Chetham’s accused: ‘Shameful’, but not rapist

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

He admitted having relationships in the 1980s with students, one as young as 17, and agreed they were highly inappropriate. Asked why, he said: ‘Because the student-teacher relationship should not cross that area, and looking back I feel remorseful and very regretful about them.’

Earlier, the pianist Martin Roscoe, former head of keyboards at the Royal Northern College of Music, testified for the prosecution. Read Helen Pidd’s courtroom report here.

malcolm layfield

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  • Oh come on!!! The accuser had an ongoing relationship after the “alleged” rape then blamed him for her inability to get professional work. I’m astonished this case went to court. Had the experience been so awful then it might have been have reported to the police at the time. [redacted]

    • What makes you think that somebody who experiences something awful will be likely to report it to the police immediately? I’m not talking specifically about Malcolm Layfield here, because all that I know about the case is what has been reported in The Guardian, but in general it is far from uncommon for victims of sexual offences to report the offences a long time after they have occurred. This typically happens when the offence is committed by somebody who enjoys a position of trust, such as a family member, family friend, or teacher, or by a person who is held in particular esteem. This happens for a number of reasons. One reason is that the victim is often very confused about the abusive nature of the offence, especially where grooming has occurred and/or where the perpetrator and victim already have a close emotional relationship. Where the perpetrator is a person whom the victim holds in esteem it can be hard to believe that that person’s actions can have been abusive. Another important reason is that victims often feel that they have been complicit in the offence taking place. They will often feel that they were at fault for failing to prevent the abuse from taking place and/or failing to stop the progress of the abuse at an earlier stage. One of the most difficult aspects, both for victims and for wider society, is the fact that there is sometimes, perhaps often, a degree of purely physiological enjoyment involved in the abuse, depending, of course, on the exact nature of what has taken place. This imposes on the victim a heavy burden of shame and feeling of complicity. Finally, especially where the perpetrator holds a position of authority and influence, both within society and over the victim’s future life, the victim will often feel intimidated by that person, feeling that it will be impossible to see him (or her) brought to justice and/or that he (or she) will be able to withdraw advantages or impose disadvantages upon the victim in the event of the accusation being made. For these reasons, and probably more besides, I think that you should reconsider your position.

    • A brief PS to my earlier reply: It is actually very unfair to equate the academic sort of intellectual development necessary to read a musical score with the more complex, emotional development necessary to understand sexual relationships, especially where a position of trust is involved (setting aside the question of consent until a verdict is known). It’s not uncommon for people in positions of trust to specifically take advantage of a younger person’s precocious intellectual development as part of the grooming process. If we are going to continue with your trajectory then we should perhaps have to consider setting the threshold for understanding the emotional aspects of a sexual relationship against a series of intellectual accomplishments. A child of 14 may well have read War and Peace or mastered the subjunctive mood in Latin, but that does not mean that he or she is capable of understanding sexual relationships.

  • Sorry Angela – I couldn’t disagree more. A teacher is in a privileged position of trust that, by its very nature, often involves awe and even hero worship. The onus has to be on the teacher and not the pupil to ensure the relationship remains appropriate.

  • I agree entirely with the comments by Step Parikian and Alexander. It’s entirely logical that a victim would not report this until a long time after. This is entirely normal for abuse cases and we have seen case after case of these historic abuses end up in court. 17 is still very young to be able to judge what is and isn’t appropriate and to do that “soul-searching” Angela calls for. Moreover, even if it could have been reported earlier, that doesn’t make it any less an alleged offence and that is what the jury will decide on the basis of the evidence.

  • In some jurisdictions it is not illegal to have sex with anyone over 16. (Rape knows no age limits). Because of the student-teacher roles ere, the relationships described are indeed inappropriate, and there ought to be some decreed punishment for such violations of trust. But there was not necessarily rape, which carries, apart from other sentences, a lifelong identification as a sex offender that may not be warranted.

    It sounds as if there is a bit of a revenge motif here. Question is — revenge for what? For the rape that has been alleged? Or for lack of career advancement?

  • Thank you for the comments. I still stand by my original remarks because at 18 many women know exactly what they are about. I certainly did.

  • I strongly believe we should not discuss anything specific to this case here. All that is worth pointing out, which is purely a legal matter, is that the 2003 UK Sexual Offences Act brought in provisions to deal with the situation involving someone aged 16 or 17 where sexual acts have been committed by someone in a position of trust with respect to them. This is detailed here.

    http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/42/part/1/crossheading/abuse-of-position-of-trust
    http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/s_to_u/sentencing_manual/s16_abuse_of_a_position_of_trust_sexual_activity_with_a_child/

    The age of consent more generally is 16 – at that age a child is considered sufficiently mature to be able to consent to sexual activity.

    • Absolutely agree, Ian. The comments that have been made on this site are in no sense related, or intended to relate, to the detail and outcome of the present trial, rather to the general issue of illicit relations between teachers and students. Commenters, please respect the rules of sub judice.

      • Certainly I can confirm that my comments were intended to be general and to be related to the current trial only insofar as they were made in response to another comment which did relate directly to that trial.

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