British harpist is jailed for sexual assault

British harpist is jailed for sexual assault


norman lebrecht

February 27, 2018

The harpist Danielle Perrett, found guilty of six counts of indecent assault against a schoolboy, was sentenced today to four years and nine months in prison.

The judge called Perrett, 59, ‘a world-famous harpist with a reputation for kindness and integrity’, but said that she, and her former partner who was also jailed, had ‘a darker side’.

Both had claimed that the victim had sought to blackmail them.



  • Sharon says:

    I wonder if she was goaded into it because she was ‘under the spell” or wanted to hold on to or please her then boyfriend. Of course, all adults are responsible for their own behavior.
    Even if she can somehow get the sentence reduced her career in ruined.
    What if anything, was the punishment given to her former boyfriend? As Peter Gelb said in a similar recent context, “A tragedy for all concened.”

    • Max Grimm says:

      Her former fiancé received the same sentence, four years and nine months.
      As for her being “under the spell”, your second sentence sums it up rather nicely.
      On an aside, based on the victim’s account, he was abused by Perrett on separate occaisons, unrelated to the abuse experienced at the hands of her former fiancé Barton-Wood.

    • Phillip says:

      Why is society obsessed with excusing women for their behavior and casting all the blame on men? Man bad, woman good. We get it.

  • Doug says:

    “…’a darker side.'”

    Conductor in training?

  • boringfileclerk says:

    Former partner? Is she single?

  • Simon Scott says:

    Will she be allowed her harp in jail?

  • Father Hennepin says:

    She is not world-famous, but she seems to be well-respected among her peers, and what a tragic situation, and alarming, to have a mere indiscretion from her ever-so-distant past brought back to punish her and ruin her life at an age where she can never recover from it. I don’t doubt that blackmail was attempted and when failed, vindictive revenge took place. There has to be a statute of limitations. Over twenty years later is just ludicrous.

    • Simon Scott says:

      I agree. Granted,Danielle Perrett is not one notch below sainthood,but 4 years and 9 months just isn’t cricket. Isn’t the fact that her career is,to say the least,severely tarnished punishment enough?
      I sincerely hope that she exercises her right to appeal

    • Alex Davies says:

      Six counts of indecent assault isn’t a mere indiscretion. It’s an indictable offence punishable by up to ten years in prison, and she committed it six times.

      • Simon Scott says:

        Yes. However we must consider the probababity that she was enticed by her ex partner. IMO,he deserves every minute of his come uppance

        • Sue2 says:

          How is he more guilty than she, given that the offences were committed separately it has been established? Yes, he was older than her by some margin, but I don’t think that exempts her totally – she was in her twenties. I knew her at that time, although not well – she certainly didn’t seem to be a woman who didn’t know her own mind. I was as astounded by this case as any. Perhaps he should have a longer sentence than she, certainly it seems a long one when compared to those handed down for arguably much worse offences such as in the Joseph Cullen case, who I also know personally. You can think you know people, only to find you really don’t.

          • Alex Davies says:

            Cullen’s sentence was ridiculously lenient given the seriousness of what he did. However, you need to remember that criminal law in Scotland is an entirely separate jurisdiction, so I don’t know whether it is useful to make comparisons between cases tried under Scottish law and cases tried under the law of the other jurisdictions of the UK.

        • Sanity says:

          Regardless of the ‘spell’ cast by her partner, she did have the choice of whether on not to commit a sexual assault.

          • Malcolm James says:

            Agreed. This is typical of the double standard which denies women agency when they commit despicable deeds and paints them as victims of a tyrannical, domineering partner, whilst insisting that they are smart enough to be doctors, lawyers or CEOs. My only concern with this case is how you prove allegations such as these 30 years on. I am still somewhat sceptical about the reassurances given by the legal profession and lawmakers on this.

    • Sue2 says:

      You could just as well argue that, after assaulting a minor 6 times she is lucky to have had all these years of freedom and non punishment. It is not my view, my view is the that the people who heard the court case in its entirety are the only ones among us apart from the complainant and defendants who know what happened. To say that you don’t doubt that blackmail was attempted is outrageous slander unless you know the case personally, and many people suffer lifelong trauma and indeed some commit suicide many years after such abuse.

