London horn player is jailed for theft

A judge at Wood Green Crown Court has passed a jail sentence on Richard Clews, former horn player at the Royal Opera House and London Symphony Orchestra whose resounding solos have been credited on dozens of recordings.

Clews, 53, was convicted of stealing £185,662 while working as a researcher for the Performing Rights Society which collects airtime royalties for professional musicians.

The court was told that, when health problems caused difficulties with his playing, his income fell from £80,000 as a horn player to £27,000 as a PRS clerk.

Although he pleaded guilty to one offence and repaid the money in full, Clews was jailed for 28 months.

More here.



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  • “He was hitherto of impeccable character.” Ah…the mother tongue. But how was he able to pay it all back once he was caught? As a lifeguard…

      • Unduly heavy sentence?! I think he got off alright considering the circumstances: which were that he carried out over 300 deliberate fraudulent actions over a sustained period of several years, diverting a huge amount of money earned by composers. So he wasn’t even stealing from corporate funds – he was stealing from the livelihoods of other musicians! The fact that he was probably a ‘nice’ bloke when he wasn’t busy carrying out crimes is irrelevant. The fact that he paid back the money (when he was caught) and pleaded guilty just shows he was desperate to avoid the full sentence. And the fact that he could pay the money back shows that he had ample funds available from his previously lucrative career. So I fail to see what’s tragic about it. Many people suffer tragedies and setbacks in life, but fight to overcome them, rather than turn to crime.

  • A despicable crime, to be sure- but also very sad. I wonder if the aforementioned “health problems” which brought his playing career to a halt was in fact focal dystonia, or something else entirely.

    • I’m not condoning this corporate theft, but sadly desperate people do desperate things not necessarily through greed but just downright fearful of the future. In the end we are all flawed human beings. Over 2.25 years in prison at the cost of £30,000 a year out of the British public purse to keep him in there, isn’t money well spent. He’s hardly a threat to the public and some sort of community punishment would have been far more appropriate and give something back to society. But the Brits love their prisons!

      • Prison sentences also have the value of deterring others from committing similar crimes in the first place. Many high-profile cases of embezzlement go undetected for years or even decades (for example, Judith Arnold and her husband embezzled significant sums of money belonging to their client, Peter Maxwell Davies, for decades before being caught), which makes me wonder how many more cases never come to light. In that context, it is vital that embezzlers, when caught, are punished severely.

  • He returned the money to the PRS, but has the PRS identified the people who should have received these royalties and paid them, ideally with interest to compensate for the late payment (and for the possibility that, in some cases, a large back-payment could have resulted in a higher tax liability than would have been the case in the event of the payments having been made on schedule)? Most PRS members make relatively little money (several years ago, a notable and prolific classical composer with a /Grove/ entry told me he receives less than £1000 per annum in royalties), and have absolutely no means of verifying the accuracy of the royalties they receive (especially since PRS uses sampling, rather than a census, for a lot of its calculations).

  • 28 months for a first offence where he has repaid everything seems unduly harsh.

    The City of London is full of bankers, lawyers and accountants complicit in the washing of £100m’s every single day and so far not a single one of them had been prosecuted and jailed in over 100 years of banking.

  • I think that this has been misreported. I understand that the funds that were plundered lay in an “orphan” account, and were not directly attributable to specific artists such as Sheeran, accruing from payments made by PRS-registered establishments; hence Clews did not deprive specific artists of what was not, in fact, rightly theirs.

    A good journalist might investigate the existence of such a fund, and what has been happening/happens to such a fund. Just who has benefitted over the last, say, twenty years from divvying up such funds? The Ed Sheerans and Elton Johns? The directors and upper management of PRS? The “small fry” arrangers, composers, performing artists? Maybe someone can shine a magnifying glass on the PRS accounts?
    Now *that* would make a good story.

    • You understand wrong! That is not the case. Did Clews tell you that?!
      Anyway PRS is not the villain here, nice try with the whataboutery though. Most PRS employees are loyal, dedicated people who are passionate about music (and don’t get paid amazingly). Any PRS member who hasn’t been paid for a performance can find out what is happening with their royalties, it’s all transparent.
      It’s a bit disturbing how Clews is being painted as the ‘victim’ by some folk here…

      • Clews did not tell me that. Nothing whataboutery about it; what is it that you think I’m trying to do?

        You seem to know about how PRS gathers and distributes royalties: are you asserting that there not a pot that holds funds that can not be attributed to specific artists (what I referred to as an “orphan” fund)? I looked at their Financial Report for 2016 and don’t find it very transparent.

  • I don’t understand why Clews is a category C prisoner: “Those who cannot be trusted in open conditions but who are unlikely to try to escape.”

    He admitted the crime, paid back the money, expressed remorse. Category D: “Those who can be reasonably trusted not to try to escape, and are given the privilege of an open prison”

    C seems pretty harsh. He can not be trusted in open conditions?

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