
“I argue that child-pornography is a more complex matter, and that generally accepted moral judgements concerning pornography in general have to be revised when children are involved.”
“I look at the question of harm to the children involved, the consumers, and society in general, at the question of blame, and at the possibility of a morally acceptable form of child-pornography.
“My approach involves an objectivist metaethics and a utilitarian view of practical ethics, and I bring out the advantages of these theories to the consideration of moral issues such as this one.”
King, having completed his Masters and Doctoral qualifications at Brasenose College, went on to teach at Christ Church and Somerville, before joining Pembroke College.
Oxford University did not offer additional comment, but did clarify to Cherwell that Dr King was not employed by the university and held no duties at a faculty level.
King’s defence lawyer declined comment to The Guardian.
Pembroke College has been home to scholars for over 396 years.
The college currently houses 375 undergraduates, as well as visiting students on study abroad programs from US and Chinese universities, in addition to more than 283 postgraduates.