Breaking: Former LSO chorus chief admits two child offences

Breaking: Former LSO chorus chief admits two child offences


norman lebrecht

June 18, 2015

Joseph Cullen, a former director of the London Symphony Orchestra Chorus, pleaded guilty today to offences against two boys, one aged eight and the other eleven.

On trial at the High Court in Glasgow today, Cullen, 55, was warned that he faces jail. He was granted bail.

The offences took place between 1976 and 1982. They came to light when a victim went to the police in 2013. Cullen was then suspended as chorusmaster of the Huddersfield Choral Society.

Court report here.

joseph cullen


  • Aloysius Loyola Gonzaga Xavier Ogilvie says:

    I can’t say that I’m surprised. I was at school with this guy and everyone in our class regarded him as dodgy from the first day of first year. A former schoolmate asked me today if I’d heard the news about Joe Cullen and, although I hadn’t given the fellow a moment’s thought in thirty five years, my first guess was that he’d been done for a sexual offence.
    The question has to be asked how people like him can be placed in positions of authority with children for decades at a time without arousing any suspicions. Being able to tinkle the ivories or knock out a tune on a fiddle should not blind employers to personality defects which, frankly, were never difficult to spot when I knew him.

  • AMDG Gonzaga says:

    What I take from this back-stabbing tirade is that people of a certain disposition walk about with their proclivities tattooed on their foreheads. And woe betide anyone with the folly to employ such a person. I am by no means an apologist for the proclivities in question. Far from it. But spotting them from someone’s external appearance or demeanour…? I too was in the same year at school as Joe and my abiding memory is of a modest guy with a dry sense of humour. Nothing remarkable there. What set him apart from absolutely everyone in his year was a towering musical talent verging on prodigious. That makes this all the more a tragedy for everyone caught up in it. Deeply, deeply sad for the (now adult) abuse survivors and for Joe.

  • v says:

    You obviously were jealous of Joseph when you were at school and now take pleasure in his downfall decades after a couple of misguided misdemeanors while still not much more than a child himself. I do not condone JC’s reported actions all those years ago, nor do I seek to trivialise the effect on the two boys, but he is not sinister man, we all know how journalists will use language to sensationalise and I have known him longer than you did. My experience of him is as a fine, upstanding man and a brilliant musician with a lovely wife and children who at this present time are all suffering terribly and will do for the forseeable future. Leave the judgement to the court, please and cease your stupid, petty comments. There is enough pain already without you adding to it

    • Papa B. XVI says:

      In reply to all that I have unfortunately read above, but in particular to comments between ‘V’ and ‘J’, I wish to put some context into this exchange as one who knows the ‘actual detail’ of this case and has also been deeply personally affected by it.

      Whilst I wish to remain anonymous, I will disclose that I also had involvement in this case in that I too was abused by Cullen. It is with great sadness that ‘V’ described his actions as “a couple of misguided misdemeanors”. His crimes, regardless of when they occurred (i.e. in his young adulthood), were of a very serious nature – we are talking about serious sexual abuse here, some of which is of the most depraved kind – trust me, I know!

      With regards to the two offenses to which he has now pleaded guilty from between 1976-1982, these were particularly horrific in detail. However, it was not just between 1976-1982 that Cullen was abusing young, vulnerable children (boys). The abuse I suffered occurred in 1987. When he started abusing boys, Cullen may have himself been approx. only 16 years old, which again was disappointingly described by ‘V’ as, “still not much more than a child himself”, as if to make an excuse for his behaviour. His abuse of minors lasted a period of at least 11 years, which in my situation made him 27 years old. Therefore, for ‘J’ to assume that “it doesn’t seem his harmful behaviour continued outside his early 20’s”, is very unfortunate and very wrong.

      It is often true that those who sexually abuse children continue to do so on a number of occasions for a number of years. This case confirmed this fact. Even after a period of 5 years since 1982, Cullen was still abusing, whilst getting presumably older and wiser. That is to say nothing (as yet) to what may have happened after 1987. Again, sadly I would not be at all surprised were other instances of abuse by Cullen come to light in subsequent years since he had a history of working with children, particularly in school settings. I do hope I am wrong.

