Wrexham headmaster on trial accused of laptops fraud

Reporter:

Alan Davies

A headmaster has gone on trial charged with fraud while employed at two primary schools in the Wrexham area.

Nicholas Robert Hankin, 54, was suspended when it was alleged that he had entered into a lease agreement for two personal Apple Mac laptops which were charged to Ysgol Gwenfro on the Caia Park Estate, where he had become headmaster a few months earlier.

Checks were made it was alleged he had done the same thing at his previous school, Ysgol Tanyfron in Wrexham, involving two other Apple Macs, a jury at Mold Crown Court was told yesterday.

He has pleaded not guilty to two charges of fraud while in a position of trust dating back to 2014 and 2015.

Opening the case, prosecuting barrister John Philpotts said: “In a nutshell, the prosecution allege he defrauded the two primary schools by abusing his responsible position as headmaster in order to acquire IT equipment without authority for his unauthorised personal use.”

He said that at Easter in 2015, Hankin began a new job as headmaster at Ysgol Gwenfro.

“But I am afraid that did not proceed as anticipated for, in November of that year, the chairman of the governors arranged an
unannounced audit of the school accounts,” said Mr Philpotts.

Karen Williams, a senior auditor employed by Wrexham County Borough Council, began her audit at noon on November 25 and found two Apple Mac laptops had been obtained on a three-year lease at £370 a quarter.

It would have cost the school £4,460 over the period of the lease.

He alleged the headmaster had not used the proper procedures to obtain them and not sought the approval of governors to enter into that agreement on behalf of the school.

Hankin, of St George’s Road in Rhos-on-Sea, the prosecutor said, told the auditor he used them for school work.

One was in school and the other was at home which was handed over at a later date through the deputy head of another school who had kept in contact with the defendant.

When it was examined, it was found that it had been used by the defendant’s partner who had no connection to the school.

He was sent home on December 2 and suspended the following day.

Mr Philpotts told the jury: “We all know that public money these days is tight.  Every penny allocated or obtained must be wisely spent.”

He said financial regulations “must be followed” to ensure the best possible arrangement was obtained from the schools point of view.

The computers had not been entered in the school inventory or the internal council inventory and there was no document trail

Being Apple Mac professional computers, they did not have the Windows programme to enable them to access the school information management system.

“The prosecution say those two computers were acquired by the defendant for his own personal use,” said Mr Philpotts.

The auditor carried out checks at the defendant’s former school, Ysgol Tanyfron.

It was found he entered into an unauthorised financial agreement at that school over two laptops.

The deputy headteacher had recalled seeing two Apple Mac laptops on his desk.

It was alleged he had told her they were Christmas presents for his wife and son – a claim he denied.

It was claimed he told the deputy that two Apple Macbooks he ordered had been loaned to another school – which was untrue, said the prosecutor.

Mr Philpotts said the two computers were eventually returned.

Interviewed, he agreed he signed the lease agreements but said he did not believe he was doing anything wrong.

He claimed he had been advised to get Apple Macs.

The defendant said he lived a long way away from school and needed one laptop at the school and another at home. His partner had used it on one occasion.

Hankin said he used them for personal tasks which was why he had “wiped” data before their return.

He said he did not think he needed governor approval for expenditure up to £15,000 and claimed he had been open about what he had been doing.

Defending barrister Duncan Bould said the lease agreements were not hidden, but were available in school.

The trial, before Judge Niclas Parry, is proceeding.

Email:

alan.davies@nwn.co.uk

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