DISGRACED HEAD TEACHER JAILED
Principal jailed after defrauding school out of more than £100,000 after 30 years in post
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’