  • Sharon says:

    Who knows if we will ever get to the bottom of this. As far as a statute of limitations is concerned it is generally very difficult for a kid (or anyone for that matter) to come forward about this sort of thing at the time that it happened either because he/she is afraid that he/she will be blamed or just because that it is difficult, indeed humiliating, to talk about
    I do not know about England but in the US a person would seldom be jailed if the case is under appeal. Does anyone know if Perrett and Barton-Wood are appealing? Have either or both of them actually been incarcerated?

    • Alex Davies says:

      Unless a sentence is suspended (i.e. the person will not actually spend any time in prison provided they don’t re-offend within a specific period of time) the prisoner is typically taken directly from the dock to the cells and from there to prison. Only in very unusual circumstances, e.g. medical care beyond the scope of what can be provided in prison, is somebody sentenced to an immediate custodial sentence not actually taken to prison the same day.

      I think criminal appeals work rather differently in the USA and are more common. In England and Wales (which forms a separate jurisdiction to those of Scotland and Northern Ireland) one has to be given leave to appeal, which normally means showing that there is new evidence that was not considered during the initial trial or showing that procedural errors took place. From what’s been reported, I can’t see why they would be appealing.

      • david Hilton says:

        Exactly right. In the US, appeal from a criminal sentence is granted as a matter of constitutional right. In a capital case, the sentence must be reviewed on appeal even if not requested. And the lack of any statute of limitations in the UK is probably to an outsider the most shocking aspect of its criminal justice system. None of the 50 US states would permit a prosecution for a non-capital offence after 30 years, as in this case. The law sensibly recognises that individual memory is an unreliable thing in the best of circumstances and more so with the passage of time.

        • SVM says:

          I do not think we should be taking leaves out of the USA’s justice system. There are no capital offences in the UK, because we are civilised enough not to have the death penalty any more. Sexual offences are not subject to a statute of limitations because they *are* a horrific violation of a person’s physical and emotional integrity, as well as a dreadful blight on society as a whole. The trauma they cause does not recognise any statute of limitations, and may well persist long after the offender has ceased to be a danger to society (if that ever happens). Therefore, it is vital that a strong message be sent to offenders everywhere that their behaviour is unforgivable and that, sooner or later, justice *will* catch up with them.

        • Saxon Broken says:

          David Hilton writes: “the lack of any statute of limitations in the UK is probably to an outsider the most shocking aspect of its criminal justice system”

          Um…not exactly. The jury can decide that the passage of time renders the individual testimony doubtful. And the presiding judge can also declare any testimony is unreliable and can halt the case. The point is that the court decides whether the evidence is reliable and it isn’t automatically assumed to be unreliable.

          And anyone can appeal their sentence. The judge can decide to set aside the penalty while the appeal is heard (given “leave-to-appeal”) or decide not to allow an appeal (the penalty will be enforced, and the court-of-appeal will have to agree to hear the appeal itself by directly petitioning it). This again means that guilty people (especially if rich and/or powerful) can not endlessly and expensively evade justice by endless and frivolous appeals, as happens in many other legal systems.

  • Anon says:

    I have personally known Danielle since I was 7 or 8 years old although we were not in contact for many years. She’s an incredibly kind and dedicated teacher.

    While myself I find the allegations hard to believe, and you may say I am biased, of course– what stands out to me most about this case is that so much has been made of the almost gleeful shredding of her reputation by the media. Including here.
    Even if a not guilty verdict had been reached, the damage would already have been done.

    Musicians are particularly vulnerable to this kind of exposure since we are told from graduation to “put ourselves out there” on the internet and self publicise without guidance or advice. We are very naive in this respect. Other professions have publicists and advisors. This leaves us particularly open to blackmail and I don’t find it inconceivable that she could have been a victim of such, even though the court has decided otherwise. A celebrity or public figure probably would have dealt with these claims when they started way back in 2007 but musicians often can’t afford this kind of help.

    Just an observation. The comments on here are fairly damning and while of course such a case is very serious it does not really inspire confidence in the generous collegial nature of the music world.