June 2018

Choirmaster admits sexually abusing nine-year-old boy

A church choirmaster and world-renowned conductor has admitted sexually abusing a boy who saw him as a “surrogate father”.

Joseph Cullen, 58, targeted the nine-year-old after he joined a choir at St Andrew’s Cathedral in Glasgow in 1981.

Glasgow Sheriff Court heard he continued to abuse him until 1984.

Cullen, who was also choirmaster at St Aloysius’ Church in Garnethill during the 1970s and 80s, has previously been jailed for abusing two other boys.

The court heard the father-of-two called his nine-year-old victim his “special friend” during the time of the abuse.

The youngster was experiencing family problems and described Cullen, from Leeds, as being like a surrogate father despite only being in his 20s.

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.”

Cullen, who won two Grammy awards while working with the London Symphony Chorus, first assaulted the boy in the organ room at St Andrew’s Cathedral.

On hearing other people walk upstairs towards them, Cullen left the room before returning and saying “that was close”.

The court heard of “several other occasions” when Cullen abused the boy in the same room.

On one occasion, Cullen drove the boy home and asked to see his bedroom, where he carried out another sex attack.

In June 2015, the victim’s mother saw information online about Cullen being jailed for 12 months for historical offences against children at the same churches.

She told her son who contacted the police.

Defence counsel Thomas Ross QC said Cullen had had a “very successful career as a freelance musician”.

The court heard Cullen worked as a conductor in America, France, Italy, Ireland and across the UK, including at Westminster Cathedral.

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.”

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

July 2015

World-renowned conductor jailed for abusing boys

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A Grammy Award-winning conductor has been jailed for 12 months for sexually abusing two young boys in Glasgow.

Joseph Cullen groomed his victims in the late 1970s and 80s while involved with choirs at the city’s St Aloysius Church and St Andrew’s Cathedral.

The 55-year-old, now of Otley, West Yorkshire, was caught after one of his victims contacted police in 2013.

Cullen worked at Westminster Cathedral and with London Symphony Chorus. He admitted charges of lewd conduct.

Judge Lord Turnbull said the conductor had carved out a prestigious career following the abuse resulting in genuine international acclaim.

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But the judge added that the most serious aspect of Cullen’s crimes meant a jail-term had to be imposed.

The abuse in this case spanned between 1976 and 1982 and started when Cullen was in his mid-to-late teens and his victim was about eight years old.

The first boy was groomed shortly after joining a choir at St Aloysius Church in Glasgow in which Cullen was also a member.

He secretly gave the child pocket money, gained the trust of his parents and began attacking the boy in his family home.

Cullen met his second victim in the early 80s while choirmaster at a singing group at Glasgow’s St Andrew’s Cathedral.

He would drive him to and from practice and make excuses for the boy to be within his vehicle.

Cullen again gained the trust and friendship of the child’s family and began abusing him when he was aged about 11.

The attacks took place at Cullen’s then home in the city’s Riddrie area and in the changing area at the cathedral.

Cullen also attacked the boy in his car while driving him from school where he was also a music teacher

In 2007, the second victim, who by then was in his late 30s, confronted Cullen but the abuser said he could not remember anything,

Cullen then said to him: “If I can do anything, give you advice, help you… I’m here for you.”

It was not until 2013 that the victim went police. The Archdiocese of Glasgow was also alerted.

The court heard that both victims had suffered lasting damage because of the abuse.

Cullen gained many plaudits as a leading conductor, choir master and organist.

He 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.

Cullen was latterly with the Huddersfield Choral Society in Yorkshire.

His lawyer, Jim Wallace, told the court: “He had a significant and successful career through individual talent and sheer hard work.

“But, as a result of his crimes, his downfall is now complete.”

June 2015

World-renowned music conductor admits sexually abusing two young boys

A world-renowned conductor who was involved with Huddersfield Choral Society for many years has admitted sexually abusing two young boys.

Joseph Cullen – who until recently was the Society’s chorus master – preyed on his victims while involved with choirs in Glasgow in the late 1970s and early 80s.

Cullen’s attacks remained a secret as he later won two Grammy awards for his work with the famous London Symphony Chorus.

But, the married 55-year-old was brought to justice when a victim went to police in 2013, sparking a probe into the abuse.

It lead to shamed Cullen admitting to two charges of using lewd and libidinous conduct when he appeared at the High Court in Glasgow today – Thursday.

He was suspended by the Choral Society after he was charged with the offences last September.

He had been involved with the Society since 1999 and has worked with musicians at the town’s annual Mrs Sunderland Festival and was director of the chamber choir of the University of Huddersfield.

During the court case a judge heard how a victim wishes he had a “magic wand” to rid what happened while the other went from “a really talented boy” to ending up homeless due to his ordeal.

Cullen had his bail continued meantime and will learn his fate when he is sentenced next month.

The father-of-three’s abuse spanned between 1976 and 1982.

The first boy was groomed shortly after joining a choir at St Aloysius Church in Glasgow.

Cullen was also a member of the choir.

The child was aged around eight when the attacks began.

St Aloysius Church, Glasgow

Prosecutor Steven Borthwick told how Cullen would secretly give the child “pocket money”.

Cullen – at the time in his mid-late teens – then gained the trust of the boy’s parents and would often visit the family home.

It was there the first incident took place before Cullen again molested the child at the house.

The final more serious attack also occurred there in 1978. The victim did not see his abuser again for more than a decade when they were both at a wedding.

Cullen met his second victim in the early 1980s while choirmaster at singing group at Glasgow’s St Andrew’s Cathedral.

Mr Borthwick told the court: “The boy would go to choir practice. The accused would drive him to and from there and would instigate excuses for the boy to be within his vehicle.”

Cullen again “gained the trust and friendship” of this child’s family. The boy was aged around 11 when first abused.

He was preyed upon at Cullen’s then home in the city’s Riddrie and in the changing area at the cathedral.

Cullen also attacked the boy in his car while driving him from school where he was also a music teacher.

It was only in 2007 when this victim – who by then was in his late 30s – confronted Cullen about what happened.

He got the musician’s contact details from his personal website.

The victim asked Cullen did he remember what he did, but he insisted he could not.

Cullen then said to him: “If I can do anything, give you advice, help you … I’m here for you.”

But, it was not until 2013 that the victim went police. The Archdiocese of Glasgow was also alerted.

It was around this time the first victim revealed to his family that he had been sexually abused.

Glasgow-born Cullen met with the now 46-year-old and his father at the family home.

Advocate depute Mr Borthwick said: “The accused was asked questions with regards to the abuse.

“He admitted to manipulating, grooming and sexually abusing the victim.”

These incidents were also investigated by police in early 2014 leading to Cullen being held at his home in Otley, West Yorkshire.

The court heard how the first victim has been left with “big” mental scars as a result of his ordeal.

In a statement to prosecutors, he said: “No amount of therapy or medication will fix that.

“I feel awkward. I feel guilt and I feel shame.

“I wish I had a magic wand that would fix it. It is part of my make up now, but its just a very difficult thing.”

The second victim also had personal issues growing up after suffering at Cullen’s hands and ended up homeless.

In her statement, his mum said: “He was a really talented boy. He changed from such a lovely boy into someone we did not know – and we did not know why.”

While his victims struggled to cope, Cullen meantime carved out a prestigious career as a leading conductor, choir master and organist.

He 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.

Judge Lord Turnbull deferred sentencing for reports and placed Cullen on the sex offenders register.