The Price of Justice

The following contains a story of rape, suicide and abuse.

I knew Levine and Frances Andrade. Not personally but as a violinist from Manchester. Levine was often held up as a role model for a fair few Indian kids on the strings. And I was shocked to read today’s news and hear about the stories of a school I once nearly joined.

Frances Andrade was 14 when she was asked to go to a teacher’s office at the famous Chetham’s School for Music. Michael Brewer would make her take her top and bra off and touch her. The abuse continued until the age of 18.

Both Michael and his ex-wife Kay were found guilty of indecent assault (due to the lack of a penetrative act it cannot be charged as rape in the UK).

Michael resigned from Chetham’s in 1994 after another incident where he had an inappropriate relationship with a 17 year old girl. As part of the terms, the case was dropped and Mr. Brewer went on to have a long and highly successful career in music. He was the Artistic Director of the National Youth Choirs of Britain. He directed the World Youth Choir and even appeared on TV as a workshop leader for the reality show Last Choir Standing. He was even awarded an OBE for services to music in 1995!

Mrs. Andrade gave evidence on January the 16th and 17th in full view of the court room. The investigation was sparked by her telling a friend about her time at Chetham’s and her friend reporting it to the police. She then cooperated fully and agreed to take part in the prosecution.

Quoting from the article written in the Telegraph and Syndicated out here…

She was called a fantastist and liar by Kate Blackwell QC, Brewer’s barrister. Judge Martin Rudland remarked that she was “clearly undergoing a cathartic experience, whatever the source” while giving evidence. He said she was “combative” during cross-examination by Kate Blackwell QC, representing Brewer, and she had taken personal issue with some of the barrister’s questions but the judge indicated that Miss Blackwell had acted professionally. During the cross-examination, Mrs Andrade told Miss Blackwell: “You are hugely insulting, even though it’s your job.””

She was put through the ringer. It’s not for me to say how we defend our cases in court. The courts are rigorous and witnesses must be examined thoroughly. Whether the cross examination from Kate Blackwell (QC) was too much or not, is not for me to judge. Your job as a lawyer is to rule out all possibilities including “fantasist”. It may be distasteful but that’s how we get justice and there are precious few systems better than this.

That’s the point of a fair trial. To cast doubt over the words of each side and to hope that out of the maneuvering some truth will arise.

A day earlier, the jury – on the direction of the judge – recorded not guilty verdicts on five counts of indecent assault against Brewer due to insufficient evidence about how old the complainant was at the time of the allegations. The lack of evidence crippling the prosecution. That was on January the 24th.

After a few more days of maneuvering and the release of the knowledge of Mr. Brewer’s past “dalliance” the verdict was read out as guilty of indecent assault.

And then the Jury were told. On the 24th of January, Mrs. Andrade committed suicide. Her death was kept from the papers due to her involvement in the case.

The judge, prosecution and defence lawyers knew (UK law basically) and they maintained confidentiality until today’s verdict. After the verdict the news was released to the court requiring a halt of proceedings to retain composure.

I don’t know whether Frances Andrade found catharsis or freedom. I don’t what she was thinking. Nor will I say what she should have done. But she tried to get justice and paid a price for it. I do wish someone could have been there to hear her out. It’s a sad and pointlessly tragic death in a sad and pointlessly tragic story.

Take what morals you want from this. It’s just a bit close to home.


  1. I have a soul, Kate Blackwell does not says

    To call someone a liar is not professional and shows the soullessness of the questioner.

    IMO, Kate Blackwell killed her, after everyone else had a go at the victim.

    And the judge acted despicably, calling the victim further names such as combative.

    There is a special place in Hell for these low types.

    God rest this woman’s soul, and give her the peace that the justice system refused to.

  2. S Mukh says

    Very sad — I had heard that Andrade couldn’t be there for the final ruling because of ‘tragic circumstances’, but I didn’t know that she had committed suicide. How awful.

    NOT to excuse the abuser Brewer in the slightest — but I’m really disheartened that he was abetted by his wife when he was carrying out the abuse, and later defended by a female barrister, who was willing to attack the victim in court in such a way. Again, this does not excuse Brewer the least bit, since he was the one who committed the crime. But being a woman myself, it just makes me sad.

  3. julian says

    In a just world Kate Blackwell would be the one dead. I understand the importance of giving your client the best defense possible but that’s way over the line. And reading the article it looks like the judge felt she behaved entirely appropriately.

  4. says

    Fuck. I did a concert with this sleazebag in 2009, and my thoughts at the time were that he was the musical equivalent of a shonky second-hand car salesman, a complete bullshit artist and narcissistic self-promoter. He was still working with youth choirs at the time. I’m disgusted that Ms Andrade was ripped apart by Brewer’s barrister on the stand, and utterly horrified to learn she committed suicide.

    julian, I wouldn’t wish death on Kate Blackwell QC. The whole justice system is at fault when prosecutions can’t secure convictions for horrible crimes against the person like Frances Andrade suffered.

  5. says

    Xanthe they secured a conviction. Since no penetrative act took place it wasn’t rape but sexual assault.

    And indeed the point of lawyers is to rip apart each other’s witnesses until an idea of the story is provided. It may be distasteful but think of the alternative. If we did not know Brewer’s past history (which was released recently during the trial) and Mrs Andrade didn’t commit suicide we wouldn’t have minded the cross examination.

    Justice wasn’t done at the time, but justice was done now. However the price was Mrs. Andrade’s mental health and life. I am not sure how we could have conducted a trial without such a cross examination…

  6. says

    I’ll amend that — Brewer was found not guilty of rape, but guilty of a subset of the indecent assault charges. (Not guilty isn’t equivalent to innocent.)

  7. Tony Shaw says

    Justice is not served when the result if a trial depends more on the skill of the barrister than the actual facts. There is no doubt that Kate Blackwell is an extremely skillful barrister. Just look at her CV , published on line. It tells of her getting people off when co-accused , but defended by different barristers, were found guilty. What this says is ” I can get people off when others cannot”. That is not justice . Nor is it saying that the barrister actually believes in justice. It merely says that the barrister is damn good at her trade.

    I my view it is a pretty disgusting trade and one which requires people like Kate Blackwell to have no sense of morality whatsoever.

  8. bradleybetts says

    @ #1 (I refuse to write your childish ‘nym) and Julian

    It’s her job. Without strenuous defence councils innocent people would be locked up, and that’s no better (you could argue worse) than guilty people not being locked up. The fact Frances Andrade killed herself is utterly, utterly tragic. But for a start, you don’t know it was Blackwell’s cross examination that caused it. It may very well have been the dragging up of painful memories which occurred during the trial. And even if it was, it is utterly stupid to wish death upon someone for doing their job.

    @S. Mukh

    In response to your far more reasonable point, while I understand your frustration I believe that Barristers are assigned cases and do not have a choice which cases they do and do not take. As I understand it a Solicitor will hire a Chambers to take a case and the Senior Clerk will assign that case to a Barrister who is a member of that Chambers. I don’t think they get much of a choice, and I certainly don’t think it makes them immoral. Someone has to do it, and anyone with any faith in the legal system would be confident that the facts will be what decides the case.

    A general comment to you all; our system is far from perfect and parts of it are downright distasteful, but it’s the best one I know of.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>