Priory Federation of Academies’ former chief exec focus of a ‘witch-hunt’ claims defence barrister

Court News.
Court News.

The former Chief Executive of the Priory Federation of Academies was sacrificed as part of a “witch-hunt,” a jury has been told today (Wednesday).

Richard Gilliland, 64, denies abusing his position by using Federation credit cards to buy thousands of pounds worth of personal items.

He is also alleged to have arranged for his son, Kia Richardson, to work for the Federation at Laughton Manor equestrian centre near Sleaford after suppressing a Criminal Records Bureau check which revealed that Kia had twice been convicted of flashing and had served a prison sentence for the offence.

But Gilliland’s defence barrister, Mark Harries, told a jury at Lincoln Crown Court that the prosecution case against his client had “manipulation, misrepresentation and deceit” running through it like a virus.

Addressing the jury in his closing speech, Mr Harries said it led to the sacrifice of Mr Gilliland who was an “educator, innovator and pioneer.”

“Witch-hunt is a strong word,” Mr Harries said. “But I make no apology for using it.”

“The Crown’s evidence in this case put before you over the last 25 days is deeply flawed and dangerously selective.”

Mr Harries told them the prosecution had decided to adopt the conclusions of a Department of Education report while ignoring any other contrary evidence. He also warned the jury that Mr Gilliland could not be criticised for some of the answers he gave while being interviewed by the police.

“On that long day in August 2011 he was asked to account for documents put in front of him there and then,” Mr Harries added.

The prosecution claim that Mr Gilliland acted out of greed was simply not credible, Mr Harries told them. “It is rubbish, it is nonsense, and it is demonstrable when you look at the values we’re looking at.”

Mr Harries said the total amount of expenses Mr Gilliland was alleged to have fiddled amounted to just £11,264 over three years. At its highest, Mr Harries told the jury, the amount of unsuitable purchases Mr Gilliland was alleged to have made on Amazon was just £7,321 or less than £210 per month.

“A pittance and probably about the same as it costs to fill the staff room biscuit barrel,” Mr Harries told them.

Richard Gilliland, 64, who now lives in Spain, denies seven charges of fraud by abuse of position on dates between October 2008 and November 2011.

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

Mr Harries’ speech to the jury continues this afternoon. (Wednesday).