Peter Antonelli: Pervert East Lothian music teacher who raped and sexually abused former pupils is jailed for eight years

A retired teacher who was awarded an MBE for services to musical education has been given eight years for raping and sexually abusing former pupils.

By James Mulholland
Wednesday, 22nd December 2021, 6:24 pm
Behind bars: Pervert music teacher Peter Antonelli.

Peter Antonelli, 66, spent almost three decades pretending to be a respectable member of the community by teaching children how to play piano at two schools in East Lothian.

But the High Court in Edinburgh heard how Antonelli used his job to groom and abuse young girls under his care.

Jurors heard how he told dirty jokes and used bad language in front of his pupils. Jurors also heard how the amateur photographer set up photo shoots in which he took explicit images – one witness also told the court that he bought her underwear.

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Antonelli, of Gullane, East Lothian, said he had done nothing wrong. He claimed he had a consensual sexual relationship with one of his pupils when she turned 17.

Antonelli also said it was common in the 1980s for teachers to date pupils.

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Antonelli was found guilty on charges of rape, lewd and libidinous conduct and indecent assault against six victims, who cannot be named for legal reasons after a trial last month. Sentence had been deferred until Wednesday for the court to obtain reports about Antonelli’s background.

On Wednesday, judge Jamie Gilchrist QC told Antonelli that he had no other option but to send him to prison.

Judge Gilchrist said: “Each of these offences represent a gross breach of trust and fragrant abuse of position for the purpose of sexual gratification.

“They were significantly vulnerable children as a result of their domestic circumstances. You exploited both of those factors in order to sexually abuse them. You appeared to offer them support – both emotional and what might be expected of a teacher.

“But you were in fact grooming and isolating and manipulating them into a position of dependency upon you where you were able to sexually abusing them.

“You made their support conditional upon compliance with your sexual demands. That abuse continued for years into each girl’s young adulthood.

“It is clear and not surprising that both women have suffered considerable and lasting emotional damage as a result of what you did to them.

“I’m sure you realise full well that the only appropriate sentence for the crimes for which you have been convicted of is a substantial period of imprisonment.

“I accordingly sentence you to eight years imprisonment.”

Antonelli was awarded an MBE for services to music education on December 31 2004 in that year’s New Year’s Honours list.

The court heard that he had studied at the prestigious Royal College of Music in London before becoming a teacher.

One of the women who gave evidence against him said Antonelli was respected in East Lothian and that his music had been played on the radio.

But Antonelli used his music classes to groom his six victims. The abuse took place between 1980 and 2005.

One of Antonelli’s victims told the court how he used to run his finger up her back and to her it seemed like he was feeling for a bra strap while she was at secondary school.

The woman, now 45, said: “He would run his hand seductively down your back. It was disgusting.”

She said there came a time when she refused to go to further lessons.

The woman said she had started piano lessons at primary school when she believed she was in the infant school. She said at the lessons at primary school with Antonelli there were no other teachers or pupils present and he would sit "right next to me on the stool, touching".

She added: “He would always put his hand on your bum and up your back. I think I just froze. I didn't know what to do. This was supposed to be a teacher that you were supposed to trust. Another woman - now aged 52 - told the court how Antonelli called her PB - which stood for ‘perfect b*m’ - and took indecent photographs of her during photo shoots which he organised. She said that some of the photos showed her “private parts”.

The woman said that Antonelli became “aroused” when he took the photos.

She also told the court that Mr Antonelli made her perform sex acts on him and got her to go on the pill when she turned 16 because he didn’t want to get her “pregnant”.

The woman told the court that Mr Antonelli also indulged in “controlling behaviour” towards her by repeatedly telephoning her and following her.

The woman told the court that that she was a “victim” of Mr Antonelli.

She added: “He would use inappropriate language - words like ’t**s’ and ‘f***y - he wouldn’t speak like a teacher. It was completely inappropriate and it crossed the line for the language that a teacher would use.”

Antonelli admitted to having a sexual relationship with the girl when she turned 17.

His relationship with the girl started when he was 31-years-old.

Antonelli told his lawyer Brian McConnachie QC: “At the time it was quite common then. Not now. But back then it was quite common.”

On Wednesday, Mr McConnachie told Judge Gilchrist that his client appreciated that he would be going to prison.

He said that Antonelli had a “heart issue” in 2002.

Mr McConnachie added: “For someone of his age and background Mr Antonelli serving a sentence of imprisonment is something that he will find extremely difficult. However, he understands that is the position he is in. What I would ask your lordship to consider is that at 67 he has never came to the attention of the courts before.

“There is very little likelihood of him coming to the attention of the courts again.”

Antonelli was also placed on the Sex Offenders Register for life.

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