Just in: Chetham’s to be sued by Malcolm Layfield’s accuser

Just in: Chetham’s to be sued by Malcolm Layfield’s accuser


norman lebrecht

June 09, 2015

The woman whose case for rape against the violin teacher Malcolm Layfield failed yesterday at Manchester Crown Court is taking legal action against Chetham’s School of Music, say her lawyers Slater & Gordon.

We have reported for a many years that certain English schools were negligent in their duty of care towards teenaged students who were preyed upon sexually by teachers and fellow-students.

That case now seems likely to be tested in court.

A tweet from Mail journalist Tom Rawsthorne says: Woman in Layfield case is now suing Chetham’s for failure to safeguard children, say her lawyers at Slater & Gordon.



  • anonpupil says:

    What a shame! In my opinion these matters are for the courts and for the culprits and not the school (or at least not the current school, with an entirely different leadership and standard of care for its pupils).

    I only hope the school’s extremely high levels of protection and safeguarding for its students today protects it against this suing and other kinds of attack, and therefore that the the school, its pupils and the future of the amazing things that go on there is protected. Wouldn’t it be awful if the side effect of all of this was that the current and future students missed out on the inspiring musical education currently on offer there….

    • Alexander says:

      You may not like this fact, but the law says that in 2015 Chetham’s is still responsible for what Chetham’s did in 1982 (or any other point in its history). It doesn’t matter if there isn’t a single person left in a governance or staff position from the 1980s. What matters is the continuity of its existence as an institution and the fact that that institution bears an enduring liability for its past actions. Try to look at this from the point of view of the complainant. If something happened to you now, but the effects of that event only became sufficiently apparent to you to bring about legal proceedings thirty or more years from now, and the event in respect of which you were bringing about legal proceedings was caused by an institution rather than an individual person, would you be satisfied that nobody was liable to provide a remedy for what had happened to you simply because no individual person connected with that institution today was still connected with that institution thirty years from now? The fact that Chetham’s today is a much better place than it was thirty years ago, and that it has more competent people in positions of responsibility, does not in any way diminish the fact that it is still responsible for liabilities in respect of institutional failures at an earlier point in its history. You may consider that fact to be inconvenient, but it is nonetheless a fact.

      • Edmund Coxon says:

        Exactly so!

      • anonpupil says:

        I am aware of that fact. Im simply questioning whether the potentially devastating consequences of suing chatham’s is what anyone really wants and also whether its the best solution to this problem.

        It all seems a little bizarre to me. People get very antsy about pupils and others defending the good work of the school and it seems to me to be in large part a matter of ignorance and jumping on the bandwagon. I realise its complicated but it does strike me that people do not want to see the good and would much rather believe that awful things are still happening. Any suggestion to the contrary (praise of the school) is immediately put down as disrespectful or naive. Some have questionable motives I think for being involved in the first place, but I don’t know anything for sure, so I won’t say more than that.

        • Alexander says:

          The law, fortunately, is not required to weigh the interests of individuals who have suffered harm against those of large organisations which have caused harm. In Canada, for example, an entire diocese of the Anglican Church of Canada, the Diocese of Cariboo, had to be shut down due to the cost of paying out damages to native Canadians who had suffered all kinds of abuses at St George’s Indian Residential School. This was no doubt rather bad news for practising Anglicans in the Central Interior region of British Columbia. For the native Canadians, on the other hand, it was an unintended consequence of their receiving a remedy for the harm they had suffered. Think what a terrible injustice it would have been if those native Canadians had been denied that remedy because the law found that the shutting down of the Diocese of Cariboo was too high a price to pay for justice to be done.

          I couldn’t possibly know what is in the minds of the people who are considering suing Chetham’s, but I suspect that they understand that the school is now a much better place and that they are not hoping for it to suffer any devastating consequences. I imagine that the sums of money that will be involved will be relatively small compared against the tens of millions of pounds which Chetham’s has in assets and investments, and I would also assume that the school must be insured against the possibility of liability for damages of whatever kind. This woman claims that she has suffered harm and that Chetham’s is responsible for that harm. She is entitled to seek a remedy for that harm. The provision of facilities to current and future students of Chetham’s is not more important than remedying the harm done to former students.

    • Anon says:

      Could there be a correlation between the suffering & bravery of these women who are prepared to come forward, to fight to be rid of these abusers, and the safety of the current crop of daughters?

      One wonders if parents of the present or future should ever come face to face with these women, that the correct attitude might best be summed up in the words “Tosh” or “Thank You”.

  • Someone says:

    its may have changed now, but when I was there I remember the teachers being cruel, especially those in a higher position. Don’t send your children there. They need to decide for themselves what profession they want to undertake, at an age that is right, after having a normal childhood. Not put in such a high pressure environment at a critical point in their development.

    • Phillip says:

      An unbelievably harsh environment, even without sexual molestation.

    • Model V says:

      Tosh. It’s a brilliant school now. My daughter has recently completed 8 very happy years there, and the opportunities afforded would have been simply impossible anywhere else. The same goes for her friends. As a parent I recommend the school without hesitation.

      • Phillip says:

        ‘the opportunities afforded would have been simply impossible anywhere else’. I bet.

      • Francis says:

        And as a 6th form student from 2007 – 09 I can attest that the same abysmal care for students is still very much alive at Chetham’s.

        A thug trombonist ran my year – his mother was on the board of a local music authority funneling government money for students at Chet’s, thus making him untouchable. This boy was able to break other students noses, he threw cups of tea at (not just over) an autistic girl in the canteen, and punched me in the face in front of my professor and got away with it! The Composition professor in question (father of a former young musician of the year) was too busy on the telephone managing his daughters career to intervene and stop the violence in our classroom. In our meeting with the principal he denied it ever happened.

