Bristol

Navy officer accused of fraud says claim was 'honest'

A Royal Navy commander accused of defrauding £74,000 in allowances to pay for his children to attend boarding school has said he acted "honestly".

Cdr Anthony Gray, 49, based at MoD Abbeywood in Bristol, denies 13 charges of dishonestly obtaining the allowance.

A court martial has heard he was no longer entitled to the money because he had split from his wife and was no longer his children's "prime" carer.

Cdr Gray said he was "astonished" when he heard he was under investigation.

The court martial at Portsmouth Naval Base continues.

Kingswood School

Maj Jon Harris, prosecuting, had told the trial that Cdr Gray separated from his wife in July 2007, which led to them selling the marital home in Bath.

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.

Cdr Gray told the court martial: "I think I have behaved openly and honestly throughout in all aspects of my personal circumstances and I believe I have behaved on authoritative advice."

Remains married

He told the court that following his separation from his wife, he had sought advice from the administration unit at the MoD in London in September 2007.

Cdr Gray, who remains married, said that he was told that his marital status would not change until a divorce was finalised.

He added that this advice was confirmed again in autumn 2009 when he was redeployed to Bristol where he works as a submarine programme manager.

He said he believed he was the prime mover because he had bought a three-bedroom flat as a new "family home" for him and his children when they were not at school.

He added that he had full financial responsibility for the children as he topped up their education fees, paid for their clothes, mobile phones, laptop contracts and gave them pocket money.

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