Lincoln academy invoice was tampered with, court hears from employee

An employee of the Priory Federation of Academies this afternoon told a jury that she was “shocked” when she learned that an invoice had been altered.

Elizabeth Ann Turner, development co-ordinator with the Federation, said that she discovered the information during a discussion with senior members of staff at the school in the wake of an investigation into the organisation’s financial affairs.

She told the jury at Lincoln Crown Court that during the meeting the chair of the trustees, Terry Coffey, asked about when pupils had been sent to the West Bridgford Equestrian Centre.

Mrs Turner said she “did not believe it” when she was told that there were two sets of invoices apparently identical but for the fact that a name and a course had been removed from one of them.

“I didn’t believe it because I had been through all of the invoices previously and I hadn’t seen anything like that. I left the room to go down to the invoices and look.

“Richard Gilliland followed me and told me one of the invoices had been changed. I think I was totally in shock then. I can’t remember the rest of that day.”

The jury has heard that the original invoice included a payment for Gilliland’s son Kia Richardson to attend a course at the centre, which the prosecution say amounted to fraud as the Federation should not have met the bill.

Gilliland , the former chief executive of the Federation, together with the organisation’s former finance director Stephen Davies, is accused of fraud running into thousands of pounds.

Mrs Turner, under cross-examination from barrister Mark Harries, representing Gilliland, described her former boss as “imaginative, inspirational and dynamic” and said he was a pioneering figure in the world of education.

She told the jury that the Federation was put under pressure by the Department for Education to develop swiftly and this led to financial procedures not always being given the attention they ought to have.

Gilliland, she said, had his own philosophy and academy schools under his control obtained excellent examination results as a result of changes he brought in.

During further questioning from Mr Harries she agreed that the Priory Federation attracted resentment from other schools and institutions in Lincoln and also agreed with the suggestion that there was “an apathy” amongst other schools.

The jury has heard that facilities at the Federation included a planetarium, sculptures and art work, two swimming pools, an Olympic-sized running track, a shooting range and a “magnificent” sports pavilion.

But she added: “We were only funded the same as any other school. The Priory had no more and no less on a per capita basis than any other school. It was the same formula for everybody.”

Gilliland, 64, who now lives in Spain, denies six charges of fraud by abuse of position on dates between October 2008 and November 2011. Davies, 58, of Abingdon Avenue, Lincoln, denies three charges of fraud by abuse of position.

The trial continues on Tuesday, November 17.

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