Ballet teacher cleared of racial harassment despite 'deplorable' comment

October 31, 2013
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A leading ballet teacher has been cleared of racial harassment, despite a court finding he made a “deplorable and ill-considered” antisemitic remark in the presence of a Jewish student.

Jonathan Barton told a group of pupils at Scotland’s prestigious Ballet West school: “You look like a bunch of Jews lining up waiting to be shot in the rain.”

He then asked whether anyone there was Jewish, and when Genevieve Huss, the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, raised her hand, he apologised, Oban Sheriff Court heard this week.

Mr Barton, 31, of Taynuilt, Argyll, was accused of causing alarm and distress to Ms Huss, but was found to have no case to answer.

Sheriff Douglas Small said prosecutors had failed to provide evidence that Mr Barton — a renowned ballet dancer who has worked with the English National Ballet — had acted with “malice or ill will” when he made the comment in December 2010.

Ms Huss, 20, gave evidence on Monday, telling the court: “I was shocked in a very bad way that a comment would even be made like that in this day and age. I just think it shouldn’t be made. It was unnecessary — there was no reason for it.”

But during cross-examination by defence lawyer Gary McAteer, she admitted the remark could have been made “innocently” and that she believed Mr Barton “liked her”.

Sheriff Small concluded: “It is my opinion that while the remarks made by the accused were made, and were deplorable and ill-considered, they do not, in all the circumstances, amount to a sufficiency in law for the case to proceed.”

Following the trial, Mr McAteer claimed Mr Barton’s father was Jewish and that he had been “very supportive” of his son.

Mr Barton has previously been awarded the Solo Seal of the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) and won a medal at the prestigious Genée International Ballet Competition.

Off-stage, he has appeared as a dancer in a number of music videos and pop concerts. He was also the lead teacher for Scotland’s largest gathering of male dancers, the RAD’s Boys Only.

Last updated: 6:45pm, October 31 2013