A renowned composer accused of sexual abuse during singing lessons has told a jury any physical contact occurred only when correcting “bad posture”.
A renowned composer accused of sexual abuse during singing lessons has told a jury any physical contact occurred only when correcting “bad posture”.

‘No sex, no flirting’: Arts identity denies abusing girls

A prominent SA arts identity has told a jury there was nothing "coquettish" nor "flirtatious" in his teaching relationships with three women who have accused him of sexual abuse.

Former State Opera of SA artistic director Timothy Adrian Sexton has denied the women's allegations, saying there was "absolutely no" unlawful sex "whatsoever".

Taking the witness stand in his District Court trial, the composer refuted allegations he repeatedly and consistently abused his then-teenage singing students.

"There was nothing sort of coquettish or really, really flirtatious … I mean we were friends, we got along really well, we would talk quite freely," he said.

"I talk to students the way I talk to anybody, it's just the way I talk to people … it was a perfectly healthy back-and-forth … a good teacher/student relationship."

Any physical contact, he said, occurred as part of the needs of teaching singing - which he compared to teaching "a sportsperson or a weightlifter".

"Because singing is an internal physical activity, it was necessary to make certain corrections … quite often, the issue with students is bad posture," he said.

"Singing is working the diaphragm, it's working with your posture … essentially, I taught the way I had been taught (and that) involved pushing down on (a student's) shoulders.

"You've got to breathe into the diaphragm, so you keep their shoulders down."

Sexton is the former artistic director of the State Opera of SA. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Kelly Barnes.
Sexton is the former artistic director of the State Opera of SA. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Kelly Barnes.

Sexton, 60, of Birdwood, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of maintaining an unlawful sexual relationship with a child.

He has further denied seven counts of indecent assault and eight counts of unlawful sexual intercourse.

Prosecutors allege have alleged that, during a four-year period in his singing teacher career, Sexton committed 17 sex crimes against three girls across seven suburbs.

They allege he was between 27 and 28 years old when he offended, framing his abuse in "romantic" terms with gifts and flowers.

Sexton, they allege, "beguiled" the girls with his talent, looks and charisma until they were "infatuated" by and "loyal" to him.

His conduct, they allege, ranged from risque comments to sexual intercourse and included exposing himself while saying "I would like you to meet Percy".

Giving evidence, Sexton said he never wanted to be a teacher, considering it a "partial backstop to earn income" as he worked to further his musical career.

"I really did try to keep the teaching of singing to a relative minimum … I really only took on students who had really good voices that had potential to do well," he said.

"I didn't want to clutter my calendar with lots of small things at the expense of being able to do big things."

He said the first of his former students had once bought him a jar of baby food as a humorous birthday present but, other than "a peck on the cheek", their relationship was professional.

"(Once) she asked me if I had ever had an affair or relationship with a teacher or had a close relationship with one," he said.

"I said to her that I had a relationship with a person who had been a teacher at my school, but that was after I left school."

The trial, before Judge Geraldine Davison and a jury, continues.

 

*For 24-hour sexual violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636.   

Originally published as Arts identity denies abusing girls: 'No sex, no flirting'


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