14/01/2013 15:00 GMT | Updated 14/01/2013 16:10 GMT

Top Army Officer, Robert Jolleys, Wrongly Claimed Thousands In School Fees

A high-ranking Army officer claimed nearly £220,000 of tax payers' money to send his three children to a top public school, a court has heard.

For nearly a decade Lt Col Robert Jolleys, 52, claimed the school fees so he could send his sons to Roman Catholic Stonyhurst College in Lancashire.

Swindon Crown Court heard that Jolleys was not entitled to make the claims because he was separated from his wife, Judith.

Robert Jolleys has denied the 11 charges which date from January 2002 to December 2009

Jurors were told that Jolleys kept up an elaborate charade by maintaining to his superiors that he was still married and that his wife lived with him in his Army quarters - in reality they had split in 2002.

Jolleys' ruse was only rumbled when his estranged wife rang his superior officer in the summer of 2009 and asked 'Where's Robert?'.

Prosecutor Nicolas Gerasimidis told the court that Jolleys then realised the "balloon had gone up" and set about trying to cover his tracks. He left the Army the following year.

"Lt Col Jolleys, as he then was, was taking advantage of an allowance by virtue of his posting to get the children's education paid for," Mr Gerasimidis said.

"It really is as simple as that. The prosecution say he was not entitled to it and the prosecution will have to prove it.

"Lt Col Jolleys was a senior officer in the Army and a highly intelligent and clever man and was working in the Directorate of Education Training Services around this area in Swindon."

Mr Gerasimidis explained that the Continuing Education Allowance was set up to avoid the children of armed forces personnel having their education disrupted when their parent was posted overseas or away from the family home and it allowed servicemen or women to claim up to 90% of the costs of a boarding school education.

"That type of schooling would otherwise be unaffordable to those earning the sort of money Lt Col Jolleys was earning," Mr Gerasimidis said.

"Stonyhurst College is a very impressive school.

"It is precisely the sort of place you would want your children to go and for that reason it is extremely expensive."

Mr Gerasimidis told the jury of six men and six women to look at the sums of money on the indictment and added: "When you look at the eye watering amounts of money in this case, in this case it was for the education between 2002 and 2010."

The court heard there were strict criteria for claiming the allowance and as soon as Jolleys split from his wife he no longer qualified.

Jolleys, of Woodlands Park, Whalley, Clitheroe, Lancashire, denies all 11 charges, which happened between January 2002 and December 2009.

He is accused of five charges of obtaining a money transfer by deception, three charges of fraud and three charges of forgery.

Stonyhurst College was described as 'extremely expensive' in court

Mr Gerasimidis told the court that Jolleys claimed a total of £218,094.11 in school fees over nearly eight years - a bill picked up by the taxpayer.

The prosecutor said it was a "complete quirk" that the deception was uncovered by the Army in the summer of 2009.

"This defendant's commanding officer Colonel Russell received a telephone call from Judith Jolleys," Mr Gerasimidis said.

"The last thing he expected was a telephone call asking 'Where's Robert?'.

"That telephone call came as a complete surprise to him and as his commanding officer he was labouring under the impression that the Jolleys were married and together, the children were at boarding school and they held a married quarters at Upavon.

"He only held a married quarters as part of the requirement that only married couples live in married quarters.

"It was part of the sham, the prosecution say, to give the impression he was married."

When the Army investigation began, Jolleys applied in January 2010 for premature voluntary release, the court heard.

Mr Gerasimidis said that each time Jolleys submitted a claim for school fees he signed paperwork saying he was still married.

He went on to explain to the jury that Army personnel could still claim the allowance even if they were separated, widowed or divorced provided they were the primary carer for the children.

The prosecutor said that Jolleys would be telling the jury that he was the primary carer and therefore entitled to make the claims.

And before he left the Army he tried to retrospectively make an application saying that he was the primary carer but that was turned down.

Mr Gerasimidis described the defence as a "red herring" and accused Jolleys of "bullying" his estranged wife into agreeing that he was the children's primary carer.

Mr Gerasimidis told jurors: "He provided her with a document which told her what to say.

"He said 'You support me' - and using my words - 'Or we are in serious trouble because we have had £220,000 of education which they may look to get back from us'."

Mr Gerasimidis said that during subsequent divorce hearings Jolleys tried to make out that his wife was an unfit mother and accused him of "manipulating" the proceedings to support his assertion that he was the primary carer.

To support his claims of being the primary carer, Jolleys is also accused of forging his wife's signature on official documents.

Mr Gerasimidis said the Jolleys realised that the fact Mrs Jolleys received child benefit - paid into a bank account in both their names - would undermine his claim, so he forged her signature to remove her name from the account.

"It is further evidence - not only of the allegation that he forged her signature - but to give the impression that child benefit was going to him rather than his wife," Mr Gerasimidis said.

The prosecutor added that Jolleys is accused of forging his wife's signature in two further documents.

The trial was adjourned until Tuesday.

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