      ‘J’ is, however correct in stating that , “Most teenagers and people in their early-mid 20’s, show zero sexual interest in children of 8 – 11 years of age.”, which would certainly be the norm. At aged 27, and certainly well before, Cullen should/would have known his actions were very wrong.

      The intimate details of this case found that Cullen’s modus operandi was consistent across all three incidences to which he has now admitted – yes, three, as he was actually previously convicted in England (in 1997), for the abuse I unfortunately suffered under him. The reason why Cullen pled guilty to the charges on June 17 2015, was firstly because the evidence against him was overwhelming, and secondly and quite stupidly, he had not told his defense counsel about his prior conviction in England, which put a whole new/different complexion on the case and its evidence.

      I should like to remind all reading these posts that sexual abuse simply cannot and must not be tolerated or condoned in any way, shape or form, which is sadly not a sentiment that I find/read from some of the comments in these dispatches.

      My own involvement in this case (and previously in 1997), was not to see Cullen ‘punished’ for his grave crimes. Rather, it was as a survivor of sexual abuse to help others have the courage to come forward and say what had happened to them – something which never should have occurred – to assist them to move forward in their lives and to allow them to seek healing, in whatever way they can, for the devastating trauma they faced as children and the on-going affects the abuse suffered continues to have at many different times in their lives.

      I also came forward myself as I wanted (and still want) to ensure the protection of other children and vulnerable people who in the future may/could have potentially come into contact with Cullen. When I reported Cullen to the police in the mid ’90’s, I wanted to ensure he didn’t have contact with ‘boys’. This was particularly important at this time since he was in a very prominent position as Organist and Assistant Director of Music for the Diocese of Westminster, with daily access to the Cathedral’s (male/boy) choristers.

      Sadly, the way authorities handled cases of this nature, even in what seems the relative modernity of 1997, is a far cry from how things are correctly handled now – seeing crimes of sexual abuse in the most serious way that they should. Despite being assured then that Cullen had been placed on the sex offenders register, it seems that the ‘checks’ that ought to have been in place, were not. It is little wonder he was able to quietly resign from his lofty position at Westminster Cathedral soon after his charge and conviction in 1997.

      In terms of what happens to Cullen now, (or on Thursday, July 23 2015 when he is to be sentenced by Lord Turnbull at Glasgow’s High Court), I do not have any particular feeling on this. All I would say is that the situation Cullen finds himself in is all of his own making and for his grave crimes, he should expect to be punished, in whatever way the court sees fit, to the full extend of the law. Whatever that may be is not for me or others to say/decide – only Lord Turnbull.

      I hope and pray that whatever happens in the future, all those victims affected, and even Cullen and his family, can heal; that we all become more vigilant and protective of our children and young people; that we all become more understanding of the immense pain and suffering that abuse causes for the victims. I pray too, that all involved will seek and/or show true forgiveness for the evil that has taken place.

      + Our Lady of Sorrows, ora pro nobis.+

      • V says:

        I am deeply, deeply saddened by what you have written here, Papa B. XVI and I am so sorry that your experience of Joseph has been so terribly different from mine and that of my three sons to whom he has shown nothing but great kindness and support for their personal and musical development. I have never had a moment’s concern or suspicion in over three decades.

        • Papa B. XVI says:

          ‘V’, I am deeply, deeply saddened that you seem to have a sense of undying loyalty to your ‘friend’, Cullen, who is a serial sexual abuser. This is someone, who the court heard today, sodomized an eight year old boy among other things. Perhaps you should check with your sons again that they were never ‘prey to his penchant’ – boys!

      • Anha says:

        If this is true (and I don’t mean to suggest it is not) then the twelve month sentence Joseph has been given seems unbelievably short. Even if appealed he will only serve six months. Surely if the court are aware of an additional conviction they would bear this in mind. Is there any record or reference to his 1997 conviction in the public domain? Surely there must be…..sentence seems very very short.

