Family & Education

Music school pupil abused by violin teacher at 15

Chetham's School of Music Image copyright David Dixon/Geograph
Image caption Chetham's in Manchester, one of the UK's best-known music schools

A former pupil at Chetham's School of Music has described being sexually assaulted by her violin tutor, Chris Ling, at the age of 15.

The abuse started during a half-term course while all the other pupils were out, the witness told the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.

Former Chetham's head teacher John Vallins said he was unaware of concerns about Ling's conduct at the time.

Ling's abuse emerged in 1990 after he left the school, the inquiry heard.

The former pupil, known as A2, said Chris Ling told her to keep the abuse a secret.

He told her she would have no chance of succeeding as a soloist if she disclosed to anyone what had happened, said the witness who gave evidence anonymously.

Chetham's School in Manchester is one of the UK's leading music schools.

The witness said the first sexual assault took place during the autumn half-term in 1989 when Ling organised a special course for pupils in a house in Manchester.

She said he assaulted her again at Easter in 1990 before he left his job at the end of the summer term, taking some pupils with him.

She said she felt "devastated" at not being among them.

"He had brainwashed us into thinking he was our only means of success," she told the inquiry.

Police interview

Later that year, evidence began to emerge of sexual assaults by Ling on up to 12 other female pupils which led to a police investigation.

A2 told the inquiry the school gave her very little support when she was interviewed by police and failed to tell her parents what was going on.

Her new violin teacher was a man who had a reputation for having affairs with pupils and when he made inappropriate comments and stood too close to her during lessons, she complained but the school failed to support her, A2 told the inquiry.

Ling's abuse "affected me emotionally and physically", she told the inquiry.

"I've not played classical music since leaving there.

"I find it hard to listen to and I've burned most of my music.

"It has had an effect on my relationships.

"I seem to attract father-figure type men who end up having control issues over me and I end up becoming withdrawn and detached... my marriage has broken down."

'Very violent'

Another former pupil, referred to as A1, described a violent sexual assault by Ling when she was staying overnight at his home after a concert.

"It was very violent... I couldn't breathe," she told the inquiry.

She said Ling had spent months grooming her ahead of the initial assault.

The abuse occurred again on several occasions and she was one of the pupils Ling took with him to the US where she had a "horrible" time, she told the inquiry.

When she returned to the school a few months later, she was interviewed by police but, otherwise, pupils were told not to mention Ling.

Image copyright IICSA
Image caption John Vallins was head teacher of Chetham's from 1974 to 1992

"The silence just made it so much worse," A1 told the inquiry.

She said the abuse left her "generally hostile and wary towards males" and believes the competitive culture within schools like Chetham's can allow sexual predators to thrive.

Mr Vallins, head teacher of Chetham's from 1974 to 1992, said he personally had no part in appointing Ling who was hired directly by the music department.

He said he was unaware of extra-curricular courses run by Ling.

He told the inquiry that at the time the school had no written child protection policies: "It was a different world then to the world we live in now. It would be wrong to think that Chetham's, in not having those practices, was unusual."

He added: "It would be idle of me to deny that it is evident from the subject of this inquiry that there were bad things happening which I did not know about, and I should have done, and I can't say how bitterly I regret that."

The inquiry heard that seven individuals have been either convicted, were likely to have been convicted if alive, or have admitted to sexual relationships with pupils while Mr Vallins was head teacher.

A former pupil, Ian Pace, told the inquiry the music department run by Michael Brewer, and the academic part of the school were completely separate.

"It was almost like two schools and the teachers didn't really talk to each other either," Mr Pace told the inquiry.

He said there should be an official regulatory body specifically for music education.

The evidence is part of the residential schools phase of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, one of 14 separate investigations it is holding.

Ling moved to the US in the 1990s where he ran a talent agency. He shot himself dead in 2015 after police arrived at his home to arrest him for extradition to the UK. Greater Manchester Police had been planning to charge him with 77 offences.

More on this story