Choirmaster walks free despite being found guilty of sexually abusing 40 girls

Bohumil Kulínský, photo: CTK

A verdict in the East Bohemian city of Hradec Králové left many women’s rights activists - and others – puzzled and angry on Wednesday. In the culmination of a long legal battle, Hradec Králové Regional Court found the leader of a world-acclaimed girls' choir guilty of sexually abusing 40 of his charges, but handed down a suspended sentence, the legal equivalent of a slap on the wrist.

Bohumil Kulínský, photo: CTK
Choirmaster Bohumil Kulínský left Hrádec Kralové’s Regional Court a free man on Wednesday, despite being found guilty of abusing four dozen members of his renowned Bambini di Praga choir. The 48-year-old Kulínský had worked with the choir – founded by his parents in 1973 – since the age of 16, and under his guidance it had built up an international reputation for excellence.

But the court ruled that Kulínský’s relationship with his charges went far beyond the professional. The choirmaster abused the underage female singers at choir outings, out-of-town rehearsals and foreign tours between 1984 and 2003. The court heard how Kulínský caressed the girls in frequent trips to the sauna, and had full intercourse with choir members despite knowing they were underage. So many observers were surprised by the sentence handed down by Judge Miloslav Ježek, explained here by the court’s spokesman Michal Strnad:

Bohumil Kulínský and his defence lawyer Tomáš Sokol, photo: CTK
“Judge Ježek stated that a suspended sentence was justified because the offences occurred a relatively long time ago, and also because the prosecution process itself has been sufficient punishment for the defendant.”

Among those deeply shocked by the verdict was Michaela Marksová-Tominová, a leading feminist activist.

“I couldn’t believe my own ears. The court said he was guilty, but the verdict was very strange. I don’t understand it.”

It seems from the testimony of the girls that there was a degree of consent in what happened. Wouldn’t you agree that was a factor?

“Yes, I would, but the problem was he was their leader. He was the person who was supposed to take care of them if they went on some foreign trip. He was the one who decided which of the girls could take part in these trips, and which ones couldn’t. So I think it was a form of blackmail, and I think he misused his unique position towards those girls.”

What about the defence argument – recognised by the court - that the choir had contributed to the Czech Republic’s international image?

“I find it amazing, I must say. So if you have done something special, then you are allowed to sexually abuse girls?!”

So not a convincing argument for you then.

“Not at all.”

Bohumil Kulínský – whose two ex-wives are both former Bambini di Praga members – maintains his innocence, and has appealed against the verdict, as has the state attorney.