Suicide is Painless

One of the biggest influences in the kind of doctor I wanted to be wasn’t my parents but a TV show. I know it sounds cliche but everything I learnt about being there for your patients I learnt from MASH.

Suicide in the UK has become the biggest killer of young men aged 30 to 44. Every day 3 young men take their own lives (on average) and a lot of the reasons for their deaths is the recession and economic downturn. In 2011 4500 men took their lives out of 6050 total. To point out how high this number in the 30-44 age bracket is? Suicide caused the deaths of more people than road accidents, murder and HIV/AIDS combined. [Read more...]

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.