Army’s former chief drum instructor jailed after assaulting teenage girls with drumsticks

The drumming instructor of a Scottish boarding school has been jailed after assaulting teenage schoolgirls with his drumsticks and engaging in a months-long "illicit affair" with a 17-year-old pupil.

James Clark, who was previously the British Army’s chief instructor for pipes and drums, appeared for sentence at Falkirk Sheriff Court after a jury found him guilty of three charges of common assault by hitting or touching girls’ bottoms, two of them using drumsticks.

He was also convicted of three charges of breach of trust by sexual activity with or directed at female pupils and one charge of communicating indecently with a pupil. His victims were seven girls, aged 13 to 18.

Clark, 56, had taught drumming at the "traditional" Perthshire school since 2012 and was also an assistant housemaster.

During a seven-day trial in September, the court heard the former colour sergeant had a "habit" of touching girls on their bottoms.

One pupil, now 23, said he had "regularly" struck her on the bottom, often during kilt-fitting sessions in the school’s clothing store, and once actually bruised. She said Clark had "smacked me on the bum pretty much all the time" during a band trip to Switzerland in 2015.

Other pupils said when they challenged him about hitting their bottoms with his hands, drumsticks, or a rolled up copy of the register, Clark, a real-life father-of-six, replied "I’m your school dad".

One ex-pupil said that when she was 16, Clark had cornered her at a Christmas concert in the school’s Central Hall and told her, "the two of us should have children together."

He was also said to have hugged girls, and entered one senior girl’s bedroom when she was asleep, sat on her bed, and kissed her on the forehead.

The court heard Clark had previously taught at Loretto boarding school, Musselburgh, and at top independent school George Watson’s College, Edinburgh, before moving to the school, which cannot be identified, where the incidents occured between 2011 and 2018.

‘Illicit affair’ victim suffered ‘shame and guilt for a long time’

Jurors heard that the liaison with the 17-year-old occurred in 2018, and ranged from kissing in a cupboard to oral sex in the bagpipe store. In February 2019 she went to the headmaster.

The girl, now 20, said Clark had "abused" her in his car and in the band hut. She also said that some of this "abuse" took place in her boarding house "in the duty office, in the drying room, the junior common room, the senior common room and at one point in the children’s tuck cupboard".

She said he had "kissed her open mouthed", kissed her neck and left a "hickey", put his hand up her t-shirt, and "squeezed her boobs", and put his hand under her prefect’s kilt.

While giving her a lift in his car, Clark had put his hand on her thigh, pulled over, took his seat belt off, and started kissing her, she said.

During one car journey, she said, he had actually unbuttoned her jeans while driving along the motorway, pulled her zip down, put his hands in her pants and started touching her.

She said Clark had told her she could not tell anyone what he was doing, and she had suffered from "victim shame and guilt for a long time".

Clark, pictured in 2001, as drum major of the 1st Battalion Highlanders

Credit: Les Parker
/© 2021 The Central Scotland News Agency

Clark, of Etrick Loan, Edinburgh, had denied the charges. His counsel, Sarah Livingstone, said he’d had "an illicit affair" with the girl but prosecutor Cheryl Clark argued she’d been groomed.

Sentencing him to one year and nine months’ imprisonment, Sheriff Alistair Brown said: "Sexual activity by a man in relation to a girl under 18 in relation to whom he is in a position of trust is absolutely prohibited. There are no exceptions. It is always a crime."

Clark, who is now a gardener, was also placed on the sex offenders’ register for 10 years. He showed no emotion as he was led to the cells.

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