A music instructor at a Perthshire school faces prison after assaulting teenage schoolgirls with his drumsticks, subjecting a sixth-form girl to sex-talk, and engaging in a months-long “illicit affair” with a 17-year-old pupil.
James Clark, a former cowhand who joined the services when he was 20 and rose to be chief instructor for pipes and drums for the entire British Army, had taught at the school since 2012.
At Falkirk Sheriff Court, 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 guilty of three charges of breach of trust by sexual activity with, or directed at, girl pupils and one charge of communicating indecently with a pupil.
Seven girls, aged 13 to 18, were victims, according to the verdicts.
Pupils thought Clark was a ‘creep’
During a seven-day trial, the court heard Clark, 56, had a “habit” of touching girls on their bottoms.
One pupil, now 23, said she had been left feeling “violated” after being regularly struck on the bottom by the 6ft 2in tall former colour sergeant during her school career.
She was once actually bruised by him.
She said, during a trip to Switzerland in 2015, Clark had “smacked me on the bum pretty much all the time”.
Other pupils said when they challenged him about hitting their bottoms with his hands, drumsticks, or a rolled up copy of the register, father-of-six Clark would tell them: “I’m your school dad”.
One ex-pupil said when she was 16, Clark had cornered her a Christmas concert and told her, “the two of us should have children together.”
She said: “I thought he was a creep, as did most people at the school.”
He was also said to have hugged girls and kissed one on the forehead.
‘Abused’ 17-year-old pupil
The court heard Clark had previously taught at top Scottish schools before moving to the Perthshire institution where his crimes happened between 2011 and 2018.
The school cannot be named for legal reasons.
Jurors heard the liaisons with the 17-year-old happened in 2018 and ranged from kissing in a cupboard to oral sex in an instrument store.
In February 2019, she went to the headmaster.
The girl, now 20, said Clark had “abused” her, in his car and on school grounds, including in the senior common room and the children’s tuck cupboard.
During one car journey, she said, he had unbuttoned her jeans while driving along the motorway, pulled her zip down and touched her intimately.
Prior to the incidents the witness said she had not been sexually active “in any shape or form” and claimed she never consented to what had happened.
She said Clark had told her she could not tell anyone what they were doing or he would lose his job and go to jail.
Sheriff’s prison warning
Jurors found Clark not guilty of sexually assaulting her but guilty of the alternative offence of sexual activity with a pupil under his care.
In evidence, he claimed she was “flirty”, “very willing”, accused her of “grooming” him, and said “sexual tension” had led to sexual contact and “proper adult kissing” in his office.
Clark, now a gardener, said he was “going to have to live with this for the rest of my life, and, chances are, go to prison”.
The girl said a defence suggestion she had “not once” told Clark to stop was false.
She said: “I froze. I was not a willing party.
“I didn’t feel I had the right to say no, because I didn’t like my body.”
She said she had suffered from “victim shame and guilt for a long time”.
Clark’s counsel, Sarah Livingstone, said her client had “an illicit affair” with the girl.
Prosecutor Cheryl Clark said she had been groomed.
Deferring sentence until November 15 for reports and placing Clark on the Sex Offenders Register, Sheriff Alistair Brown told him bail would be continued but that “did not constitute any kind of assurance as to what might happen”.