Slipped Disc editorial
The former Chetham’s violin and head of strings at Royal Northern College of Music was cleared within 90 minutes by a jury of the single charge on which he was tried; the alleged rape of an 18 year-old female student some 30 years ago. Layfield, 63, is under British justice, cleared of all stigma and is free to resume his career.
But the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse at English music schools has not gone away.
In court, under oath, Layfield admitted with regret to having several affairs with his students at Chetham’s during the 1980s. He was not the only teacher to do so. Evidence was heard that Chetham’s was, at best, negligent during that period in exercising its duty of care towards vulnerable teenagers. Further evidence indicated that complaints by students against teachers who abused their authority in this way were not dealt with in an appropriate manner.
Sexual abuse in English music schools has been covered up for a full generation. Those who engaged in the cover-up – governors, headteachers, teachers – have not been called to account. There remains a strong case for a public inquiry to be held where both victims and those in authority can raise their voices and lay the wretched past to rest.
The law is a blunt instrument. Malcolm Layfield, innocent, will have to rebuild his practice from scratch. A public inquiry would obviate the need for further prosecutions and allow the healing process to begin.
UPDATE: More legal action here.