        • Papa B. XVI says:


          I was at the sentencing today and many of the Advocates and others who were looking on closely all seemed dumbfounded at the apparent leniency of the jail term imposed. I for one will be having further discussions with the Advocate Depute and Procurator Fiscal encouraging them to appeal the ‘undue leniency’ of this sentence. Cullen’s own counsel described in the minutes prior to sentencing how that his client expected to receive a significant custodial sentence – 12 months – out in 6…….hardly significant.

          At one point the Judge, Lord Turnbull, seemed to be suggesting the some of the crimes would not have involved a custodial sentence and that his place in society seemed to stand him in good stead. It was truly unbelievable what I was hearing. Lord Turnbull concluded that he had to impose a custodial sentence due to the most serious of his crimes, that of sodomy against an 8 year old! Seriously, for sodomizing an 8 year old this country only gives 12 months!???

          Sadly this didn’t truly reflect the crimes not did it seem just in comparison for what all the abused suffered and continue to suffer because of Cullen.

          • AMDG Gonzaga says:

            I too am startled at the leniency of the sentence. I initially engaged with this discussion only to set the record straight over some obvious stereotyping of a kid (in fact, the offender, Cullen) based on perceptions that at school he was ‘unusual’ or ‘different’ – in this context, unusually musically gifted and to that extent ‘different’ in a positive way. Lots of kids at school get a hard time for being perceived as ‘different’ and it can be manifested in overt bullying; and that is wrong. But the wrongdoing here is of a very different order judging by the disclosures of the last few days. These revelations bring a whole new dimension to the matters under discussion – pointing to a course of behaviour pursued well into adulthood and possibly repeated beyond the three cases specifically commented on here (which may be the tip of the iceberg). I genuinely, sincerely hope I am wrong.

  • J says:

    Although I do feel incredibly sorry for the people in question, including Mr Cullen and his family, I really don’t think one should trivialise in the way you just did V. Most teenagers and people in their early-mid 20’s, show zero sexual interest in children of 8 – 11 years of age. His actions are by no means the “norm”. Regardless of the actual details of his behaviour, the fact that it was court worthy, means his actions were significant enough to warrant punishment.

    Mr Cullen’s youth at the time, is no defence of his undeniably deviant behaviour at that point in his life, which has had long lasting harmful effects on both of the victims of these offences.

    It is saddening that these two men have suffered so heavily and it is also saddening that Joseph and his family will now equally go through suffering of their own.

    I would say that I’m not sure what good is going to come from this in the long term, as it doesn’t seem that Mr Cullen’s harmful behaviour continued outside of his early 20’s; so the question of “what is their to reform?” seems valid and are we just subjecting more innocent people to distress? (Mr Cullen’s family), but then this argument can be made for most historical abuse cases.

    Ultimately the victims have a right to justice, but all in all it’s just very sad for everyone involved. Again I do think we all need to accept that the fault lies squarely with Mr Cullen though and not minimise or normalise that behaviour, in such an objectionable manner.

    I hasten to say I do not agree with Aloysius either; We are not aware of what Mr Cullen actually did, nor is it our business, but to say a child is “dodgy”, is a deeply worrying stance to take. It’s bullying like that, that forces many children who have struggled with defining who or what they are sexually, into trying to deal with it privately and not seeking guidance from those who care about them, which can lead to events such as these and expressions of ones self in unhealthy and damaging ways.

    I think undeniably Mr Cullen has had some private demons to face and overcome, in regards to his sexuality and tendencies, but that frankly is none of our business and ultimately you just sound like you and your friends were bullies, who may well have compounded a problem, rather than helping.

    In my personal opinion, I think society would be better served with sending Mr Cullen to an experienced Psychiatrist, dealing with sexual identity and orientation issues; to insure he’s integrated who he is into a healthy self image and is no longer a danger; as a prison sentence seems needlessly damaging to all involved, without actually helping the victims of the offence in anyway.

    • V says:

      J – I am afraid that you failed to read my post thoroughly – you should note that I clearly stated my wish was not to trivialise. However I, like you, do question the validity of a prison sentence which serves no useful purpose, particularly when the accused appears not to have re – offended for over 30 years. It would seem that he has reformed himself with his lifestyle choices and we also have to bear in mind that we would be naive to believe that everything we read in the press is wholely and factually true.