        Claire Hickman denied the incident could ever have occurred in her school, and told me to leave. She belittled me, called me a liar, and I was obviously just a fly in her ointment. This school didn’t care a cent about the students, and though it is very sad that a music institution for young people (of which there are so few left in Britain) is going down the drain, in this case, the hierarchy within this school should be torn down from the top, and down the drain they must go!

        I would never send my child to this place – it must have been hell in the ’80s, as 30 years on it was no better.

        • Alexander says:

          Indeed, people do not always see everything that is going on. For example, I am aware of at least two children who were being sexually abused at an institution with which I was formerly connected. The parents of one of those children became aware of what was happening at the time. However, I am going to make the bold guess that, since no children were withdrawn by their parents as a result of these events, none of the other parents can have known what was happening. While Model V’s daughter has apparently had a good time at Chetham’s, I do not know how Model V could possibly know about the experiences of every other child at the school. Many children, in fact, are very adept at appearing to be happy despite abuses taking place.

  • Step Parikian says:

    I suspect that the Crown Prosecution Service were the prosecution, and not an individual as the opening sentence implies.

  • Phillip says:

    Seems unfair to sue an institution for what it’s staff did (or omitted to do) 30 years ago. It also seems unfair the woman is not compensated in some way, or had her exploitation officially recognized, aside from being able to merely ‘air it’ in a law court. It’s also not good to conflate the issue of seduction and sex (no matter how ‘sordid’) with rape. Tawdry business, and the classical music world is exasperatingly recalcitrant. For sure she was not looked after in the way she and her parents would be entitled to expect, but the people to answer for this are the individuals in authority at the time who refused to help. So what if Chethams is sued, those individuals (if still alive) get to continue scot-free?

    • Ray Richardson says:

      Why did you not bother to read what had already been written instead of repeating much of it and adding little else?

      • Phillip says:

        I’m expressing what I think of it, regardless of if others have said similar. That ok? What are YOUR marvellous, original thoughts?

        • Ray Richardson says:

          Then you should have made clear in what you wrote that you were agreeing with those who’d already said it.The points that you regurgitated had also all been well responded to by follow-up comments to which you made absolutely no reference and to which you still make no reference. If you’d wanted to reinforce what had been said earlier then why not have said so and thereby have made a perfectly valid comment, instead of which, by simply trotting out the same stuff again, you gave the impression that you’d just thought of it from having only read the title at the top of the thread.

          • anonpupil says:

            exactly what Im getting at. People can be so unnecessarily and ignorantly negative…

  • Gwen says:

    Good on this brave person for persevering. It’s about time Chetham’s was called to account. Those above who claim that Chetham’s is a totally different place with different staff and management are wrong. There are at least two people on the board who were responsible for employing Layfield in the senior position at RNCM despite protestations from other staff and ex pupils he had exploited and despite him admitting that he had sexually exploited pupils. I too would deter people from sending their children there as an ex pupil and observer of the shocking behaviour of the management in recent times. Although it might he best for the complainant and good luck to her, in a way I hope it doesn’t get settled out of court, just so the amoral dinosours who run the place can’t escape scrutiny and have to ‘face the music’. Sick of their disrespect for victims and total denial of the situation. Sick of their spin. One of the next teachers to be prosecuted was a current teacher. Those who had a good time or don’t want to admit otherwise for reasons of career or denial should respect those that didn’t have a good time and are prepared to say so. They should care about the damage their precious school has done and could still do, but maybe that’s the kind of ruthless and selfish individual that the school aims to produce. There are other things in life apart from winning classical music gongs…health, welfare, quality of life, you know, stuff like that.

  • Gwen says:

    ‘Anon pupil’ sounds more like one of the management or their friends … or the school’s PR person. Yes they do have one. Same old spiel. Then again, they seemed to have brainwashed a few current pupils to start wading in to debates on here not so long back and let it be known that they were pleased about it on social media, so they have cultivated a certain ‘in crowd’ who are convinced they and their school are under seige through no fault of the management. There are plenty of others who are not happy there, but they have to keep their cards close to their chests.

  • julian gregory says:

    I was there from 1970-1978. There are two sides to every story, and mine is this: I have a wonderfully enjoyable and rewarding career in music, which I would not have had without Chets. I went as a working-class scholarship-funded student. What an amazing break. The abuse that we are told occurred is inexcusable, but the concept of inspiring and nurturing talent is greater than that. By all means attack the rotten individuals but don’t blame the school. I believe that it’s more than they are.

    • Anon says:

      I notice in all the comments in defence of ‘the school’ that there appears to be no mention of defence for the women who were actually attacked. I guess it’s easier to care for a corporate entity than a human being.

      • Gwen says:

        ‘The school’ has been and is peopled by individuals who in turn have created and guarded a brutal, amoral, uncaring cu!ture where abuse and bullying have been tolerated if not encouraged and welfare and well-being have been non- issues. If everyone was so concerned about ‘the school’ they would be resigning / calling for a change of personnel, particularly management, and especially given the highly shady past of certain board members. There is a need for a real culture change in order to keep pupils safe. Moreland has finally thrown in the towel, with shameful delay in my opinion and accompanied by shameless spin to the bitter end. If those responsible for the school care so much about preserving it, where are all the other resignations? If the rats would leave the sinking ship it might just stop sinking but they are actually so self- serving and arrogant they would rather drag the ship down with them than acknowledge the scale of their failure and do the decent thing. Still I suppose if more of those individuals involved with the school were willing or able to do the decent thing we wouldn’t be in this message in the first place.