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Rape trial of national youth choir director

The trial has begun at Manchester Crown Court of Mike Brewer, 67, highly respected ex-director of Britain’s National Youth Choir. He is accused of raping a 14 year-old Chetham’s girl student, while he was music director of the school 30 years ago. His former wife, Hilary, is accused of indecent assault and aiding and abetting rape. Both deny the charges.

The alleged victim told the court today that pupil rape was common at Chetham’s, one of Britain’s foremost residential music schools.

Here’s today’s report from the Manchester Evening News.



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  1. David S. Naden says:

    Reporting a rape 30 years AFTER THE FACT should make anyone wonder if it actually occurred, or if there is another motive. In the United States, such an incident would be investigated, but little else would be done due to the statute of limitations.

    • John Parfrey says:

      What does a time lapse have to do with this? The victims of pedophile priests reported their abuse many years after the fact. Were they all lying? Many archdiocese all around the country would beg to differ with you about statutes of limitation, given that many of them are paying out hundreds of millions in damages to the victims of their priests. Why not let the courts sort out the validity of this charge?

    • Different countries have different laws and statutes of limitations. In the USA, I believe this is dependent on different state laws, but I might be mistaken.

      In Switzerland, there was a popular vote (“Volksreferendum”) which went into law in November 2008 and does away with the statute of limitation on punishment of crimes of sexual abuse of children. So this rape of a 14-year-old would certainly still be investigated and brought to trial if it had happened in that country. Here are some further details written by a lawyer (in German):

      The laws in the EU must be fairly similar here.

  2. Malcolm James says:

    The problem in cases like this is that any evidence that might help a person defend himself is no longer available. If the allegation is that he raped her on a particular date, he won’t be able to remember whether he was actually there on that date and, if not, where else he might have been. Even if he does claim an alibi, no-one else is likely to be able to remember in order to back him up and any documentary evidence is likely to have been destroyed. Likewise, there can be no forensic evidence. Maybe the claim is that he raped her sometime between, say, September 15th and October 4th. If so, he can hardly have an alibi for that entire period.

    There appears, unlike Jimmy Savile, to be only one allegation, so the line of ‘they can’t all be lying’ doesn’t apply and whether he is found guilty or not will depend solely on how convincing the woman is in court. Would anyone reading this wish their liberty to depend on that? This is all about the meme that victims must be believed and that due process in rape trials is a social construct which confers privilege on men and allows rapists to ‘get away with it’.

    • Dear Slipped Disc readers
      Please take great care to avoid specific comment about the trial in progress. Contempt of court could apply if comments made on a blog were to be thought by the judge to affect the outcome. Thank you for your consideration.
      Norman Lebrecht

      • Paul D. Sullivan, Boston US says:

        Thanks for the warning Norman. Things seem to be a bit different here in the States, and not in a fair way. Will look with interest on any news on this case from the UK you post in the future.

  3. Richard Herger says:

    What a horrible shame all the way around.

  4. Without substantial evidence it seems unlikely this would have been brought to trial.

  5. I was at Chetham’s during the period in question, and know that various others who were, some of whom may be testifying at this trial (that is just a possibility – not specific information) could be reading this blog, as might jury members. Various comments above could be seen as prejudicial, and I would urge Norman to remove them. After the trial is over, people can say what they think – otherwise they are in contempt of court by making such comments in a public forum.

    • We’ve been quite careful, Ian, but I’ll take another look.

      • I do think the comments of David, Malcolm, William and Margaret could be interpreted as prejudicial. Whilst certainly jury members will have been instructed not to look at internet discussions, Contempt of court laws have been argued to be somewhat out-of-date in an internet age, but I don’t think anyone here should post anything which could even possibly be contemptuous. This rule is being stringently applied at Chet’s alumni groups where, as you might imagine, plenty of people have a lot they might like to say about the case and about the school during that time.

      • It just takes a juror to Google the name of the defendant (which many of them might do, being naturally curious) and forums like this will come up.

  6. To add – as has been pointed out in the context of FB discussions of this trial – it’s not inconceivable that the existence of prejudicial views in a forum like this could be used as a way of having the trial thrown out (as has happened in some other trials).

    • This is remarkable. In the states, I’ve never heard of such a thing. There are satellite trucks parked outside trials often, commenting and interviewing anyone associated with those involved. The UK system would be far more beneficial.

  7. A scenario about 20 years ago in Melbourne destroyed the career of a fine teacher, his marriage and turned out to be a fabrication.

  8. Ian, I think it is usually made very clear by all UK judges that the jury members should not “research” on the internet or on any other media, the case on which they are serving. If it was found to have happened the jury would probably be dismissed and a retrial ordered.

    Norman, I feel the 4th comment down from the top might be worth removing to be on the safe side… only a musician here but too many legal eagles in the family…

  9. Paul D. Sullivan, Boston US says:

    Looking at some of the N.Y. Post U.K. type rags today, I seriously doubt any comments here on Slipped Disc would have an effect on the trial !

    • Paul, do you mean the reporting of the trial in the Mail, Express, Standard, Manchester Evening News, etc., here – which, however graphic, is doing no more than simply reporting what was said in court – or other things which have appeared?

      Whether or not some comments would actually be likely to have an effect upon a trial, I believe that either side could cite the existence of prejudicial remarks in the public domain as grounds for it being impossible that a fair trial could be had. I think it’s best to err very much on the side of caution here. The trial was reported as being anticipated lasting three weeks – it will only be another two before most people should be able to say whatever they like about it.

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