Major General Nick Welch found guilty of £48,000 school fee fraud

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A retired Army major has been found guilty of dishonestly claiming £48,000 in allowances to pay for his children's boarding school fees.

A retired Army major has been found guilty of dishonestly claiming £48,000 in allowances to pay for his children's boarding school fees.

After a four-week court martial trial at Bulford Military Court, Major General Nick Welch was convicted of fraud by a panel of senior officers.

He is understood to be the most senior officer to face court martial since 1815.

The court heard the two-star general, 57, applied for allowances on the basis that he and his wife, Charlotte, would not be living near their children's schools in Dorset.

Welch applied for the Continuity of Education Allowance (CEA) to allow his children to stay at £37,000-a-year Clavesmore School and £22,500-a-year Hanford School between 2015 and 2017.

He was still serving in the army at the time, but left in 2018 after 34 years of service.

The payment covers 90% of school fees and was introduced to allow children of military personnel to stay at the same schools, while their parents were posted at a different location.

The prosecution said Mrs Welch, 54, spent most of her time at a cottage in Blandford Forum, Dorset.

The cottage is closer to the two schools than the family's allocated military accommodation in Putney, London.

CEA rules say a spouse must not be away from the work address for more than 90 days a year.

A neighbour alerted authorities to the Welch family's absence from their London home in February 2017, triggering an investigation.

Welch had denied being dishonest and said he believed he had complied with the requirements of accompanied service because he wife was living with him for majority of the time.

His lawyer, Sarah Jones QC, argued the CEA system and the 90-day rule were a "mess" and not strictly enforced by Ministry of Defence administrators.

Senior military commanders, including General Sir Richard Barrons, provided character witness statements for Welch.

Sir Richard said that the defendant was of "unimpeachable integrity" but prosecutor Sarah Clarke QC accused Welch of lying.

Ms Clarke also accused Welch of "attempting to manipulate" the figures regarding his family's locations to cover up his dishonesty.

The court-martial panel consisted of a retired major general, a rear admiral, a retired air vice-marshal, two commodores, a brigadier and a civil servant.

An MoD spokeswoman said: "If a service person has been reported to the Royal Military Police because it is believed they have committed a crime it is only right that it is investigated fully and the results of the investigation are presented to the Service Prosecuting Authority.

"It has been proven in this case that the retired Major General Nicholas Welch OBE did commit fraud and therefore he will be sentenced accordingly."

Judge Advocate General Alan Large adjourned the case for sentencing on Friday.