Army colonel facing court martial over children's school fees – REGIONAL

Picture: PA
Picture: PA
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An Army colonel fraudulently claimed nearly £100,000 in allowances to send his children to one of the leading public schools in Britain, a court martial heard.

Colonel Roddy Lee claimed the money to send his children to Marlborough College and two prep schools in Wiltshire and Dorset.

During the school year 2015/16, Col Lee claimed £98,306.80 in school fees for his children's education, the court martial in Bulford, Wiltshire heard.

The officer was entitled to claim the Army's continuity of education allowance (CEA), which enables service personnel to send children to boarding school to prevent disruption to schooling caused by postings around the UK and abroad.

But prosecutors allege that Col Lee became ineligible for the allowance because he was posted in 2015 to Hampshire which was less than 50 miles from his family home near Devizes, Wiltshire.

Martyn Bowyer, prosecuting, said: ‘These are serious allegations made against a senior Army officer and they are not brought lightly.

‘It is right that he is tried by a board of five of his peers.’

Mr Bowyer told the court that in 2015 Col Lee was posted to Army headquarters in Andover - meaning his workplace was now less than 50 miles from his home address in Devizes and he was ‘clearly anxious’ to continue to qualify for the allowance.

‘The prosecution say that the evidence will demonstrate that Col Lee was well aware that his entitlement to continuity of education allowance might be affected by his new posting, and as a result obtained service families' accommodation at RAF Odiham, to ensure that his new address was just outside the 50-mile limit,' he said.

‘The prosecution case is that it was never his intention to move his family from the address in Wiltshire, thereby frustrating the principles of the continuity of education allowance.

‘It was also his obligation in receiving the continuity of education allowance to inform the authorities if the circumstances changed.

'He was under an obligation to report that his family was not with him and he was unaccompanied.

‘He was also under an obligation to fill in a form to say where his family accommodation was and that his spouse had accompanied him.

‘If the prosecution is right, she was not living with him on a permanent basis and the declaration was false.’

Mr Bowyer said that Col Lee did use the property at RAF Odiham and that his wife, a junior doctor, did join him from ‘time to time’.

‘But the case against him was that his true home was his family home in Wiltshire,' he said.

‘The RAF Odiham address was more like a week-day crash pad than as a family home.

‘We suggest that Dr Lee did not move with her husband to RAF Odiham, there was no 'family mobility' and after it became apparent they were under suspicion they became much more visible.’

He accused Col Lee of paying ‘lip service’ to the regulations in order to continuing receiving the allowance.

‘The real issue is not whether Col Lee was at the RAF Odiham address but whether he had any real intention that his family would accompany him and whether that address was a device to ensure he met the requirements of the continuity of education allowance,’ he said.

'We suggest that it never met the spirit of the regulations.’ 

Mr Bowyer took the board through a series of photographs of the properties in Wiltshire and RAF Odiham in Hampshire.

The home in Wiltshire had a ‘well-stocked’ fridge, freezer and pantry and there were damp clothes hanging on a clothes horse.

Meanwhile, at the house at RAF Odiham there was a 'relatively sparse bathroom" and the wardrobes were "pretty much empty’, although the children's beds were made and there were pictures hanging on their walls.

‘It was nowhere near as homely compared to the other photographs,’ Mr Bowyer said.

Col Lee was arrested in September 2016 and said during an interview with the military police that the property at RAF Odiham was his family home and they would go to the house in Wiltshire for a couple of weekends every month.

In a further interview, he said he left for work early in the morning and returned late in the evening and would account for the neighbours at RAF Odiham not seeing him.

Col Lee, late of the Royal Artillery, denies three charges of fraud alleged to have occurred between May 2015 and October 16.

The court martial continues.