World renowned musician Philip Pickett jailed for 11 years over sexual attacks at Guildhall School of Music

LONDON - Internationally renowned musician Philip Pickett has been jailed for 11 years for sexually attacking his students at the world famous Guildhall School of Music.

Pickett, 64, was found guilty of two counts of rape and two counts of indecent assault which took place between 1977 and 1984 at the conservatoire, The Independent newspaper reported.

He attacked his victims in sound-proof practice rooms when he was a teacher at the school. He lured them into the rooms where no one would hear their screams, as he shut the door, turned out the light and assaulted them, BBC reported.

The first victim, who was 16 at the time of the attack, went to the school in 1978 as a sixth-form student to learn the recorder with Pickett, BBC said.

During a lesson, he asked her to remove her top, suggesting that she needed to work on her breathing. He then ordered her to lie on the floor and indecently assaulted her.

In a lesson the following week, she was raped by Pickett, the court was told, according to BBC.

Police praised the woman for her bravery which sparked their investigation into Pickett after she reported him to officers in Suffolk following the publicity surrounding the child abuse investigation on radio and TV presenter Jimmy Saville.

After Pickett was arrested in August 2013 in relation to the 1978 assault, more women came forward, resulting in charges relating to two more victims. One of them, who was 21 years old at the time, was raped by Pickett, while the other, 17 at the time, was indecently assaulted.

In both cases, the victims were also locked in a practice room where Pickett attacked them.

Judge Charles Wide said Pickett's crimes amounted to a "gross abuse of trust" and that the victims were "in awe of" their teacher who had targeted girls "most unlikely to complain".

Pickett, described as a "social animal" and happily married to a singer and harpsichord player, left the Guildhall in 1997 and went on to further success as artistic director of the Southbank Centre and Director of Early Music at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, The Independent reported.

In a statement, the Guildhall School of Music said: "Although these events took place several decades ago, this does not diminish our utter shock that a professional music teacher could abuse the trust placed in him by the School and its students."

It said "robust safeguarding procedures" are in place to ensure student safety and the measures are regularly reviewed.

After he was convicted, Pickett's defence team tried to delay sentencing to accommodate his commitment to arranging three music festivals, BBC reported.

But the judge rejected the request, saying he had his "head in the sand" and had carried on as if nothing had happened.

The case will refocus the spotlight on abuse at elite music schools as campaigners called on British Home Secretary Theresa May to ensure the Government's independent child sex abuse inquiry include them in its investigation.

"This is very far from an isolated case, and I am aware of a great many horrendous allegations involving musicians and music teachers,'' The Independent quoted leading campaigner Ian Pace as saying.

"It is absolutely vital that the inquiry into child sexual abuse set up by the Government investigates properly how so much widespread abuse, and psychological cruelty and bullying, have been a major feature of classical music for so long'.

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