Australia Melbourne choirmaster jailed in Britain for child sex crimes

05:32  20 may  2020
05:32  20 may  2020 Source:   smh.com.au

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Scales of justice. © AAP Image/Dave Hunt

Scales of justice.

Jonathan Grieves-Smith, a renowned choirmaster who built the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Chorus into a world-class ensemble, has been sentenced to 24 years jail in Britain for historical child sex crimes.

A court was told disturbing details of how Grieves-Smith physically and psychologically abused his victim from the time she was five years old.

Grieves-Smith, appearing in court under the name Jonathan Smith, was convicted in March on 16 counts of sex offences including buggery, indecent assault and gross indecency.

His systematic abuse of the young girl, which lasted for several years, included blackmail to conceal his crimes, the local Argus newspaper reported.

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"Many people speak highly of you," Judge Paul Tain said. "However the experience in these courts is that a lot of people of seemingly good character harbour secrets that their friends and family aren't aware of.

"To anyone taken in by your claims that you are in fact innocent, they would be wrong.

"This case involved targeting, grooming, threats and blackmail and caused severe psychological harm. It led the victim into a spiral of despair."

The 57-year-old's conviction has shocked Australia's chorale community, in which Grieves-Smith was a prominent figure. It has also devastated his Melbourne-based family.

The Hove Crown Court was told the abuse took place in the late 1980s and early 1990s when Grieves-Smith was the music director of the Brighton Festival Chorus. His crimes had remained secret for more than 20 years until his victim first approached police.

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Grieves-Smith's victim, in a statement published by Sussex Police, said her ordeal left her trapped in a "cage of self-destruction".

"The impact of what he did to me for so many years has caused me long-term trauma in most aspects of my life and for so long cast a terrible shadow over my reality, causing a ripple effect out to those who could see me struggling, haunted by something unseen, causing upset and pain all around,'' she said.

"Keeping silent kept me in a cage of self-destruction.

"The life I had to survive while I grew up in silence was not happy, I did not feel like other children, I felt dirty and had to keep secrets. It hurts me the most that the whole [of my] family were also treated awfully with huge levels of manipulation.

"To know that Grieves-Smith has now finally faced the court and justice has been served, feels right."

Defence lawyer Jane Rowley said that, as a consequence of his crimes, Grieves-Smith would lose contact with his own young family. He was extradited from Australia to face trial and will serve his prison sentence in Britain.

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Grieves-Smith first came to Melbourne in 1999 and built the Melbourne Chorale, the forerunner of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Chorus, into an internationally acclaimed ensemble.

When he was charged with historic sex offences in 2015, he was the director of music at one of the University of Melbourne's prestigious boarding colleges, Trinity College.

He resisted extradition for four years and, throughout that time, continued to work with two Melbourne choirs, the Hamer Singers and Hallelujah Junction, and perform at major music halls around the nation.

Throughout an internationally acclaimed career, he performed with choirs and orchestras in Sydney, Perth and Brisbane, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields, BBC Singers and London Mozart Players.

Trinity College warden professor Ken Hinchcliff has written to current and former choristers informing them of Grieves-Smith's criminal conviction and inviting anyone with concerns about his conduct while at the college to come forward.

If you or anyone you know needs support, you can contact the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), Lifeline 131 114, or beyondblue 1300 224 636.

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