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Why is it always music teachers? Maybe it isn’t…

Last month I reported the wretched case of a London choirmaster who stripped his girl pupils and forced their heads under water. He got a seven-year sentence, one of many musicians who have ended up this way.

A more troubling case was reported today. An eminent performer and teacher, president of the Royal College of Organists, David Sanger killed himself last May after being charged with child sex offences. Sanger, 63, pleaded his innocence and was planning to fight the case when a newspaper report of the allegations against him prompted him to commit suicide.
The alleged offences had taken place in London three decades earlier but the investigation did not apparently begin until after he became president of the Royal College. His family has called for an inquiry into the conduct of the Metropolitan Police and certain newspapers. His brother Peter Sanger said: He joined the growing ranks of teachers and other professional people whose lives have been ruined by false accusations.

The presumption of innocence until proven guilty applies in this, as in all such cases. The coroner spoke sympathetically of Sanger’s life and career, acknowledging that the world of organ music had ‘suffered a great loss’.

We may never know whether the accusations against him were truthful or opportunistic. As far as the law is concerned, he died innocent. The police need to beware of dangerous stereotypes. Not every music teacher who is the subject of lurid accusations is necessarily a sexual predator.

Here’s the report of the coroner’s hearing.
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  1. David Snyder says:

    Here in the States, a pedophelia accusation is a virtual conviction by media and society. This also seems to be slowly coming true for other alleged offenses. Coupled with the revelations of abuse in the Roman Catholic church, I’m beginning to wonder whether the law will revert to “guilty until proven innocent”. It’s all lamentable and I see no humane solutions on the horizon.

  2. Although we’ll probably never know what really went on 30 years ago in this case, it is good to remember about the legal presumption of innocence until proven guilty under both British and U.S. law. It bothers me that, on certain U.S. cable TV programs and in certain publications, people are all too often tried in the court of public opinion, and without the facts that a jury has. I have had to remind some friends that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, no matter what they’re accused of doing, and that they certainly would not want themselves or their loved ones to be raked over the coals in this way. Even those accused of, or found guilty of, heinous crimes have their rights. Whether Sanger ended his life due to guilt or to depression over a ruined reputation and career, he deserved a better fate just as a human being. I know people who have been falsely accused of similar things; while they were both found not guilty, the stress for themselves and their families, the damage to their personal and professional reputations, and legal expenses were awful to bear. Whether or not David Sanger was guilty, I hope he can rest in peace, and I hope that his situation makes the rest of us think about our own attitudes and behavior, not to mention the rule of law.

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