      • J says:

        Except V you clearly use terms like “not much more than a child himself”, “all those years ago” & “journalists… …sensationalise”. Saying one isn’t minimising or trivialising and yet using language that clearly minimises and trivialises; isn’t really consistent.

        This isn’t an attack on you, but its pointing out that just because you say “I don’t mean to trivialise..” doesn’t mean that you aren’t.

        One should ask themselves if confronted by the two affected gents, who then told you face to face what happened to them, would you respond with the same terms to them? If the answer is no, as I believe it would be, then you shouldn’t be saying it here either.

        I’m aware this is your friend and to be honest the whole story is very sad, you also show a great deal of character for sticking by your friend; especially as he and his family will clearly need friendship and support to get through this.

        I’m not judging Mr Cullen personally, its not my place, I just took exception to the language you used, as the victim here are those two men, not Mr Cullen. Saying that I take much greater exception to the original poster and his endorsement of bullying.

        I would argue that I very much doubt Mr Cullen is a predator or a danger. Having worked in Psych circles, it’s much more likely that he was confused about his orientation earlier in life and was opportunistic in expressing it, while trying to repress working through his attractions. It’s something that’s seen fairly regularly in older generations, due to societal norms being what they were at the time. A shame indeed that he didn’t get the support he needed in his childhood and certainly not helped by people such as Aloysius; however even with that, I can have sympathy for the man but his actions were still utterly reprehensible.

    • Papa B. XVI says:

      Hi J,

      I wouldn’t bother replying to ‘V’ any further…….because it is unlikely that he’ll be replying to you anytime soon – on closer analysis, I strongly suspect that ‘V’ is in fact Cullen himself…..on fastest information, I don’t think prisoners gain access to the web!! Only time will tell if I’m correct.

  • V says:

    I am afraid, J, that you are very determined to “over interpret” what I have written which is consequently distorting what I had to say. Please do not attempt to use your psycho-analytical experience on me – it does you no credit when we have not even met.

    • J says:

      V I’m not psycho-analysing you. I’m interpreting the English you used in the way the English language dictates it should be.

      This is not trying to work out your mental state, it’s purely saying the words you use, in the way you use them, are dismissive.

      Anyway that aside, it seems your friend received a 12 month sentence, which will probably be 6 months of actual jail time. He will also probably be in a min security prison on the sex offenders wing, which means he should be fine, but my thoughts are with his family, him and the two victims, over this time. As it wont be easy on anyone.

  • AMDG Gonzaga says:

    A couple of things come to mind on reading these more recent posts. The first is that the idea that Joe was regarded as ‘dodgy’ while at school is not only false but appears to be the product of a cynical, and historically revisionist, adult imagination. Also, I was not aware of any overt bullying (of Joe) going on at the time. For me, as a pupil in the same year, the talk was more about Joe’s extraordinary musical ability than about anything ‘dodgy’ – for example, I seem to recall that in a single year he attained ABRSM grade 8 distinctions in three (!) instruments: piano, organ and violin. I concede that that may have been an achievement whose ‘dodginess’ went soaring right over my naïve head. I and other pupils viewed this in more conventional terms – i.e. as a monumental achievement for a 16-year old. My other point arising from recent posts is that there is much sense in the idea that the (relative) age proximity of offender and victim and the (relative) youth and (sexual) immaturity of the offender may be factors to be taken into consideration in deciding upon the culpability of an offender in cases of this nature. The CPS has issued guidance on precisely these (and other) points in connection with roughly comparable offences committed in E&W. See:

    Now whilst this guidance is not directly applicable under Scots law I would be surprised if the same broad principles or same approach weren’t at least ‘persuasive’ to a judge sitting in a court in Scotland.

  • Yet another conductor says:

    Let’s wait and c how many silent victims come forward now they know conviction is attainable and possible …hope the beast is enjoying barlinnie food…. no doubt the wolves will b scratching his door … he is a despicable paedophile.

  • Yet another conductor says:

    V is a dodgy despicable sub human… misguided misdemeanours. .. shocking… sodomy of 8yr old…with comments like that maybe u should b under investigation. .. more victims will find the courage now and hopefully idiots like u will shut up with yr intellectual bullshit. Would u let cullen babysit an 8yr old relative?

