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Grammy-winning conductor abused choirboy for four years

Joseph Cullen was choir master at St Andrews Cathedral in Glasgow in the 1970s and 80s.

St Andrew's Cathedral: Incidents happened between 1981 and 1985.
St Andrew's Cathedral: Incidents happened between 1981 and 1985. CC by Michael D Beckwith

A Grammy award-winning conductor abused a boy who saw him as a "surrogate father" for nearly four years, a court has heard.

Joseph Cullen, 58, was the choir master and organist at St Andrew's Cathedral in Glasgow and choir master at St Aloysius Church in Garnethill between 1976 and 1985.

The dad-of-three, who has led the London Symphony Chorus and has previously been involved in producing the BBC Proms, abused a nine-year-old boy who joined a choir at St Andrew's Cathedral.

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

Cullen, from Leeds, pled guilty at Glasgow Sheriff Court to a charge of using lewd and libidinous conduct towards the schoolboy between January 1981 and December 1984.

In July 2015, he was jailed for 12 months at the High Court in Glasgow for two other charges of lewd and libidinous conduct against two boys.

The court heard the child joined the choir aged nine while he was experiencing family problems and that he was a keen singer.

Procurator fiscal depute Niall Mcdonald 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."

'The complainer did not disclose what happened to anyone at the time as he thinks Cullen told him not to say anything.'
Procurator fiscal depute Niall Mcdonald

The court heard Cullen 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 Mcdonald 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.

On one occasion Cullen drove the boy home and when nobody was in, asked to see his bedroom, where he carried out another sex attack.

He then took the child to another relative's house but told him not to tell anyone because it was wrong, and their "special secret".

In June 2015, the victim's mother saw information online about Cullen's 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, winning two Grammy awards.

He has also been a conductor in America, France, Italy, Ireland and across the UK, including at Westminster Cathedral.

Sheriff Martin Jones QC deferred sentence until next month and continued Cullen's bail.

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