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Sexual abuse at music schools: a lawyer writes

Liz Dux, of Slater & Gordon, represents more than 60 victims of Jimmy Savile’s prolonged rampage of sexual crimes.

Responding to allegations of historic abuse emerging from Chetham’s, RNCM and elsewhere, she writes that she has ‘acted in the past on behalf of several victims of abuse from another well known musical school.  The stories emerging from Chetham’s are frighteningly similar.’

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Read her post here. Contact details are included. If you are a victim of abuse, be aware that there are several law firms that have experience in this field.

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Comments

  1. Apologies – but isn’t this sort of like ambulance chasing?

  2. A bit dodgy says:

    I absolutely agree, Chet’s Mum. The fact that Liz Dux uses the phrase “another well known musical school” leads me to think that there was an out-of-court settlement in that case with anonymity of the accused preserved as part of the deal: precisely the thing that this blog and Martin Roscoe have been campaigning against…

  3. Charles Boney says:

    Agree with ambulance chasing comment and find it most odd that people can use this website to seek this kind of work.

    But I am mostly interested to know more about the liability of any institution who don’t have the right procedures in place. What happens if (when hopefully) the historic allegations of abuse at Chethams are found to be very limited to a small number of people 20 to 30 years ago.?

    Does the reputational damage done to Chets and the trauma and upset caused to current pupils then mean that this website and contributors such as Liz Dux will be liable to a some kind of claim of corporate libel? Does Ms Dix’s firm and this website have robust systems in place to make sure that any wild allegations or implications are OK to publish? In all of this no-one seems to consider the real harm being done to this generation by the (alleged mostly at present) sins of the past.

    Yes, abuse is happening today because current pupils have to be counselled because of the media coverage that so many of you enjoy; the coverage itself is a form of abuse. The whole thing has been become a spectacle. Please just let the Police and other authorities get on with their job.

    Charles Boney

    • Wouldn’t you agree, Charles, that media coverage – however misguided or salacious in some areas – is preferable to continued secrecy and a risk to children? If you are threatening this website with a charge of corporate libel, you’d better have bloody good lawyers because ours just collapsed in mirth.

      • Charles Boney says:

        Of course I am not threatening anybody with anything (could not afford it anyway) , just trying to point out to everyone that all of us need to be careful about the comments we make in public forums. The recent case of a Peer of the Realm, falsely accused of being a paedophile should be a warning. He is currently tracking down all those who made social media postings and is generously getting them to agree a small donation to a children’s charity. The big cats involved had to large sums.

        Some people are, by association, implication or poor use of headlines in articles giving the impression that the current staff and culture in Schools like Chets needs to be sorted out. This seems to me to be getting very close to libel. It is also creating creating huge upset to existing pupils. The police have asked:
        “Continued speculation in the press about former teachers and incidents can be unhelpful to the victims and the investigation.” Can we not let them do their job?

        Charles Boney

    • If none other than a tiny few at the school are found to have been aware of what was happening, no-one tried to cover it up or put pressure on pupils not to complain to the police, internal complaints were instantly acted upon, and the school always placed the welfare of the students before their own reputation or that of their teachers, and they gave full support and help to such students as those victims of Ling who went to the police, underwent physical examinations, and have had to live for decades with the consequences, then the school just might be able to escape liability.

    • Also, Charles, you may not be aware that some sections of the press are cooperating strongly with, and are highly respected by, the police.

  4. A bit dodgy says:

    I suspect that, once the police investigation is completed, and those (if any) who are brought to trial are either found guilty or not guilty, there will be several rounds of civil action for defamation and/or libel.

    It’s interesting to note just how careful the allegations in newspapers (and Ms Dux’s letter) are worded and just how carelessly online commentators have been, especially on Twitter and Facebook.

    Newspapers and legal professionals are very good at wording what is hearsay or unproven intimation as near-fact, but staying just on the right side of the law. Online commentators, on the other hand, often miss this crucial bit out and then land themselves in huge amounts of trouble not just for the originating article, but for not moderating subsequent comments (cf. Lord McAlpine).

    For example: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/feb/19/teacher-quits-music-college

    “Malcolm Layfield, head of strings at the RNCM, is being investigated by police over sexual relationships he initiated with a string of pupils at the college as well as Chetham’s school of music in Manchester and the Wells Cathedral School in Somerset, the Guardian understands.”

    Those last three words, tucked away at the end, appear to be the work of a lawyer. Without them, the newspaper might be potentially liable for defamation.

    I presume it is for this reason that Chetham’s and the RNCM cannot comment directly. Wrongful/constructive dismissal cases are very expensive if you’re on the losing side. And for an employer to damage the reputation of an employee, even while on suspension, or former employee is actionable in court.

    As to your question, Norman (is media coverage preferable to continued secrecy?), the answer depends on what you mean by media coverage. Reporting the facts, sure. Stoking gossip (misguided or salacious, as you put it) worsens the lot for the abused and betters the climate for abusers.

    The Lord McAlpine mess is a case in point.

  5. A bit dodgy says:

    Sorry: I hit [enter] too quickly….

    The Lord McAlpine mess is a case in point, because he was falsely accused of being an abuser (and everyone thought they were doing the “right thing” by repeating the allegations on Twitter etc – but worded as fact). Time and press attention became focused on a fake case, while real abusers and real victims were ignored.

    • A bit dodgy does make an.important point. There have been some reservations about the petition, which was vetted by the Guardian’s lawyers, on the grounds that it continuously makes a point of not assuming guilt – which does require not immediately assuming that every allegation must necessarily be true. To some, taking such a position might impy not necessarily believing all (alleged) victims. But everyone accused of very serious criminal charges has the right to a presumption of innocence and a fair trial. The situation is more complex in cases such as that of Bakst, who died 14 years ago, and so obviously could not be brought to trial. But this petition is primarily about what,, if the allegations are found to be true (and two people have already been found guilty), was the school’s rol

  6. I am surprised that with all the tough talk about the Chet’s case there has been relatively little spotlight on this Chris Ling guy, who the guardian has hounded in recent weeks.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/feb/12/chris-ling-chethams-teacher-hollywood
    Also, being an agent for a shockingly 3rd rate list of conductors, I can’t quite understand how he eeks out a career in Santa Monica:
    http://www.chlartists.com

    • I don’t think he’s the only one with blood on his hands still wandering around being respectable.

  7. The above should have ended ‘the school’s role in allowing patterns of abusive behaviour of various types (not just sexual) to continue over a period of several decades, whether they placed their reputation before the welfare of their students, whether students were intimidated into not complaining, whether the 1-1 intimate relationship between teacher and pupil was exploited, and so on.’ Some of these things do not obviously translate into criminal charges, but are no less important as a result.

    Chets” most one-sided defenders wish to make this nothing more than an issue if a few ‘bad eggs’, from a long time ago, irrelevant to the present. I believe the allegations suggest something considerably more serious than that – involving some of the most prominent teachers at the school and a significant variety of others, many suggestions that various staff knew about this but did nothing, and that complaints or pleas for help were ignored, and that types of abuse were endemic to the teaching culture. Chet’s attracts students on the basis of its past reputation and successes – if it wishes to stress its distance from the worst aspects of its past, then perhaps the school should rename itself and make clear it is an entirely separate institution from that previously existing. If a school wants to take credit for success stories amongst former pupils, then it must at least admit the possibility of also accepting responsibility for past failures, especially if these have led to ruined lives.

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