General denies dishonestly guaranteeing school expenses in Dorset
A senior Army officer accused of General denies falsely claiming private school fees has told a court martial he did not organise his work diary around staying at his family’s country cottage.
Retired Maj Gen Nick Welch, 57, denies falsely claiming to live in London rather than close to his children’s boarding schools in Dorset.
Prosecutors have said he illegally claimed £48,000 between 2015 and 2017.
Maj Gen Welch told the court his service came first.
The two-star general, who is understood to be the most senior officer to face a court martial since 1815, told the hearing he prioritised his work over where he was living, and his wife, Charlotte, had provided “remarkable service” by supporting him in his Army career.
Prosecutors have claimed Maj Gen Welch applied for the Continuity of Education Allowance (CEA) on the basis both he and his wife would not be living close to the children’s boarding schools.
The CEA allows children to remain at the same schools to enable their serving parent to be accompanied by their spouse as they are posted to different locations.
However, prosecutors said Maj Gen Welch’s wife spent most of her time at a cottage in Blandford Forum, close to £37,000-a-year Clayesmore School and £22,500-a-year Hanford School, rather than at their stated military accommodation in Putney, London.
Maj Gen Welch told the hearing in a 20-year period, his family had moved home to 10 different locations to meet the demands of his career and they chose to put the children into boarding schools for “friendship groups as much as continuity of education”.
His barrister, Sarah Jones QC, asked him: “What came first, serving the job and convenience to do that or arranging time so it was easy to spend time at Blandford?”
Maj Gen Welch replied that his priority had been “serving the job in the first instance”.
He added: “It allowed us, and as I understood the rules, to see the children, play sport.”
Sarah Clarke QC, prosecuting, told Maj Gen Welch the trial was “not a showcase for your rise through the ranks of the British Army” but a case “about whether underneath your professional and public guise there was another side to your character, a side that puts you and your family above your duty to do the right thing”.
Ms Clarke said that in about a year period, Maj Gen Welch and his wife spent 279 nights away from the registered home, with 207 nights spent in Blandford Forum, compared to 91 in London.