Former academy FD denies fraud charges

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A former school finance director has denied three counts of fraud by abuse of position during his time as FD at the Priory Federation of Academies (PFA).

Giving evidence at Lincoln Crown Court as part of an ongoing fraud trial for payments made to the organisation’s chief executive, Stephen Davies told the court that he could not be remorseful for his actions because he “had nothing to be remorseful for”.

The charges against Davies centre around him arranging for the PFA to make £4,000 of overtime payments to Kia Richardson, the son of the federation’s chief executive, to which Richardson was not entitled.

Davies is also accused of authorising a repayment claim for an equine training course provided to Richardson, despite the fact he was not employed by the school at the time.

Federation chief executive Richard Gilliland is also currently on trial for fraud, charged with using school credit cards for personal purchases and suppressing his son’s criminal record to get him a job at the school – charges which Gilliland denies.

Sound business reasons

Davies told the jury that the decision to fund a £1,000 equine training course for Richardson made financial sense, as although he was not working at the school at the time it was known that he was later to be employed by the federation working with horses.

When asked if payment for the course had been made to benefit Richardson rather than the federation, Davies stated that it was for “sound business reasons”.

“Mr Gilliland told me that this course would help Kia Richardson in his job” he continued, “That was good enough for me. I knew that Mr Richardson was going to be employed by us and I was told that this qualification would help him do his job.”

Davies also called claims that he had changed invoices to disguise the fact payments were being made towards Richardson’s training “absolute nonsense.”

He went on to state that overtime expenses of more than £4,000 paid out to Richardson while working at the school as a stable manager were justified.

Former head of maths

Davies, who had previously worked as head of maths at the Priory LSST School, was appointed FD when the school joined the federation.

He told the jury that he was happy working as the federation’s FD, but wasn’t “terribly comfortable” with certain aspects of the role as he had no formal accountancy qualifications. “I researched it”, Davies explained, “You had to be involved in all sorts of things I had never heard of.”

Davies stated that the organisation had suggested he undertake accountancy training, but running a £30m annual budget and continuing to teach at the federation left him with little time to do so.

The trial continues.

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