  • Furtive musician says:

    It concerns me greatly that someone is making statements about previous convictions from the 1990s on here without stating clearly the details. Without further information this seems to be unnecessary, inflammatory and harmful. If you are going to make accusations like this please provide further information so that people are properly informed.

    • Papa B. XVI says:

      For ‘FURTIVE MUSICIANS’…I am not.. “making statements about previous convictions from the 1990s without stating clearly the details”. If you care to read my post above from July 21, 2015 at 10:41 pm………not “unnecessary, inflammatory and harmful….accusations.”, but you will find clearly laid out details of FACT. Cullen is a predatory sexual abuser of children, sodomite and masterful manipulator.

      • Papa B. XVI says:

        Cullen’s abuse of me, you will find, will actually be a matter of public record…….he was charged and convicted in 1997 by the Metropolitan Police whist he lived in London. Do your own research and you will find the ‘proof’ you are looking for…I am sure they have some database or something. Due to the cross-border nature of his crimes, the different judicial systems in England and Scotland and the way such crimes were dealt with (not well) back in 1997, he managed then to stay under the radar.

        During the recent case, had it gone to trail, I was prepared to go to court and be an evidencial witness to his behaviour. I was contacted by Police Scotland in April of this year when they had realised his previous offense in England. He was indited with a third count against me in this recent case, (solely to allow me to be this evidencial witness, but knowing that he could not be convicted of this in Scotland due to it being abuse that occured in England). It was only after this third indictment that Cullen pleaded guilty at the pre-trial on June 17 – He had not even told his own lawyers about his previous arrest and conviction in England until a week before the pre-trail….(again, all the pre-trail notes to this case are a matter of public record! – why don’t you search the Scottish Courts website).

        … do I know all this???…..because I was personally involved and have spend the past 4 months or so reliving the sadness and pain of the past having recently realised he abused others too. I, like so many, thought my situation was just a ‘one-off’, which Cullen at the time convinced me it had been. I have had various meetings with the Procurator Fiscal’s Office in Glasgow, the Crown office and Advocate Deputes who worked tirelessly to present undisputable evidence against Cullen, who lead to him ultimately admitting his crime and it didn’t have to go to full trial, something that none of us victims wanted.

        Please do your research and you will find the truth as described……if I were making this up, I’d be a novelist and a very rich person! Please don’t become another apologist like ‘V’!

        • Hacomblen says:

          Having worked in similar circles to Joseph Cullen in the recent past I have heard much speculation and general talk about this case. From this, I *believe* that the 1997 incident led to a caution rather than a conviction, hence it slipping under the radar at the time and later. This information may be incorrect, and is in no way meant as an apology for this behaviour.

          • Papa B. XVI says:

            Hi Hacomblen,

            Thank you for your short post, which helped me seek some clarity of late on the outcome of my interviews to the Metropolitan Police back in 1997. As you may have seen in my response to Guard, I had been misled by the Met on what his Caution meant. If I knew then what I knew now, I may have gone to court. Best wishes.

  • Guard says:

    Papa, you are a fantasist. It is clear from your explanation and rationale that you are simply trying to cling on to an idea, not represent the truth. The sentencing statement is clear that the judge is definitely not aware of an other crime (not that he simply is unable to mention it). If you genuinely claim this the please share the date of conviction, location, and charge. THERE is NO RECORD, I have checked. Your behaviour is an insult to genuine victims.

    • Papa B. XVI says:


      Regarding your previous post calling me a fantasist and saying I am a disgrace to genuine victims of abuse….

      ….well as Hacomblen currently surmised and I have only recently discovered, C’s offences against myself (the 1997 incident – which was in fact a late 1980’s incident, only finally investigated by the Met in London in 1997), led to a caution rather than a conviction. At the time, (then in my early 20’s), I was told by the Metropolitan Police that he had been cautioned and, as a result would have a criminal record relating to this. This seemed suffice for me at that time as I was suffering greatly from PTSD and being in a court room was the last thing I wanted.

