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Violin teacher cleared of rape

Published 08/06/2015

The jury took less than 90 minutes to find Malcolm Layfield not guilty of one count of rape at Manchester Crown Court
The jury took less than 90 minutes to find Malcolm Layfield not guilty of one count of rape at Manchester Crown Court

A violin teacher has been cleared of raping an 18-year-old female student in the early 1980s.

Malcolm Layfield, 63, had denied the Crown's allegation that he used his "power and influence" to commit the offence against the teenager in the back of his car.

The defendant admitted he pursued a number of consensual sexual relationships with students throughout the 1980s which his trial heard were said to be "common knowledge" in classical musical circles in Manchester and further afield.

But the former part-time tutor at Chetham's School of Music and the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) denied he "crossed the line" on one occasion during a summer music school he staged in Cornwall.

A jury at Manchester Crown Court took less than 90 minutes to acquit Layfield, who showed no emotion as the not guilty verdict on one count of rape was returned.

Layfield's son and daughter burst into tears in the public gallery as the verdict was returned.

It was said Layfield drove his victim - allegedly drunk on "strong alcoholic punch" made by the defendant - in the middle of the night to an isolated spot and was determined to have sex with her "come what may".

The complainant, who he taught at Chetham's and the RNCM claimed she "gave in" but then went on to have consensual sex with him over the following six weeks.

She alleged she was under his "influence and power" as Layfield threatened to take work opportunities away from her if she changed tutors, Manchester Crown Court heard

Father-of-two Layfield, of Castle Quay, Castleford, Manchester, told the jury he was not in a position to "destroy people's careers" and neither did he encourage students to get drunk.

He said she willingly got into his car and that sex followed between the pair which was "a mutual thing that happened".

The pair went on to have a sexual relationship, he said, before it later "fizzled out".

Following the verdict, Layfield's solicitor Matthew Claughton, from Olliers Solicitors, said: "Today's unanimous verdict comes as a huge relief to Malcolm Layfield who would like to thank friends, family and his legal team and all those who have supported him over the last two years."

Layfield was a popular, gifted teacher at both prestigious establishments and an acclaimed violinist himself who performed with the Manchester Camerata orchestra and led his own Goldberg Ensemble.

He told his rape trial that he was "regretful" about the "shameful" consensual relationships he had with female students, with the youngest aged 17.

The complainant was among a number of women who came forward in the wake of the 2013 conviction of Chetham's former music director Michael Brewer to report historical sexual abuse.

Brewer was jailed for six years after he was found guilty of indecently assaulting ex-pupil Frances Andrade, 48, more than 30 years ago when she was 14 and 15.

Mrs Andrade killed herself at her home in Guildford, Surrey, a week after giving evidence against him.

Two men were sentenced last year as part of the investigation launched by Greater Manchester Police following Brewer's conviction.

Conductor Nicholas Smith, 66, was jailed for eight months after he admitted sexually assaulting a 15-year-old Chetham's pupil in the 1970s.

While double bass teacher Duncan McTier was handed a three-month jail term, suspended for two years, after he pleaded guilty to sexual assaults against three former pupils he taught at the RNCM and Purcell School of Music in Harrow.

Before the start of Layfield's trial, his barrister, Benjamin Myers QC, applied for a ban on reporting his client's identity unless he was convicted of the offence.

Despite publicity of his arrest and his subsquent charging, Layfield argued there was "no public interest" in identifying him in the event of his acquittal.

It was said that the "protracted investigation" had been "painful" for him and his family, and that if cleared he should have the same anonymity as his accuser.

Judge Michael Henshell swiftly dismissed the application and said he was not convinced the general principle of open justice should be departed from.

Later giving evidence, Layfield admitted to a number of "inappropriate" relationships he conducted with female students in the 1980s while he was married.

He had confessed to those affairs previously in 2002, shortly after a flood of complaints came in to the RNCM on his appointment as head of strings.

Layfield quit the college following the publicity surrounding Brewer's conviction.

He is now divorced and is not presently working, the court heard.

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