A BALLET teacher charged with causing distress to a student by making an anti-Jewish remark walked free yesterday when a sheriff ruled he had no case to answer.
Jonathan Barton, an award-winning dancer and vice principal of the Ballet West School in Taynuilt, had pleaded not guilty to acting in a racially aggravated manner towards a former student, Genevieve Huss.
Miss Huss told Oban Sheriff Court that she was shocked and later depressed and anxious after a comment Mr Barton made to a class of dancers on 1 December, 2010.
She said: “The remark was: ‘You all look like a bunch of Jews waiting to be shot in the rain’.”
The 20-year-old, whose Jewish grandmother lost most of her family in the Holocaust, said she was offended by the remark and had “feared for her safety”.
Yesterday, Sheriff Douglas Small said that while the remarks made by the accused were “deplorable and ill-considered”, they did not amount, when taking all the evidence into account, to a legal case to answer.
Earlier, the court heard that after Mr Barton made the remark, he had immediately asked asking if anyone in the class was Jewish.
When Miss Huss, who was 17 at the time, said she was, Mr Barton said he was sorry.
Yesterday, the court heard from a second dancer, who was in the class at the time the remark was made.
Hazel Kirkwood, 25, from Falkirk, who now works as a teacher for Central Scotland Ballet School, said Mr Barton was commenting after some pupils had just performed and had said to the class: “You are all lined up like Jews ready to be shot.”
She added: “That was the gist of what he said. Jonathan was saying what the exercise looked like to him and he used that as an example.
“I was a bit shocked because he has never said anything like that before. I don’t think it was a good example to use.”
Defence agent Gary McAteer argued that there was no case to answer as there was no corroborated prosecution evidence that the remark was made with malice or ill will.
He said: “There is no evidence that the accused’s demeanour at the time, or anything else that he said, showed contempt, or malice, or ill will, towards Jews, so all that is left is a remark that was made in an artistic context.”
He said that while the remark, which the former pupils agreed was directed at the whole dance class, may have been an “ill-chosen analogy”, it was not made maliciously, or against an individual.
Outside the court, Mr Mc-Ateer revealed that Mr Barton’s father is Jewish, something he chose not to disclose in court.
“His father is Jewish, half of his family is Jewish. The Jewish side of his family are all very supportive of him, they know that he is not capable of the type of conduct he was alleged of,” Mr McAteer said.
Mr Barton trained at Ballet West, which was founded by his mother, Gillian, before working with English National Ballet and other companies.
Awarded the Solo Seal of the Royal Academy of Dance, he also won a medal when competing at the prestigious Genée International Ballet Competition.
As well as having danced the lead roles in numerous ballet productions, Mr Barton has danced in music videos and at pop concerts and was the lead teacher for Scotland’s largest get-together of male dancers, the Royal Academy of Dance’s Boys Only.