Somerset

Royal Navy officer denies school fees grant false claim

A Royal Navy commander falsely claimed £74,000 in allowances and spent the money on sending his two children to boarding school, a court martial has heard.

Cdr Anthony Gray, of MoD Abbeywood, Bristol, denies 13 charges of dishonestly obtaining the allowance.

The trial was told he was no longer entitled to the money because he had split from his wife and was no longer the "prime" carer of the children.

The trial is at Portsmouth Naval Base.

Maj Jon Harris, prosecuting, told the court martial that 49-year-old Cdr Gray separated from his wife in July 2007, which led to them selling the marital home in Bath.

Kingswood School

He said that from this point onwards the defendant was no longer the primary carer for their children.

This meant he did not qualify for the boarding school allowance provided by the Navy - known as Continuity Education Allowance (CEA), the court martial heard.

The CEA is aimed at allowing children to stay in the same schools if their parent in the military is forced to move home regularly for their job.

Maj Harris said that Cdr Gray had "dishonestly" completed the application forms to receive the benefit which he would have known he was not entitled to and which was used to send his children as full boarders to Kingswood School in Bath.

He added: "This is not a marine who struggles with literacy or difficult concepts, this is a senior naval officer."

Mrs Gray, who was called as a prosecution witness, told the court her husband had left her with no financial support when they sold the family home for about £640,000.

She said she used her half of the proceeds of the sale to buy a three-bedroom semi-detached house which then became the family home for her and the two children.

Financial responsibility

But she said she received no other income until October 2007 when she gained employment and Gray began to pay her child support allowance.

She added that her husband would see the children "very little" and only for a few days at a time apart from two week-long foreign holidays.

Bob Williams, defending Cdr Gray, told the court that the defendant bought a flat in Bath following the separation which he understood was to be the new family home.

He added that he felt he took financial responsibility for the children by paying for the remaining cost of their education, pocket money, clothes and other costs.

Mr Williams said that Cdr Gray, who now lives with his new partner in a cottage in Cold Ash, near Newbury, Berkshire, considered himself to be the "prime mover" for the children and therefore was entitled to the allowance.

The court martial continues.

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