Pianist spared jail after sexual relationship with girl

·3-min read
Jenny Evans/AAP PHOTOS

A Sydney pianist who told an underage girl he was killing her childhood has been spared jail after admitting an unlawful sexual relationship that has "ostracised" him.

Jeremy So, 32, pleaded guilty to one count of indecent assault of a person under 16 and five counts of sexual intercourse with a person over 14 under 16.

The girl he abused more than a decade ago cannot be identified.

The pair were both promising classical musicians with the more-than-four-years-older So accompanying her for performance exams.

She watched via videolink as Judge Andrew Scotting convicted So on Thursday, placing him on a three-year community corrections order to complete 275 hours of community service.

So has "lost face" in the classical music industry, the judge said, noting additional punishment due to coverage of his case having "ostracised" him.

He now works as a data entrant.

The victim is no longer pursuing her music career either, because it's too triggering.

The pair met through social media when she sent a friend request to So, who was in year 12 at her school.

Teachers expressed concern a few years later when So began casually teaching classes of year seven and eight students, having observed their ongoing relationship.

When they raised it with the principal via email an assistant said they had been assured the pair had a "special relationship" centred on music.

Judge Andrew Scotting noted she was a "willing participant" in sexual conduct, some of which So instructed her on, but she could not consent due to her age.

"They were in a romantic relationship, both considered themselves to be in love and cared for each other," the judge said.

So's offending was not sophisticated or predatory, and he is not a pedophile, the judge said, describing the ongoing sexual contact as characteristic of a relationship involving inexperienced teenagers.

Almost seven years after it ended, in March 2021, So received a phone call.

Police were recording when So admitted the unlawful relationship.

She told him he pressured her into doing things she wasn't comfortable with.

"In retrospect I wouldn't disagree," So said.

"I understand now in retrospect with a lot more clarity than I did back then," he said.

He described some of the sexual contact as "horrible" and "terrible", apologising and saying he wished it had never happened.

The girl told a friend almost a decade earlier about the relationship's sexual nature, saying she engaged in some activities because she feared losing him.

Contemporaneous messages before the court showed So was aware the relationship was wrong.

He worried they were becoming too attached, telling her it was a problem due to "the fact that you're more than four years younger than me".

"To put it bluntly, I'm starting to kill your childhood and your innocence and I'm distorting your development."

She wrote back: "I know, but I don't care".

More than a year later, So messaged he "can get arrested for everything we've done so far" after learning they had engaged in sexual intercourse according to law.

The relationship continued for a number of years after both were above the age of consent.

So was threatened by other inmates and treated poorly by particular corrections staff during 36 days in custody beofre being bailed in April 2021, Judge Scotting said on Thursday.

His autism spectrum disorder which played a role in his offending would also make time in custody more onerous, the judge said.