Major general jailed for Dorset school fees fraudon March 26, 2021 at 4:10 pm

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Maj Gen Nick Welch claimed to live in London rather than in Dorset near his children’s schools.

Maj Gen Nick Welch

image copyrightUS Department of Defence

A major general who dishonestly claimed £48,000 for his children’s education has been jailed.

Nick Welch, 57, claimed to live in London rather than Dorset, near their schools.

Welch was convicted of fraud by a panel of senior officers after a four-week trial at Bulford Military Court and handed a 21-month sentence.

He is believed to be the most senior officer to be court-martialled since 1815.

Judge Advocate Gen Alan Large also sentenced Welch to retrospective dismissal from the Army, meaning he can no longer benefit from his rank of retired major general.

Welch, who left the military in 2018, has been ordered to pay back the fraudulently claimed cash.

The Continuity of Education Allowance (CEA) allows children to remain at the same schools to enable their serving parent to be accompanied by their spouse as they are posted to different locations.

Undermine morale’

However, it cannot be claimed if a soldier’s spouse is away from the military home for more than 90 days per year, the trial heard.

The prosecution said Welch applied for the allowance on the basis both he and his wife would not be living close to the children.

But it said his wife Charlotte actually spent most of her time at a cottage in Dorset, close to the two schools.

An investigation was launched after a neighbour told authorities about the family’s absence from London.

Judge Large said: “A disciplined organisation such as the Army relies on those in rank and authority to set an example and to be beyond reproach.

“The higher your rank, the more important it is that you uphold the values and standards of the Army in which you serve and when an officer of the rank of major general offends as you have, the potential to erode discipline and undermine morale is considerable.

“We have no doubt you understand that your rank of major general and role as the assistant chief of general staff are factors which aggravate the offence and require recognition in the sentence.”

During the trial, Welch denied being dishonest and said his wife was living with him for the majority of the time.

His barrister, Sarah Jones QC, said the CEA system and the 90-day rule were a “mess” and not strictly enforced.

A character reference from the former Commander of Joint Forces Command, General Sir Richard Barrons, said Welch was of “unimpeachable integrity”.

But prosecutor Sarah Clarke QC said he had attempted to manipulate the figures regarding his family’s locations to cover up his dishonesty.

Welch will spend half his sentence in prison before being released on licence.

Following his sentencing, an MoD spokesperson said: “It has been proven in this case that retired Major General Nicholas Welch OBE did commit fraud and he has been sentenced accordingly.”

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