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The third Chetham’s sex abuse trial has begun

June 1, 2015 by norman lebrecht

14 comments.


The rape trial has opened at Manchester Crown Court of Malcolm Layfield, former violin teacher at Chethams School and head of strings at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM).

Layfield is an internationally known teacher and performer. Founder of the Goldberg Ensemble, he has appeared at New York’s  international Bang on a Can festival and has claimed to have played as concertmaster at the Carmel Bach Festival in California*. He was also leader of the London Bach Orchestra.

malcolm layfield

According to prosecution statements tweeted from the court by the Guardian’s Helen Pidd: 
– In the summer of 1982 Malcolm Layfield raped an 18-year-old pupil he taught the violin, Manchester crown court hears.

– Malcolm Layfield admits “inappropriate sexual relationships” with a number of pupils, including the complainant, but denies 1 count of rape.

– One of Malcolm Layfield’s pupils claims he plied her with drink and drove her to “the middle of nowhere” and raped her when she was 18.

– A police video interview given by Layfield’s alleged victim is shown to the jury. Supervision “woefully inadequate” at Chetham’s in 1982.

The BBC’s Dave Guest adds:

– In video interview Mr Layfield’s accuser says: “He was going to have sex with me and there was nothing I could do about it.”

For updates on the trial follow @helenpidd and @mrdaveguest.

This is the third of five likely trials exposing allegations of decades of sexual abuse at Chetham’s and RNCM.

Michael Brewer, Chetham’s former Director of Music, was jailed for six years for assaults on a 14 year-old girl; his accuser, Frances Andrade, killed herself during the course of the trial.

Nicholas Smith, a conducting teacher, was jailed last year for eight months.

After Layfield, trials are expected of Wen Zhou Li and Chris Ling, both ex-Chet’s teachers.

The present head of Chet’s, Claire Moreland, who was not there at the time of the alleged offences, has announced her early retirement.

chethams 3

Here’s a PA report on the trial’s first day.

* Update: we are informed by the Carmel Bach Festival that he participated once, in 1994, as second chair in the first violins, not as concertmaster.


Comments (14)

  1. Prewartreasure says:

    Here we go again…..

    Norman’s fascination with alleged sex crimes continues apace.

    What the subject matter has to do with a classical music blog defeats me. Do we HAVE to read this stuff here?

    1. norman lebrecht says:

      If you wish to ignore persistent abuse in certain parts of the music world, please leave this site and do not return.

    2. Ian Pace says:

      I for one would be more than happy if classical music had nothing to do with abuse and sexual assault (and bullying, harrassment, blackmail, intimidation, and so on). Burying heads in the sand will not make that happen.

    3. Alexander says:

      What this has to do with classical music is that a disproportionately large number of professional musicians, specifically music teachers at all levels, seem to find themselves accused, and in some cases convicted, of committing sexual offences against younger, vulnerable people, specifically in a teaching context. Norman Lebrecht and Ian Pace both continue to do an excellent job of reporting and commenting on this tragic phenomenon within the classical music world and are rightly to be thanked and praised for doing so. Only when the last perpetrator has been brought to justice and when all children and other vulnerable people have been safeguarded against this ever happening to anybody, anywhere, ever again will it be time for us to stop talking about it.

  2. Una says:

    For some of us who have worked with Malcom, and in my case we were students together, and people like Martin Roscoe who not only resigned, stood up to be counted, as head of piano at the RNCM for Malcolm’s appointment as head ot strings, but very nearly lost his health, I don’t think it’s a fascination that any of us have but a deep, deep sense of sadness that it should all come to this for those in the classical music profession who have succumbed to such behaviour, and being brought to court, or those struggling in the background who have not yet been found out. It is all very depressing and more so when it was just the Catholic church that was being accused of abuse. Last week only the Methodist Church, and so many cases within families, but yet some form of justice and clarity is needed. People’s lives are at stake in this, and as long as there is some compassion taken in these cases, and people are not held up as public ridicule, then I think it must be kept out in the open, and particulary among the musicians themselves, not behind closed doors, or sensationalism over the newspapers. One thing for sure is that there is a choice in life, and no one has to read anything on this blog if they don’t want to. There is a lot of other good things to read, some of which I don’t even get around to read. So in the end, we need to be kind with our words, particularly as professional musicians.

    1. Alexander says:

      I think you mean, “those in the classical music profession who have committed such offences”. An offender does not “succumb” to committing sexual offences. It is something that that person has chosen to do, deliberately, fully understanding it to be a criminal offence and a breach of professional trust. Sex offenders are typically clever, calculating, and manipulative. Their crimes are often planned and prepared for over a long period of time in order to maximise the likelihood of success and to minimise the likelihood of detection.

      Why should there be any compassion for anyone other than the victims? Confining ourselves to people who have been convicted, why should I feel any compassion towards somebody like Robert King or Michael Brewer? Why should they not face public humiliation upon their conviction for committing such awful crimes?

