Army major who fraudulently claimed £39,000 to send his children to boarding school is spared jail

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A British Army officer has been thrown out the military and given a criminal record after fraudulently claiming £39,000 expenses for his sons’ boarding school fees.

Marcus Heslop, a major in the Royal Tanks Corps, was given a 15-month suspended sentence in June this year after pleading guilty to two charges of fraud over false claims for the Army’s Continuing Education Allowance.

He was also dismissed from the Army – which he joined as a teenager over three decades ago – and handed a £39,000 compensation order before it was withdrawn.

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Heslop, who had two sons at boarding school, falsely claiming the allowance, which is intended to cover boarding school fees when an officer is accompanied by his partner overseas and their children remain in the UK.

His two sons were boarding at Gordon’s School in Surrey – a state-run school with a military history – which charges over £17,000 per year for full boarding.

The 47-year-old initially applied for the allowance in good faith, saying his wife would be joining him when he deployed overseas to Germany in 2017.

But Heslop later failed to disclose his wife had not joined him at his new post because their marriage was under increasing strain.

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Marcus Heslop (pictured), a major in the Royal Tanks Corps, was given a 15-month suspended sentence in June this year after pleading guilty to two charges of fraud over false claims for the Army's Continuing Education Allowance

Marcus Heslop (pictured), a major in the Royal Tanks Corps, was given a 15-month suspended sentence in June this year after pleading guilty to two charges of fraud over false claims for the Army’s Continuing Education Allowance

Last week, London’s Criminal Appeal Court upheld his bid to get the £39,000 compensation order overturned.

The court heard the officer in total claimed £39,439.

‘In clear breach of his obligation he didn’t notify (the Army) of the fact that he was not ‘serving accompanied’,’ Lord Justice Holroyde told the court.

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‘He continued claiming the allowance until March 2019 when he was interviewed by the Royal Military Police.’

Heslop had come under increasing pressure due to marital problems and ‘felt his sons needed to be protected by remaining in boarding school,’ the court heard.

Lord Justice Holroyde told the court he had ‘sympathy for the human reality of the unhappy situation in which Heslop found himself when his wife decided she no longer felt able to accompany him to his new home’.

His two sons were boarding at Gordon's School in Surrey (pictured) - a state-run school with a military history - which charges over £17,000 per year for full boarding

His two sons were boarding at Gordon’s School in Surrey (pictured) – a state-run school with a military history – which charges over £17,000 per year for full boarding

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Heslop had a stellar military career ahead of him before his dismissal, the court heard, having picked up several medals for his achievements along the way.

He rose from the rank of trooper to become a full major and served with distinction in many of the world’s worst conflicts – including Kosovo and Afghanistan.

‘He came from an Army family and served for over 30 years man and boy rising through the ranks,’ said the judge.

‘His abilities and achievements received high praise from his superior officers, with further promotion confidently predicted.

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‘It’s a very sad feature of this case that his years of service for his country ended in such a way.’

Heslop was handed his 15-month sentence, suspended for 22 months, and dismissed from the Army after admitting two counts of fraud at Bulford Military Court in June.

He was also ordered to carry out 200 hours’ unpaid work and hit with a 90-day curfew. On top of this he was made to pay £39,000 in compensation.

Heslop was handed his 15-month sentence, suspended for 22 months, and dismissed from the Army after admitting two counts of fraud at Bulford Military Court in June

Heslop was handed his 15-month sentence, suspended for 22 months, and dismissed from the Army after admitting two counts of fraud at Bulford Military Court in June

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Major becomes the THIRD high-ranking military serviceman to be prosecuted for misusing taxpayer’s money 

In a similar case earlier this year, Major General Nick Welch became the most senior top brass officer to be court martialed since 1815. He was convicted of dishonestly claiming almost £50,000 in allowances to cover his children’s boarding school fees. He was sentenced to 21 months in prison.

Judge Advocate General Alan Large said the panel of senior officers sentenced Welch ‘on the basis the defendant behaved dishonestly throughout’. Meanwhile MBE-winning major Lloyd Hamilton illegally claimed taxpayers’ money to send his children to one of the UK’s most expensive boarding schools.

Hamilton used the cash to send his two children to the £49,875 a year Queen Elthelburga’s Collegiate in Yorkshire and was convicted of fraud.

Heslop, who is now working in security, challenged the financial penalty in the Appeal Court, branding it ‘wrong in principle’.

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His barrister, Matthew Bolt, argued the MoD could not claim it had suffered a financial loss, because Heslop might well have received the payout anyway.

After a brief court hearing, Lord Justice Holroyde, sitting with two other appeal judges, backed Heslop’s case on the compensation.

‘It seems to us that if he had honestly disclosed his change in circumstances, it is certain – or virtually certain – that the (awards) would have been made totalling £39,000,’ he said.

‘In our view, the evidence and the information available to the court shows that the appellant may have brought about his own ruin by resorting to a dishonest claim where he would have been awarded the same amount if the true facts had been disclosed by him.’

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In a similar case earlier this year, Major General Nick Welch became the most senior top brass officer to be court martialed since 1815.

He was convicted of dishonestly claiming almost £50,000 in allowances to cover his children’s boarding school fees. He was sentenced to 21 months in prison. 

Judge Advocate General Alan Large said the panel of senior officers sentenced Welch ‘on the basis the defendant behaved dishonestly throughout’.

Meanwhile MBE-winning major Lloyd Hamilton illegally claimed taxpayers’ money to send his children to one of the UK’s most expensive boarding schools.

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Hamilton used the cash to send his two children to the £49,875 a year Queen Elthelburga’s Collegiate in Yorkshire and was convicted of fraud.

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