A headmaster has been cleared of two charges of fraud while employed at two primary schools in the Wrexham area.
Nicholas Robert Hankin, 54, said he felt as if there had been a witch-hunt against him for the last two years and that it had “destroyed” his life.
Following a three-hour retirement at Mold Crown Court, the jury found Hankin ‘not guilty’.
Judge Niclas Parry told him: “You have been acquitted by a jury. You leave this court with your good character intact. You are discharged and you are free to leave.”
Outside court. a relieved Hankin contacted loved ones to tell them the news and said he would now be seeking a tribunal hearing.
He said he felt internal disciplinary procedures within Wrexham County Borough Council – under which he was dismissed for not sticking to procedures – should have awaited the outcome of the criminal trial.
“Really I feel that this has been a witch-hunt for two years,” he said.
“It has destroyed my life. It has caused me psychological problems and it has caused myself, my partner, my ex-wife and my child a lot of distress.”
Hankin said he now wanted to “start to see what I can do in terms of a tribunal to clear my name”.
He said: “I feel the disciplinary procedures should have taken place after the trial.
“All I have done is work hard. I loved teaching. But I have not been near a school in two years.
“I was not able to do the job I had the ability to do.”
Hankin conceded he did have an impetuous nature and often made off the cuff decisions which could appear arrogant to others.
“But in all that I have done, I always had the children’s interests at heart,” he said.
Mold Crown Court heard how Hankin, of St George’s Road, Rhos-on-Sea, was suspended when it was allegedt 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 he had done the same thing at his previous school, Ysgol Tanyfron at Wrexham, involving two other Apple Mac computers.
He denied that two of the computers were used as Christmas presents for his partner and son.
Hankin pleaded ‘not guilty’ to two charges of fraud while in a position of trust dating back to 2014 and 2015 and the jury of eight women and four men formally found him not guilty.
Prosecuting barrister John Philpotts alleged 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.
At Ysgol Gwenfro two Apple Mac laptop computers had been obtained on a three year lease at £370 a quarter.
It would have cost the school £4,460.
He alleged that the headmaster had not used the proper procedures to obtain them and had not sought the approval of governors to enter into that agreement on behalf of the school.
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.
Mr Philpotts said that the two computers were eventually returned, one in a damaged state.
Hankin said he became head at Ysgol Tanyfron in Wrexham in 2012 and while there was also asked to take on the acting headship at St Mary’s in Brymbo.
At Easter 2015 he was appointed head at Ysgol Gwenfro.
He had procured a number of items of equipment, not simply the four laptops subject to the fraud charge.
Hankin said he did not always go through the local authority procurement scheme, but said he did not believe he was doing anything wrong.
He believed that he was operating within his credit limit of £15,000 where he did not need governors’ approval.
He “never conceived” that he would keep any equipment for himself or that he was putting a school at risk of financial loss.
He had definitely not considered his actions dishonest.
“Nothing was hidden at all,” he said.
He denied that computers had been “wiped” to hide what they had previously been used for.
Defending barrister Duncan Bould said that his client had been transparent and that delivery notes and other documents relating to the computers were available at the schools for all to see.