20 Feb 2015

World renowned music teacher jailed for raping students

A recorder teacher at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, one of Britain’s leading arts schools, is jailed for 11 years for raping and indecently assaulting young female pupils during lessons.

Philip Pickett, 64, lured his victims into sound-proofed practice rooms, switched off the lights and attacked them while teaching at the Guildhall, a school attended by a number of Britain’s top actors and musicians including Daniel Craig and Joseph Fiennes.

Pickett was found guilty of two rapes and two indecent assaults, between 1979 and 1983, on February 10. Detectives believe he may have attacked more women during his career, which included 25 years teaching at the Guildhall from 1972, private tuition and performances around the world.

One of his victims was a 17-year-old girl who had come to him for a recorder lesson in 1978. During a lesson, he asked her to take her top off, suggesting that she needed to work on her breathing. He then ordered her to lie on the floor and indecently assaulted her.

The following week he raped her during another lesson. The victim told her mother she no longer wanted to have lessons with him.

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The Old Bailey heard how Pickett, who taught at the school for 25 years, also raped a 21-year-old woman in a practice room after locking the door and turning out the lights, and indecently assaulted a 17-year-old woman.

Pickett, from Lyneham, near Chipping Norton, was jailed for a total of 11 years earlier this month. At a hearing today, Judge Charles Wide ordered that two further indicments in relation to allegations by two women dating back to the 1970s remain on file, and lifted reporting restrictions.

Pickett was awarded a fellowship, one of its highest musical honours, by the Guildhall in 1985. Married to a singer and a harpsichord player, he left the Guildhall in 1997 and went on to become artistic director of the Southbank Centre and Director of Early Music at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. The case was postponed to allow him to finish his UK tour with Carlos Nunez, the folk star, and the New London Consort, which Pickett founded.â??

After he was convicted, his defence team tried to delay sentencing because Pickett had arranged three music festivals, but Judge Wide rejected the plea, saying the musician had had his “head in the sand” by carrying on with his professional life and keeping the women “waiting for months”.

As he delivered sentence, he said: “Philip Pickett, you have been convicted by the jury of a number of exceptionally serious sexual offences against a young woman and two schoolgirls … In each case there is the aggravating factor that this was a gross abuse of trust.

“You were this woman and these schoolgirls’ teacher to a degree they were in awe of you, especially the schoolgirls, and, as far as they were concerned, this was specific targeting of a vulnerable victim, a girl you were teaching and you had power over who would be reluctant to complain and most unlikely to complain.

“There is the location of the offence in practice rooms at the Guildhall School of Music – sound-proofed, dark, you turned the lights out. Even if they shouted, they could not be heard, as you knew well, having got them on their own and shut the door.

“The impact of these very serious sexual offences must have been very great indeed.”

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Maria Woodall, detective superintendent at City of London police, added: “Philip Pickett used his position of authority as an accomplished professor to abuse young talented women who were vulnerable due to their age and the fact they were students of his…Philip Pickett’s access to young women over such a period of time means that there could be more victims that have yet to come forward. I would urge these people to contact the City of London Police.”

Pickett was arrested over the assault in 1978 in August 2013, after the first victim reported what had happened to officers in Suffolk in the wake of the Jimmy Savile child sex abuse scandal.

Subsequently, more women came forward, resulting in charges related to two more victims who were 21 and 17 at the time.

When the 17-year-old woman’s parents wrote to the school after she told them about the attack, the school, after some time, replied by saying that it had not received any other complaints about Pickett. It suggested that their daughter study elsewhere.

During the investigation into the assaults, correspondence was gathered from the Guildhall in which the then-principal wrote to Pickett, on March 20, 1984. In the letter, the principal described his frustration that Pickett had not arranged to see him to discuss the allegations, as he wanted to report back to the family.

‘Utter shock’

After he was sentenced, the Guildhall, one of the world’s leading conservatoires and drama schools which charges fees of up to £20,000 a year, expressed its shock at the attacks.

A spokesman for the school said: “Although these events took place several decades ago, this does not diminish our utter shock that a professional music teacher could abuse the trust placed in him by the school and its students.

“The Guildhall School wholeheartedly welcomes the verdicts. Justice has been done and our thoughts are with the victims of these dreadful crimes.

“The Guildhall School takes the duty of care of its students extremely seriously. Robust safeguarding procedures are in place at the school to ensure safe learning environments for all students and these measures are regularly reviewed.”