‘Fraud­sters robbed pupils of trips and mu­sic lessons’

Pair ad­mit to help­ing them­selves to £13,000 from school Ex­clu­sive

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Death Shocks Village - By Paul Hooper

A head teacher has told how his pupils were let down by two for­mer mem­bers of staff who to­gether stole thou­sands of pounds from the school.

On Mon­day, Yvonne Puck­nell, the ex-of­fice man­ager at Phoenix Com­mu­nity Pri­mary School, in Bel­mont Road, Ken­ning­ton, pleaded guilty to fraud dur­ing her trial at Can­ter­bury Crown Court.

It fol­lows a guilty plea of fraud by the for­mer head, Robert Ju­niper, 55, of Ju­bilee Fields, Upchurch, who ad­mit­ted help­ing him­self to more than £4,000 of the school’s money.

This week, the school’s cur­rent head teacher, James Tib­bles, said that the two fraud­sters let pupils down and robbed them of op­por­tu­ni­ties, such as school trips and new mu­si­cal in­stru­ments, be­cause the money wasn’t avail­able.

He said: “I am very pleased that this un­for­tu­nate is­sue is now be­hind the school and that we can fi­nally move for­ward.

“Over the past three years, the school has been trans­formed into one where chil­dren are given op­por­tu­ni­ties that were not pre­vi­ously avail­able to them such as learn­ing mu­si­cal in­stru­ments, vis­it­ing other coun­tries and trips on our two new minibuses.

“Our re­cent parental sur­vey shows that our par­ents re­ally value th­ese ex­pe­ri­ences.”

Ju­niper and Puck­nell first ap­peared at Folke­stone Mag­is­trates’ Court in March 2015.

The court heard that Ju­niper’s suc­ces­sor, Frances Na­tion, spot­ted a dis­crep­ancy in the school’s fi­nan­cial records and queried it.

Ju­niper next ap­peared at Can­ter­bury Crown Court in July 2015, where he pleaded guilty to one charge re­lat­ing to £4,228 be­tween Novem­ber 2011 and April 2013.

This week, Puck­nell, 62, of By­brook Road, Ken­ning­ton, who pre­vi­ously de­nied her guilt, pleaded guilty to fraud by mis­us­ing the school’s credit cards, cre­at­ing a bill of £7,523, and steal­ing £2,091.

They are both due to be sen­tenced in court on Fri­day, Fe­bru­ary 19.

Mr Tib­bles added: “Phoenix Com­mu­nity Pri­mary School is com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing our pupils with the very best pos­si­ble education that we can of­fer and, with the sup­port of the lo­cal com­mu­nity, will con­tinue to do so.”

Pic­tures: Alan Lan­g­ley FM3716422/ FM3716431

For­mer head teacher Robert Ju­niper and, right, Yvonne Puck­nell out­side court

Pic­ture: Gary Browne FM3224492

Phoenix Pri­mary School head teacher James Tib­bles

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