UK

Student ‘did not feel safe’ around ballet teacher, court told

A woman told a court she did not feel safe around her ballet teacher while training at a school in Argyll (PA Archive)
A woman told a court she did not feel safe around her ballet teacher while training at a school in Argyll (PA Archive) A woman told a court she did not feel safe around her ballet teacher while training at a school in Argyll (PA Archive)

A woman has told a court she did not feel safe around her dance instructor, who is on trial accused of sexually abusing her and other students, due to how he touched her when correcting her movement.

The woman, now 31, told jurors that corrections dance teacher Jonathan Barton, 41, would make “felt inappropriate” while she attended a ballet school in Argyll between 2009 and 2011.

Another woman, now 26, told the court she did not want to be known as a “troublemaker” or someone who caused “issues” if she raised her concerns about Barton.

Barton is accused of having sex with two students while in a position of trust as a teacher at the school, and of sexual offences involving seven others.

It is alleged he sexually assaulted a woman by touching her inner thighs on various occasions between December 1, 2010 and June 30, 2015.

Barton denies all the charges against him.

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told Dumbarton Sheriff Court on Thursday that she joined the school in 2009 after developing a serious interest in ballet at secondary school.

She said when teaching ballet, teachers could give either verbal or physical corrections to posture or positions.

Fiscal depute Dana Barclay asked the witness if teachers at the school, including Barton, would give students “notice” when they were going to touch them.

The witness said: “I was never asked permission to be touched.”

Ms Barclay asked the witness how she felt when Barton touched her inner thighs.

She said: “I felt uncomfortable when he touched my inner thighs.”

Ms Barclay asked: “Can you explain why you felt uncomfortable?”

The witness responded: “I didn’t trust him. I felt uncomfortable around him. I didn’t feel safe.”

Defending Barton, Gary McAteer asked the woman if she told police she “never felt sexually violated by Barton”.

The woman said: “I never felt sexually violated but I did feel groomed.”

Barton is further accused of a charge towards a girl who was over 13 but under 16 at the time of the alleged offence where he handled her buttocks, placed a hand on her knee, touched her close to the vagina, and kneeled in front of her, placing his head close to her crotch.

Another witness, a 26-year-old woman, told the court her understanding of corrections was “something to make you better” at dancing and they could be “physical, verbal or both”.

Ms Barclay asked the witness if there was anything unusual about the way Barton corrected her during lessons.

She said: “He would put his hand on my bum.”

Ms Barclay asked the witness: “How did you feel when that correction was being delivered?”

The witness answered: “Uncomfortable. I’d never had a teacher correct me in that way before or any way that made me feel uncomfortable.”

Ms Barclay asked the witness if she had told Barton it made her uncomfortable, to which she said she did not.

Ms Barclay asked: “How many times did this happen?”

The witness responded: “More times than I could count. I couldn’t tell you the number.”

Ms Barclay asked the witness if other teachers corrected students in the same way as Barton did.

The witness said they did not.

She told the court Barton corrected “pretty much everyone” in “exactly the same way”.

She was then asked if she discussed Barton with anyone else in the class.

The witness replied: “As your teacher, you just trust that to be what is done.

“You don’t want to cause any issues or become a troublemaker.

“The reason I would go to dance class is to become better. If you cause issues and don’t get corrections, you don’t get better.”

Ms Barclay asked the witness how she felt about being in court to give evidence.

The witness said: “It is quite hard to look back on it. I don’t look back on it in a good light. It was a very difficult time in my life. I wouldn’t choose to look back on it.”

Defending, Mr McAteer attempted to demonstrate a plie in the courtroom and asked the witness if the position Barton was alleged to be in was possible.

The witness said: “This is the reason I am coming forward to talk about the corrections. It was unnecessary.”

The trial, before Sheriff William Gallacher, continues.