Thursday, March 31, 2016

Cleared after three years of hell: Renowned violinist accused of raping a former pupil has case against him dropped after a battle that has cost him £35,000 and his career

A renowned music professor has been sensationally cleared of raping a former pupil after a three-year legal battle that has cost him £35,000, destroyed his career and almost saw his children taken from him.

Violinist Wen Zhou Li, 61, was due to stand trial later this year accused of raping and indecently assaulting a teenage girl he taught at Chetham's School of Music in the 1990s.

The Chinese-born musician was the last teacher facing charges after a four-year police investigation into historical sex abuse at Chetham's and the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM), both in Manchester.

But the case has now been dropped after his defence team is understood to have given evidence to a hearing that his accuser made similar allegations against another former teacher, who was never prosecuted.

It also emerged that the student asked Mr Li to teach her again years after he supposedly raped her. The prosecution offered no evidence in the hearing at Manchester Crown Court, with Judge Michael Henshall saying Mr Li left court 'without a stain on his character'.

Mr Li, who taught a string of prize-winning pupils, has now told of his anger over the case, which left him barred from teaching and from being alone with his sons John, 11, and Jack, eight.

He added that he felt unable to play his violin or even listen to the instrument during his ordeal. He said: 'It's been incredibly tough for me, but it's my family, my two beautiful boys, who have really suffered.

'I always used to put them to bed, read them stories, take them out at the weekend. For nearly three years I couldn't do any of that. Fortunately we're a very strong family, my wife has been incredibly supportive, but it could have torn us apart.'

Following his arrest in February 2013, Mr Li had to agree to let his sons stay with friends as his wife Lili, 38, was visiting relatives in China. During that time he said he had to get permission just to hug them.

After six weeks the boys were allowed back to the family home near Northwich, Cheshire, on condition that Mr Li had no unsupervised contact with them.

Social workers are said to have quizzed the boys to check he abided by the rule and to have gone to court twice to have them taken into care, but a judge rejected both applications.

Mr Li's bail conditions were only relaxed last autumn to allow him to take John to secondary school.

Mr Li, who was once the star of a Channel 4 documentary Learning With Mr Li, was also banned from teaching, losing his job at the RNCM where he had taught for two decades, and was not allowed to see former colleagues.

Mr Li said he felt his accuser, who retains lifelong anonymity, had 'won' and that he could not understand why police had believed her, adding: 'Several years later she came back to have lessons with me. Would she have done that if I had raped her? I thought in this country you were innocent until proven guilty. For me it felt like the other way around. I was treated like a criminal.'

He called for those accused of sexual abuse to be granted anonymity unless they are found guilty.

Mr Li, who paid around £35,000 for his own legal team after he was refused legal aid, added: 'I am so happy the case has been dropped. I cried for two hours after I found out. I'd bottled it all up for three years.'

His barrister Nina Grahame asked the judge to order a report from the Crown Prosecution Service into why it took so long to drop the case, but he declined. A CPS spokesman said: 'Following advice from prosecuting counsel the case was then subject to further review and the decision was taken to offer no evidence.'

The RNCM declined to comment on Mr Li's departure.

Greater Manchester Police said it had not received any new evidence relating to Operation Kiso, the investigation launched after former Chetham's director of music Michael Brewer was found guilty of sexually abusing ex-pupil Frances Andrade, who committed suicide during the trial in 2013.

Two ex-teachers from Chetham's and the RNCM were convicted of sexual offences and accusations were made against deceased staff members after more than 30 former pupils contacted police.

Original report here

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