Headteacher from Rhos on Sea denies fraud at two Wrexham primary schools

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Court Reporter

A headteacher from Rhos on Sea has gone on trial charged with fraud while employed at two primary schools in the Wrexham area.

Nicholas Robert Hankin, aged 54, of St George’s Road, was suspended when it was alleged that he had entered into a lease agreement for two personal Apple Mac laptops which were charged to Ysgol Gwenfro on the Caia Park Estate, where he had become headmaster a few months earlier.

Checks were made it was alleged that he had done the same thing at his previous, Ysgol Tanyfron at Wrexham, involving two other Apple Mac computers, a jury at Mold Crown Court was told.

He has pleaded not guilty to two charges of fraud while in a position of trust dating back to 2014 and 2015.

Opening the case, prosecuting barrister John Philpotts said: “In a nutshell, the prosecution allege that he defrauded the two primary schools by abusing his responsible position as headmaster in order to acquire IT equipment without authority for his unauthorised personal use.”

He said that at Easter in 2015 the defendant began a new job when he was appointed headmaster at Ysgol Gwenfro.

“But I am afraid that did not proceed as anticipated for in November of that year the chairman of the governors arranged an un-announced audit of the school accounts,” said Mr Philpotts.

Karen Williams, a senior auditor employed by Wrexham County Borough Council began her audit at noon on November 25 and found that two Apple Mac lap top computers had been obtained on a three year lease at £370 a quarter.

It would have cost the school £4,460 over the period of the lease.

He alleged that the headmaster had not used the proper procedures to obtain not and he had not sought the approval of governors to enter into that agreement on behalf of the school.

Hankin, the prosecutor said, told her that he used them for school work.

One was in school and the other was at home which was handed over at a later date through the deputy head of another school who had kept in contact with the defendant.

When it was examined it was found that it had been used by the defendant’s partner who had no connection to the school.

He was sent home on December 2 and suspended the following day.

Mr Philpotts told the jury: “WE all know that public money these days is tight  Every penny allocated or obtained must be wisely spent.”

He said that financial regulations “must be followed” to ensure that the best possible arrangement was obtained from the schools point of view.

The computers had not been entered onto the school infantry or the internal council infantry and there was no document trail

Being Apple Mac professional computers, they did not have the windows programme to enable them to access the school information management system.

“The prosecution say those two computers were acquired by the defendant for his own personal use,” said Mr Philpotts.

The auditor carried out checks at the defendant’s former school, Ysgol Tanyfron.

It was found that he had entered into an unauthorised financial agreement at that school over two laptops.

The deputy head-teacher had recalled seeing two Apple Mac laptops on his desk and it was alleged that he had told her that they were Christmas presents for his wife and son, a claim he later denied.

It was claimed that he told her deputy that two Apple Mac books that he had ordered had been loaned to another school which the prosecutor said was not true.

Mr Philpotts said that the two computers were eventually returned.

Interviewed, he agreed he had signed the lease agreements but said he did not believe he was doing anything wrong.

He claimed that he had been advised to get Apple Mac computers.

The defendant said that he lived a long way away from school and needed one lap top at the school and another at home. His partner had used it on one occasion.

Hankin said that he had used the computers for personal tasks which was why he had “wiped” date before their return.

He said that he did not think he needed governor approval for expenditure up to £15,000, and claimed that he had been open about what he had been doing.

Defending barrister Duncan Bould said that the lease agreements were not hidden but were available in school.

Chairman of governors at Ysgol Gwenfro told the jury that the governors were not consulted and he would not approved such a lease if asked.

The trial before Judge Niclas Parry is proceeding.

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