Chetham school choirmaster Michael Brewer jailed for six years for sex abuse of former pupil

Victim, who was also assaulted by Brewer's former wife, killed herself during trial

Kim Pilling
Tuesday 26 March 2013 15:15

A choirmaster who sexually abused a former pupil at one of Britain's top music schools was today jailed for six years.

Michael Brewer, 68, was convicted last month of indecently assaulting Frances Andrade, 48, when she was an underage student at Chetham's School of Music in Manchester.

The mother-of-four from Guildford, Surrey, gave evidence against him in his trial at Manchester Crown Court but a week later she took her own life before the jury reached its verdicts.

Brewer's ex-wife, Kay, 68, was jailed for 21 months today after she was convicted at the same trial of indecently assaulting Mrs Andrade when she was 18.

Brewer, of Swarthmore Road, Selly Oak, Birmingham, was convicted of five counts of indecently assaulting his victim when she was 14 and 15 and known as Frances Shorney.

Following the verdicts, the family of Mrs Andrade said they believed the court system had let her down and criticised the judicial process.

Her son Oliver said: "Being repeatedly called a 'liar' and a 'fantasist' about a horrific part of her life in front of a court challenged her personal integrity and was more than even she could bear."

The court heard that the abuse took place in Brewer's office and in his camper van, which he used to drive her out of the school grounds and get her to perform oral sex on him.

He was cleared of raping Mrs Andrade when she was 18 at his then home in Chorlton, Manchester.

Keen churchgoer Kay Brewer, of Knowl Gap Avenue, Rossendale, Lancashire, was cleared of aiding and abetting the alleged rape but convicted of one count of indecent assault against the complainant - said to have taken place on the same night as the alleged rape.

Brewer, who was awarded an OBE for services to music in 1995, resigned as music director at Chetham's at the end of 1994 after his affair with another pupil, then aged 17, was uncovered.

But the affair was hushed up, the court heard, and Brewer went on to become the artistic director of the National Youth Choirs of Britain, to direct the World Youth Choir, serve as an adjudicator in international competitions and lead BBC workshops for the programme Last Choir Standing in 2008.

One of his ensembles at the National Youth Choir gave a private performance to the Queen at Balmoral in 2007.

Sentencing him, Judge Martin Rudland said Michael Brewer had used his "powerful position" to groom Mrs Andrade.

"You have had an impressive career but that is now at an end," he said.

"Sadly there is another side to you and it is this. You were, and you may still be, a predatory sex offender. Of that let no-one be in any doubt."

The judge also referred to two other former pupils of Chetham's who gave evidence against Brewer as "victims".

One was the teenage lover whose relationship led to Brewer leaving the school and the other was a woman who fought off his sexual advances on a school trip.

But he said Mrs Andrade did not have the strength to resist "because her abiding desire was to be cared for and cherished by a loving family to which she craved to belong".

He added: "She was prepared to submit to almost to anything, which clearly she did, as you pushed the boundaries further and further - treating her as your sexual plaything in the context of a false loving relationship which she readily accepted."

He added that it was "surprising" that all those who spoke "so well" of him at his trial in his defence did so in the knowledge of the affair which ended his Chetham's career.

"It may well be that they were not aware of the detail in which you exploited her but they were apparently nevertheless more than happy to overlook one of the most shocking aspects of this case.

"Indeed, perhaps one of the few positive features to have emerged from this case is the resulting close scrutiny of the seemingly wider acceptance of this type of behaviour among those who should know better."

In mitigation for Brewer, Kate Blackwell QC, said: "There are no words capable of truly describing the tragic consequences of this case - consequences unforeseen by those involved in the court process but unremitting must be the pain felt by the family of Mrs Andrade.

"Through me, he does wish extend his sorrow for Mrs Andrade's death.

"Whatever the verdicts, he bears the burden of responsibility in the sense that he failed her while she was in his care.

"He continues to deny any offending towards her."

The judge said he had read "a very large file of letters" on Brewer which amounted to testimonials to his "unquestionable importance in his field" and his character as "inspirational"".

Miss Blackwell said Brewer had showed a positive attitude on remand in custody and was involved in teaching music and Spanish to inmates, as well as playing the keyboard in chapel services.

Brewer will serve half his sentence in prison and the rest on licence.

He was ordered to sign the sex offenders register for life.

He smiled towards his family in the public gallery as he was led from the dock.