      It was only during the investigations in 2015 by Police Scotland, which once again brought about my own involvement in these other cases, that I found out from them that a caution was NOT a conviction and therefore he didn’t have a record. Therefore, clearly I had been lied to in the late 1990’s by the Met, which gave me even more reason to ensure that he didn’t get away with these other, very much more serious instances of sexual abuse. Hence this explains why Cullen slipped under the radar at the time and later.

      Even in what seems the ‘modernity of understanding’ of sexual abuse in the late 1990’s, compared to how these crimes are dealt with today, they were still very much poorly dealt with. A culture of sweeping things under the carpet (esp. within the Catholic church) still existed.

      C’s caution in 1997 directly led to him leaving his post at Westminster Cathedral (probably being allowed to do so quietly to spare the church the scandal), after Cardinal Winning, the then Archbishop of Glasgow spoke to Cardinal Hume, Archbishop of Westminster on my behalf about what had happened to me.

      So a fantasist and disgrace I most certainly am not. The sentencing statement does nothing of the sort in claiming that the judge was definitely not aware of any other crimes. Perhaps your investigative trolls can stretch to verifying that Cullen was cautioned for his sexual misbehaviour of a minor back in 1997. Also, if you are so inclined, feel free to contact the Procurator Fiscal in Glasgow about the involvement of a third party (me) who was to be called as an evidential witness had it gone to trial. I rest my case…..and so should you!

  • Guard says:

    You claim he was convicted in 1997 but also indicted on the same charge this time around. Not possible. Please either check your details or correct them. What you suggest woul illegal and impossible.

  • Comments says:

    Papa. The pre trial notes are not publicly available as you suggest. Please could you direct us to further information referencing the third indictment as the sentencing statement is very clear that there are only three, and that no further charges are of knowledge to the judge. This seems to be an terrible miscarriage if justice and disservice to your suffering if this is the case.

  • J says:

    Not to be a spoil sport here, but surely regardless of what Papa says (I’m not getting into a debate here about if it’s accurate or not) the judgement notes on this case are public and it clearly references buggery of a 10 year old boy, by Joseph when he was 20.

    Surely that in and of itself are bad enough for us all to agree that a sentence of 12 months was beyond lenient.

    I’m a bit at a loss as to the defence that people like V and others are now putting forward. Surely avoiding persecution, not owning up to ones culpability at the time, hiding ones actions and causing untold damage to these boys is actually enough to warrant further punishment, not mitigate the punishment he should have now?

    Honestly I’m utterly flabbergasted and sickened by some of the views expressed here.

    • Anha says:

      I think what people are saying here is that Papa is citing offences of which there are no record and at the same time claiming they are in the public domain. This is inflammatory and also potentially open to charges of defamation. I haven’t seen anyone defending Joseph since the news this week, and in fact condemnation is clear. Being sickened by people asking for evidence of the fact of these claims is rational and reasonable, not sickening.

      • J says:

        Read V’s comments and check the time stamp.

        As for the rest of your post, I agree people have a right to ask for proof etc… And that in itself isn’t a fault, my post was more aimed at V’s continued posting.

        I would also suggest however that even if we take the alleged 1997 offences out of the debate, we do have documented proof of buggery of a 10 year old. So ultimately the crux of the issue here is that Mr Cullen seems to have gotten off very lightly with an incredibly serious offence. Surely we can all agree on that?

  • ONCE ABUSED says:

    X must have been at it for years. In about 1985-86 he was a teacher at my all boys Catholic boarding school in Hertfordshire. I was one of his victims, although I escaped with only minor fiddling and inappropriate behaviour (for a teacher / choirmaster). He often invited several of us boys to his room, took us swimming and was always hanging about the changing rooms, a few of us were treated to private visits in his room, etc. etc… I have often thought about X over the years and even with my minor abuse / lucky escape I’ve been left with ‘issues’ that I feel I can pin on his behaviour. I believe the liklihood is that there have been far more victims than those for whom X was convicted; the sentence is way too lenient.

    • M says:

      Why don’t you report what he did to you. There may be others too! Given his conviction, as disgustingly lenient as it is, surely it would be investigated.

  • Granville says:

    Are these blogs posted online (or are they actually a blog or just personal letters)?