Choral conductor Jonathan Grieves-Smith has been sentenced to 24 years in jail for child sex crimes. The conductor, who was a prominent figure in Australia’s choral and classical music community, was convicted of 16 counts of sex offences in a Brighton court earlier this year after being extradited to the UK from Australia.
Grieves-Smith’s crimes, which the victim described as “torture”, took place during the late 1980s and early 1990s, while he was musical director of Brighton Festival Chorus, a post he held from 1983 to 1998.
The news has rocked Australia’s choral and classical music scene. Grieves-Smith moved to Melbourne in 1999 where he led the Melbourne Chorale (which became the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Chorus in 2008). He was Director of Music at Melbourne’s Trinity College from 2014 to 2016, when, it was revealed in March this year, his employment was terminated after the college learned of the allegations against him. Grieves-Smith also led ensembles including the Hamer Singers and Hallelujah Junction, and conducted choirs including the Sydney Chamber Choir.
Grieves-Smith was tried under the name of Jonathan Smith. “Smith came to know his victim, then aged just five, in the late 1980s and this horrific abuse continued systematically, unbeknown to anyone else, for more than five years until he moved away from the area,” Detective Constable Lisa Wells, from the East Sussex Safeguarding Investigations Unit, said in a statement. “She has suffered with the trauma and distress of what happened to her, in secret, and it was not for more than a further 20 years that she felt strong enough to get in touch and share her experiences with us.”
“We admire her courage and resolution in supporting our investigation and the prosecution process,” Wells said. “It took four years to ensure Smith’s return from Australia to face justice and she then gave evidence which helped ensure his conviction at court.”
Judge Paul Tain said Grieves-Smith had shown no thought for the victim as a human being, Brighton paper The Argus reported. “Many people speak highly of you. 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,” he said. “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,” the judge said.
Grieves-Smith will be registered as a child sex offender for life.