Royal Opera House delayed telling fellow charity about sexual misconduct allegations

The ROH informed the Charity Commission that allegations had been made against choreographer Liam Scarlett, but did not tell the Royal Ballet School that some of its former students might have been affected until last week

Royal Opera House (Photograph: TonyBaggett/Getty Images)
Royal Opera House (Photograph: TonyBaggett/Getty Images)

The Royal Opera House has defended a delay of almost six months in informing fellow charity the Royal Ballet School of sexual misconduct allegations made against a resident choreographer, despite fears that some of the school’s former students were affected.

The Times newspaper last week said that the choreographer Liam Scarlett had been suspended in August 2019 by the ROH amid claims of sexual misconduct.

The allegations were reported to the Charity Commission in October 2019, the ROH confirmed, and an independent investigation initiated by the charity continues.

But the Royal Ballet School, a separate charity that trains ballet dancers for the ROH’s resident company the Royal Ballet, was informed only last week that the claims might relate to some of its students.

The two charities have strong links and Kevin O’Hare, director of the Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House, is one of the governors of the Royal Ballet School.

A spokesman for the Royal Opera House said: “We were made aware of allegations relating to Liam Scarlett in August 2019. The individual was immediately suspended and an independent disciplinary investigation opened. 

“The Royal Ballet Company has a code of conduct in place to ensure staff and visiting artists are always supported.”

The spokesman confirmed that the incident had been reported to the commission and defended the length of time taken to notify the Royal Ballet School about the allegations against Scarlett.

“We followed our safeguarding obligations throughout and notified the Royal Ballet School when it was appropriate to do so,” the spokesman said. 

“As the process is still ongoing, and as a duty of care to staff and artists, we are unable to comment further until the matter has been concluded.”

A statement from the Royal Ballet School, which was originally issued last week, said: “We became aware this week that the investigation into Liam Scarlett may relate to some of our former pupils. 

“We will, of course, be offering our full cooperation to the investigation team, but since the inquiry is still under way we are unable to comment further at this stage.”

A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said: “Charities should be places in which all people feel safe and free from harm, so the behaviour that has been alleged is highly concerning. 

“The Royal Opera House Covent Garden Foundation reported the matter to us as a serious incident, in line with our guidance. We are in continued contact with the charity and expect the trustees to keep us updated on the outcome of their investigation.”

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