THE Scots ballet school at the centre of allegations of sexual abuse faces being wound up, a matter of days after police launched an investigation.
The sheriff at Oban Sheriff Court has approved the appointment of a provisional liquidator to Ballet West Ltd as the business was “no longer financially viable”, a statement from the board of trustees has revealed.
The move formally starts the process of winding up Ballet West Ltd, which will mean the closure of the school at Taynuilt, Argyll, the trustees said
The announcement came five days after formal Police Scotland probe was announced after they received “a number of reports” in connection with claims of sexual impropriety at Ballet West Scotland in Argyll.
On Tuesday, Police Scotland had said there was no police investigation because there no complaints or reports had been made, six days after allegations of sexual impropriety surfaced which led to the resignation of the Ballet West Scotland’s vice principal Jonathan Barton and the suspension of its principal, his mother Gillian Barton.
An ITV investigation heard last week from more than 60 women – former students, staff and parents – who have made allegations of Mr Barton’s inappropriate behaviour going back as far as 2004 and as recently as 2018. The allegations include sexual contact with his students.
It is alleged that as further 30 have spoken out about alleged misconduct.
Mr Barton, a 38-year-old award winning dancer and teacher quit after being accused of abusing his position to sleep with teenage pupils at the £9,000 a year boarding school his family runs.
The latest governors’ statement said: “Due to events over the last two weeks, Ballet West Ltd, a registered Scottish charity, has been driven to the point of insolvency and the trustees had a legal duty to inform the charity regulator and take appropriate action in these circumstances.
“The board was required to make an application for a liquidator to be appointed.
“The immediate impact of this is that Ballet West’s affairs will now be dealt with by the liquidator, French Duncan.”
Jonathan Barton during one practice session
Eileen Blackburn, of French Duncan LLP, has been appointed by the court as provisional liquidator.
The trustees statement added: “This means that from today Ballet West’s financial affairs and operational responsibility will the managed by the provisional liquidator, and all business activities including residential and outreach activities will cease or be wound-down immediately.
“The trustees of the charity were required to make an application at Oban Sheriff Court due to the recent decisions of some key customers and partner organisations, as the business was no longer financially viable. The charity regulator has also been informed.”
It emerged last week that the University of Highlands and Islands were among three that have cut ties with Ballet West because of concerns over allegations.
The University of Highlands and Islands closed its BA classical ballet and dance performance and HNC/HND professional stage dance courses delivered through Ballet West Scotland at the end of academic year 2011/12.
It came after the university raised “serious allegations” involving “student welfare”, with police in Oban in late 2011.
The Ballet West board has said it was “unaware” of any complaints being raised with the school by the university.
Police Scotland confirmed that it had investigated allegations about “behaviour” at the school eight years ago but it concluded with no further action “with no criminality established”.
If further emerged that the Open University ended its partnership with Ballet West in December, 2018, following “safeguarding concerns, including allegations of inappropriate sexual relations between students and a staff member”.
Bath Spa University has said it has cut its ties with Ballet West.
Bath Spa University had approved the BA Ballet degree for delivery at the Ballet West since September 2019, but they said they are now “very concerned” by allegations and have ended their partnership with immediate effect.
Jonathan Barton (left above, right below) played the part of Romeo in a Ballet West performance of Romeo and Juliet five years ago. These was taken from stage rehearsals.
Both Mr Barton’s and Mrs Barton’s membership with the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) – a body that accredits ballet teachers – have been suspended as the inquiries into what happened continue.
Ballet West last week urged anyone with any information to shed light on what happened to contact the police as it emerged there was no live investigation. It said since the allegations were broadcast last Thursday, the board had yet to receive any complaint from either students or parents.
The trustees added: “The Board of Trustees is deeply saddened by this outcome and appalled that parent and students have been placed in such a terrible situation. This is the consequence of a catastrophic sequence of events and we could not prevent this from happening.
The allegations broadcast by ITN regarding the vice-principal on Thursday August 13 were shocking. Immediate action was required in response and he resigned. The board launched an internal inquiry, committed to an external inquiry and informed Police Scotland. We hoped the Board’s prompt action would allay fears in terms of student safety going forward.”