Conductor given 8-month prison sentence for historical abuse of Chetham’s student

- 2 September 2014

Conductor Nicholas Smith has been sentenced to eight months in prison after admitting the indecent assault of a Chetham’s School of Music pupil between 1976 and 1978.

Nicholas Smith

Nicholas Smith

Smith had been arrested by officers investigating historical sexual abuse at Manchester music schools, and pleaded guilty to the charge in July.

Smith knew the victim through the school’s chamber orchestra, which he was engaged to conduct, and had invited her to visit his home, where he assaulted her.

He went on to hold positions at the Kuopio Orchestra, Finland, the South Carolina Philharmonic, and as artistic director of the Bollington Festival in Cheshire.

Police arrested Smith in May this year. His victim, the court was told, had come forward following publicity surrounding the 2013 conviction of former Chetham’s director of music Michael Brewer for his abuse of former Chetham’s pupil Frances Andrade. Brewer denied the charges and it emerged after the trial that Andrade had killed herself during proceedings after the emotional strain of giving evidence.

Detective chief inspector Jamie Daniels of Greater Manchester Police said: ‘Following the publicity surrounding the conviction of Michael Brewer, this woman found the courage to report what had happened to her and today she has seen justice finally served after close to three decades.

‘Smith, like Brewer, took advantage of a home sick young girl in a location away from school grounds while she was isolated and vulnerable.

‘It is some small comfort that he has chosen to accept his guilt and at least spared the victim the need to give evidence at court, but this should not detract from the fact that he completely disregarded his duty to make sure no harm came to her at a time when, as a teacher, he should have been encouraging her obvious musical talent.

‘Instead, he took the opportunity to abuse her for his own sexual gratification and I hope his sentence serves as another reminder that such offences are intolerable no matter when or where they are committed.

‘A number of other investigations into allegations of historic abuse are ongoing and it would not be appropriate to comment on them at this juncture, suffice it to say any and all allegations of historic sexual abuse will be thoroughly investigated by specially trained and highly dedicated detectives.’

In a victim impact statement to the court, published by the Guardian, the victim said: ‘I knew that what Nicholas Smith did to me was wrong. But I didn’t know how wrong. I felt a deep sense of shame about it and part of me somehow cut off. I don’t know how else to describe the level of shame and self-blame but I do know that I turned to alcohol and substance abuse to try and remove my intense self-loathing.

‘I also know that I had a talent for the cello, but that my ability to focus was seriously affected by the wish to escape my feelings of low self-esteem and that the quality and quantity of my practice suffered hugely. For a string player these years are vitally important. This hurts, as the one thing I care about most, apart from my son, is music.

‘I have lived with “what might have been” for a very long time and through the uncovering of what happened at Chetham’s, know that things may have been very different, both in my career, and personally.’

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