      1. Ian Pace says:

        Nothing is gained by revenge and public humiliation other than to reduce ourselves to a similar level to the offenders. The point is to make sure not only that those who commit these crimes do not simply get away with it, but also to reform musical culture from being a field of activity rife with predation, power play, bullying, abuse, humiliation, and so on.

        1. Alexander says:

          It all depends what you mean by revenge and public humiliation. I certainly don’t believe in hanging, flogging, and a pillory in the town square. I don’t want to see anyone’s head on a spike on London Bridge. However, I do believe in a certain amount of scattering the proud in the imagination of their hearts and putting down the mighty from their seat. Many sex offenders are people who enjoy the esteem of their peers and of society as a whole, people who hold positions of power, authority, and responsibility. It is often precisely that esteem and position which has allowed them to commit their crimes and to delay being brought to justice for them. Take the case of somebody who was not a professional musician, Freddie Emery-Wallis. He enjoyed a career in public life which lasted forty years, culminating in his serving as leader of Hampshire County Council and lord mayor of the City of Portsmouth. Upon his conviction for five counts of indecent assault he was deprived of the honour of Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire and of the office of HM Deputy Lieutenant for the County of Hampshire. To the degree to which that constitutes public humiliation, I am in favour of public humiliation, or, as I would call it, justice. What I am not in favour of are the dreadful scenes which we witnessed in Paulsgrove in 2000. I find those people almost as abhorrent as the paedophiles themselves.

      2. Ian Pace says:

        And I believe strongly in the importance of compassion, even for those who have done the worst things.

        1. Alexander says:

          Yes, I do believe in the importance of compassion too. I believe that even those who have committed the most appalling crimes are still entitled to be regarded with the degree of compassion commensurate with maintaining the dignity of the human person. I appreciate that being convicted of a sex offence must be a very difficult experience, especially where somebody has previously enjoyed a certain amount of prestige. I also understand that in many instances it is possible to see how somebody’s own life experiences and psychological deficiencies have contributed to their offending. However, I would not see compassion as a prerequisite for bringing sex offenders to justice. I am currently finding it very difficult indeed to muster any compassion whatsoever for Mike Brewer. He forced a child, a vulnerable child whom he knew through a position of professional responsibility, to perform oral sex on him, from when she was as young as 14. 34 years later that woman took her own life after having to give evidence against Brewer, who denied his crimes and smiled throughout his trial. Rather than admitting his guilt, accepting the sentence handed down, expressing remorse, and devoting the rest of his life to making atonement and reparation for his crimes, Brewer took his case to the Court of Appeal, claiming that six years imprisonment (of which he will serve only three) was an unduly harsh sentence. Sorry, but I am really struggling to feel compassion for him.

    2. V.Lind says:

      Please bear in mind that what we are talking about here is CHILD ABUSE. Ian Pace and Alexander nail it, above.

      1. Phillip says:

        Also please remember the ‘child’ in question was 18 in this case, and more often than not a teenager in other music school abuse cases – ie not a ‘child’ of 8. Obviously I’m being a ‘minimiser’ here (sarcasm intended), but I have to say I find it resoundingly stupid when an 18 year old, even a 16-year-old, is referred to as a child. The teacher has an ambiguous authority over her – attractive young women (a more realistic descriptor) wield no small power of their own – and the thing the court will have to decide is the extent to which he forced or coerced her via his professional influence, or the extent to which she is merely regretting a ‘sordid relationship’ (as she put it). If it’s the latter then it’s her problem. Let’s see what the court decides. They have as many facts as possible, which we do not.

  3. Maureen says:

    Malcolm Layfield et al are the tip of a bottomless iceberg. Sex between musicians and pupils has been going on for decades, and thousands of marriages have been broken / lives affected as a result.Any sexual activity with minors is, of course, abhorrent and criminal – regardless of the circumstances. Sexual activity with 18 – 23 year old students is another matter. The teacher / professor is of course at fault, especially if married / with children, but do not underestimate the power of a determined 18 year old with a crush. Being raped in the middle of the night is one thing – having consensual sex on a beach – followed by a 6 week sexual relationship is another.

    1. Phillip says:

      ‘do not underestimate the power of a determined 18 year old with a crush’. Understatement. Or a determined 16 year old even, or 15.. illegal though it may be to reciprocate it, it doesn’t mean such young people are without power or self-determination. This “unequal relationship” dogma is so ridiculous. Of course there’s OFTEN a power imbalance on account of teacher’s status, but to quantify or qualify that as the same in all circumstances with all personalities is ludicrous and shows no grasp of human nature. Personally, ‘powerful’ is often one of the least emotions I feel as a teacher, especially where the student is an attractive female of biologically developed age. I probably should not say that, but I’m human (and I can’t help feeling a lot of commenters on this topic are not.


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