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Obtaining Justice for Victims of Abuse at Music Schools

Following on from our previous article in relation to the sexual abuse at Chetham’s School of music and the devastating suicide of Frances Andrades, we are saddened to hear reports of widespread abuse at a number of music schools throughout the UK.

It was reported last night by Channel 4 that allegations have been made spanning four decades in relation to five elite music schools throughout the UK. These include the Chetham’s School of Music and Yehudi Menuhin School in Surrey where a number of victims have spoken out against Marcel Gazelle. We have also been instructed in relation to claims of abuse at a number of highly prestigious music schools.  

More than 30 victims have now come forward in relation to abuse at Chetham’s School of Music following the conviction of Michael Brewer earlier this year. Allegations have been made against a number of teachers and Greater Manchester Police have said they are investigating 39 teachers from two leading Manchester Schools. They are focusing on 10 key suspects who have taught at Chetham’s School of Music and/or the Royal Northern College of Music. They are encouraging any victims of abuse to contact them or anyone with any information to assist to contact them.  

At Brewer’s trial it was commented that sexual activity between teachers and pupils at Chetham’s was not uncommon and this was again echoed last night with a teacher at two other music schools in the late 1980s and early 1990s also saying that sexual relationships between instrumental teachers and pupils were common and it is frightening to hear that the abuse appears to have been so widespread.  

We have acted for several victims of abuse at another well known musical school in the past and are now instructed in relation to claims of abuse at a number of prestigious schools. The stories emerging in relation to Chetham’s, Yehudi Menuhin and others are frighteningly similar to those at other music schools. It is common in these elite music schools that pupils have one to one lessons with teachers. The teachers are able to place themselves in positions of trust and some are able to manipulate and deceive both the pupils and their families. Due to the close contact, teachers are able to build up close relationships with their pupils, leaving the pupils open to exploitation. Pupils are often heavily influenced and led by their teacher and it was commented on Channel 4 last night by the teacher referred to above that teachers were often looked up to by pupils and treated like “objects of worship”. She commented that teachers were entering into sexual relationships with pupils and/or close relationships that were “beyond professional”.  

It is even more worrying to hear that one of the victims at the Yehudi Menuhin School reported the abuse to the school but was told to avoid being alone. It is deeply concerning to hear that teachers were abusing their positions of trust in order to enter into sexual relationships with pupils and we hope that as more victims feel able to speak out, lessons will be learnt which will enable these schools and other institutions to learn lessons which we hope can be used to prevent this sort of abuse occurring in the future.

Victims are often unable to speak out and we are encouraged to hear that more than 30 victims at Chetham’s have now found the strength to contact the police and report the abuse they have suffered. It is often difficult for victims to speak out and sadly, in cases of abuse at schools, can often lead to parents blaming themselves for having put their child in a vulnerable position. It must, however, be remembered that the perpetrator is often a highly manipulative individual who has abused his position of trust and power. One should not underestimate how deeply disturbing such an abuse of trust can be for a child or the effect that it can continue to have on a person’s life.  

We hope that the investigations being carried out by the police will lead to the convictions of the perpetrators of abuse. For many, however, the civil justice system is the only means by which payment can be secured for the much needed psychological treatment. The schools themselves are exposed to civil action under the law of vicarious liability. This is on the basis that that an organisation can be sued if the abuser is employed by the organisation or in a relationship with that is akin of employment.

For a free consultation with a specialist Abuse Solicitor call freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online. Any communication will be dealt with in the strictest confidence. 

Slater and Gordon Lawyers have offices in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Bristol, Birmingham, Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Halifax, Wakefield & meeting rooms in Bramhall, Cheshire.