Academy trust chief executive denies any wrong-doing

Lincoln Crown Court.
Lincoln Crown Court.

The former chief executive of the Priory Federation of Academies accused of fraud has described suggestions that he had taken advantage of his position to steal money from the organisation as “incomprehensible”.

Richard Gilliland said he was regularly owed money by the Federation for items he had purchased for work and regarded personal use of the Federation credit cards as a way of “offsetting” money he was due.

He also told the jury at Lincoln Crown Court on Thursday that he was allowed an “allowance” in lieu of a £2,200 a year life insurance policy.

The jury has heard that Gilliland was no longer entitled to be a member of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme when he became chief executive of the Federation. His membership of the scheme had included a death in service benefit and he said the life insurance allowance was compensation.

He was asked by his barrister Mark Harries to respond to the prosecution suggestion that he had taken advantage of his position and abused it by undermining the financial integrity of the PFA and, in effect, stolen money.

Gilliland replied: “It’s such a horrible, ridiculous concept. I just find it incomprehensible.”

Gilliland was asked by Mr Harries about his reaction to the evidence that has been presented by the prosecution to the jury.

He responded: “Astonishment. A great deal of hurt. Shock at some of the things that have been said.”

Gilliland was then asked if any of the allegations made against him were true. He replied: “Absolutely not. Not one jot.”

Gilliland, together with the Federation’s former head of finance Stephen Davies, is accused of defrauding the organisation out of thousands of pounds.

The allegations include claims that he suppressed a Criminal Records Bureau check on his son Kia Richardson when Mr Richardson was taken on as an employee by the Federation.

Gilliland said that both Terry Coffey, the chairman of trustees, and Maureen Crosbie, the vice-chairman of trustees, knew Kia Richardson had appeared in court for outraging public decency.

He told the jury that he had a very good working relationship with Mr Coffey and said the businessman sent him a letter of support following one of Mr Richardson’s court appearances.

Gilliland said he had known Mrs Crosbie for over 20 years after they first met when both were teaching at a British forces school in Cyprus.

He described Mrs Crosbie as his wife’s “closest friend” and told the jury that she was so close to his family that his two children called her “Auntie Maureen”.

Gilliland said that when he took over as head of the Priory LSST he approached her to become a governor and she eventually became vice-chairman.

He said he was “absolutely certain” that Mrs Crosbie knew of Kia Richardson’s appearance in court in 2005.

Richard Gilliland, 64, who now lives in Spain, has denied six charges of fraud by abuse of position on dates between October 2008 and November 2011. On Thursday a further charge of fraud by abuse of position was added to the indictment alleging that Gilliland brought about the employment of his son Kia Richardson knowing that Mr Richardson was unsuitable. Gilliland also denies that matter.

The PFA’s former finance director Stephen Davies, 58, of Abingdon Avenue, Lincoln, denies three charges of fraud by abuse of position.

The trial continues on Monday.