Glasgow & West Scotland

Grammy Award-winning conductor jailed for abusing choirboy

Joseph Cullen Image copyright Spindrift
Image caption Joseph Cullen was choirmaster and organist at St Andrew's Cathedral and St Aloysius' Church in Glasgow during the 1970s and 80s

A world-renowned conductor who abused a boy who saw him as a "surrogate father" has been jailed for 10 months.

Joseph Cullen, 58, targeted the nine-year-old after he joined a choir at St Andrew's Cathedral in Glasgow.

Cullen, from Leeds, West Yorkshire, admitted using lewd and libidinous conduct towards the schoolboy between January 1981 and December 1984.

He called the child his "special friend" and told him not to tell anyone because it was their secret.

Cullen was the choirmaster and organist at St Andrew's and choirmaster at St Aloysius' Church in Garnethill between 1976 and 1985.

The two-time Grammy Award winner has also worked at Westminster Cathedral and with the London Symphony Chorus.

'Position of trust'

At Glasgow Sheriff Court, Sheriff Martin Jones QC told him: "The offence to which you have pleaded guilty to involves the sexual abuse of a young boy between nine and 12 at the time, when he was particularly vulnerable.

"You were in a position of trust. You took advantage of that position and you sexually abused him over three years.

"The crime which you committed all those years ago remains serious, that's not diluted by the passage of time."

In July 2015, Cullen was jailed for 12 months at the High Court in Glasgow for two other charges of using lewd and libidinous conduct at both St Andrew's and St Aloysius' Church against two other boys.

The victim in the latest case joined the choir when he was nine years old and was a keen singer.

Procurator fiscal depute Niall Macdonald said: "Cullen became more involved in the complainer's life, taking him out on trips, driving him home from choir practice and spending time with him.

"He describes Cullen at this time as a 'surrogate father' despite him only being in his 20s."

'Successful career'

The court heard the conductor first attacked the boy in the organ room at the cathedral when he went for choir practice.

On hearing other people walk upstairs towards them, Cullen left the room briefly, but returned and said: "That was close".

Mr Macdonald added: "The complainer did not disclose what happened to anyone at the time as he thinks Cullen told him not to say anything."

The court heard of "several other occasions" when Cullen abused the boy in the organ room.

In June 2015, the victim's mother saw information online about his earlier conviction relating to historical offences against children.

She told her son who contacted the police to report what Cullen had done to him.

Defence counsel Thomas Ross QC said Cullen had had a "very successful career as a freelance musician".

Mr Ross added: "He had a wonderful reputation in that field and as soon as he was arrested on the charges in relation to these matters, all of that was lost."

Cullen was most famous as a director of the London Symphony Chorus and won two Grammy awards.

The father-of-three has also been a conductor in America, France, Italy, Ireland and across the UK.

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