Prin­ci­pal jailed after de­fraud­ing school out of more than £100,000 after 30 years in post

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - NEWS - By Stephen Briggs stephen.briggs@pe­ter­bor­oughto­day.co.uk Twit­ter: @PTstephenB

A head­teacher who set up a ‘sex dun­geon’ in his of­fice while de­fraud­ing the school out of more than £100,000 has been locked up for four years.

For­mer Sawtry Com­mu­nity Col­lege (now known as Sawtry Village Academy) prin­ci­pal James Stewart used school funds to pay off his per­sonal credit card bills for fancy food and trips away.

He also used the school’s ac­counts to fur­nish his of­fice with book­cases, din­ing ta­bles and a piano –while other parts of the school were left in poor con­di­tion.

On Fri­day, Hunt­ing­don Crown Court heard Stewart (72) of Kim­bolton Road, Bed­ford, had also used his of­fice as a ‘sex dun­geon’ where he had an af­fair with his PA dur­ing school hours. Sex aids, con­doms, cush­ions and games were all found in the ‘in­ner sanc­tum.’

On Fri­day, Stewart – who had been head at the col­lege for more than 30 years – was jailed for four years after he ad­mit­ted four counts of fraud, two counts of aid­ing and abet­ting fraud and one count of mis­con­duct in pub­lic of­fice.

Charles My­att, prose­cut­ing, told the court Stewart had used ex­pense claims to pay off his own credit card bills over a five year pe­riod. He also used the school credit cards.

The to­tal he de­frauded was £102,395 – de­spite hav­ing a £120,000 a year salary.

The money was spent on live oys­ters, TVs and trips to Lon­don.

The court was told Stewart was de­scribed by staff as a ‘sex­ist, racist and fat­tist bully’ and had sex aids and con­doms in his of­fice.

He also set up a pri­vate phone line in his of­fice, used to make calls to bet on horse races.

He was hav­ing an af­fair with his PA dur­ing school hours, but his wife has stood by him through­out the trial de­spite his ad­mis­sions.

The court was told he would reg­u­larly make him­self un­avail­able to staff dur­ing school hours, and staff could hear ‘sex­ual noises’ com­ing from the room.

Stewart and his PA would emerge with ruf­fled clothes, and Stewart would be slur­ring his word after hav­ing been drink­ing al­co­hol.

Pupils were un­aware of who Stewart was, and the court was told one young­ster was sur­prised to be told Stewart was the head­teacher after an assem­bly.

Mr My­att told the court Stewart would reg­u­larly ar­rive late for work, and leave early. He would rou­tinely avoid staff meet­ings - and when he did at­tend, he would leave early.

Mr My­att said Stewart once told staff he was leav­ing to go to a meet­ing – but he was spot­ted on a tele­vi­sion broad­cast of horse rac­ing.

The court was also told the school’s rep­u­ta­tion had

suf­fered as a re­sult of the crimes. School fund­ing is based on how many pupils are on the reg­is­ter, and the num­ber at­tend­ing at Sawtry had dropped from more than 1,300 to about 900 in just a few years.

Mr My­att also said morale was low amongst staff, and there was a higher turnover of teach­ers than there had been in the past.

The fraud was un­cov­ered by Sarah Wil­son, deputy prin­ci­pal, who raised con­cerns to ed­u­ca­tion au­thor­i­ties.

De­fend­ing, An­gus Bun­yon, said Stewart had pleaded guilty to the of­fences at an early op­por­tu­nity, and had al­ready re­paid all the money to the school.

He said: “It is of­ten said the con­vic­tion it­self is a high de­gree of pun­ish­ment - and in this case it is. He is the au­thor of his own mis­for­tune.

“He has had the hu­mil­i­a­tion of leav­ing, the hu­mil­i­a­tion of the press re­port­ing, and it has come at the very end of his ca­reer. It is pun­ish­ment of its own, what­ever the pun­ish­ment of the court.

“He ac­cepts he will be going to prison.”

Mr Bun­yon said not ev­ery prob­lem at the school could be at­trib­uted to Stewart, but said: “He wants me to con­vey an apol­ogy on his be­half in pub­lic to the gov­ern­ing body, the staff and the com­mu­nity of Sawtry.”

Pass­ing sen­tence, Judge Bridge said he took into ac­count Stewart’s re­morse and guilty pleas, but said: “You were charg­ing school ev­ery­day liv­ing ex­penses.

“It’s im­pos­si­ble to cal­cu­late the im­pact on col­lege in terms of rep­u­ta­tion, staff morale and time taken to ad­dress this.”

Stewart re­mained seated dur­ing the hear­ing, and showed no emo­tion as he was led away to start his sen­tence.

Stewart was sen­tenced to four years in prison for each of the fraud counts and 12 months for the mis­con­duct in pub­lic of­fice, with all sen­tences to be served con­cur­rently. Judge Bridge said he will serve half the sen­tence in cus­tody, with the other half on li­cence.

There was no sep­a­rate penalty for the aid­ing and abet­ting charges.

James Stewart ar­rives at court

Alan Stevens at­tends Hunt­ing­don Crown Court for sen­tenc­ing

Al­co­hol found in Stewart’s of­fice

A saucy game kept by Stewart in his of­fice

Other items found in Stewart’s ‘in­ner sanc­tum’

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