Fraud trial latest: Priory federation’s former finance director has ‘nothing to be remorseful for’

Lincoln Crown Court.
Lincoln Crown Court.
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The former finance director of the Priory Federation of Academies Stephen Davies has denied he did anything wrong regarding payments made to the organisation’s chief executive.

Davies, giving evidence to the jury at Lincoln Crown Court, said that he could not be remorseful for his actions because he had nothing to be remorseful for.

He said that there were “sound business reasons” for the federation paying for training courses for the chief executive’s son Kia Richardson, despite the fact that Mr Richardson was not employed by the organisation at the time.

And he said that overtime payments of more than £4,000 paid out to Mr Richardson for overtime payments were justified.

Davies said that it made financial sense for the federation to pay over £1,000 for Mr Richardson to attend an equine training course at Writtle College, Chelmsford, as it was known at the time he was going to be employed by the federation working with horses.

Davies said that at the time Mr Richardson attended the course he was not employed by the federation which meant that the organisation was not in the position of paying him wages when he was attending the course rather than working.

When it was suggested to him that the payment had been made for the benefit of Kia Richardson, the son of the chief exec Richard Gilliland, rather than the federation, Davies responded: “It was for sound business reasons. Lots of decisions were made for sound business reasons that weren’t to do with Mr Gilliland’s son.

“Mr Gilliland told me that this course would help Kia Richardson in his job. That was good enough for me. I knew that Mr Richardson was going to be employed by us and I was told that this qualification would help him do his job.”

Davies said Gilliland could be “very vindictive”.

He added “He could be very angry. He could be unreasonable. On the other hand he could be extremely compassionate and caring.”

Davies said that although he told police during his interview he had been bullied into his actions his evidence to the jury was that there was nothing criminal in his behaviour as regards the three charges he faces and the decisions were sound business sense.

He denied a suggestion that he changed invoices to hide the fact that payments were being made towards training for Kia Richardson.

Davies said: “There are no excuses for falsifying invoices but I didn’t do it. This is absolute nonsense.”

He admitted to the jury that he struggled in his role as he had no accountancy qualifications.

Mr Davies said he had loved his previous job as head of maths at the Priory LSST School. But he told the jury that things changed when the LSST became part of the federation of academies and he was appointed finance director.

Mr Davies said: “I researched it. You had to be involved in all sorts of things I had never heard of. I wasn’t terribly comfortable.

“I was happy to do the job but I really needed somebody else to work with me. I wanted a trainee accountant there.”

He said it was suggested to him that he be given accountancy training but he told the jury the course involved three years of full-time study and he did not have the time to fit that in with his teaching role and running a £30 million annual budget.

It was only later that an accountancy was appointed to work with him.

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.

Stephen Davies, 58, of Abingdon Avenue, Lincoln, denies three charges of fraud by abuse of position.

The trial continues.