Brigadier admits breaching Army rules in claim for sons' school fees

Charles Beardmore court case

An Army brigadier has appeared before a court martial accused of claiming money for his two sons' school fees in breach of British Army rules.

Brigadier Charles Beardmore, 51, is believed to be the most senior officer put on trial by the Army since 1952.

Brig Beardmore, who appeared in full military uniform, admitted a single charge of negligently performing his duty in a brief hearing at Merville Barracks in Colchester, Essex, on Wednesday.

Prosecutor Colonel Nigel Jones, who appeared by videolink, said there was no suggestion of dishonesty.

He said Brigadier Beardmore, of the Defence Medical Services in Whittington, Staffordshire, had claimed Continuity of Education Allowance for his sons without declaring that his wife had not been living at the same address as him for more than 90 days in a single year.

Continuity of Education Allowance can be claimed by certain service personnel to help pay for boarding school fees.

The current rates allow for claims of £5,470 per term for a junior school and £7,245 per term for a senior school.

Colonel Jones said: "This case relates to the previous claims for Continuity of Education Allowance in 2014 when Brigadier Beardmore was working and living in Germany.

"Under the rules, in order to claim, the brigadier's wife had to live with him and was only permitted under the rules to be absent from the place of work address for 90 days within any one-year period.

"The defendant accepts that his wife was not resident with him for these purposes within the rules.

"She was absent from the family home in Germany for more than 90 days and knowing what the rules were, after that Brigadier Beardmore had a duty to monitor his wife's absences.

"He failed to seek the proper exemption."

Colonel Jones said that authorities established that Mrs Beardmore had not been in Germany for 173 days between January 14, 2014, and January 14, 2015.

He said this was established through use of mobile phone records, bank records, flight details and by looking at Mrs Beardmore's work diary.

Brigadier Beardmore disputed the figure of 173 days but accepted that between 120 and 130 days was the "correct figure".

Judge Jeff Blackett said: "There's no accusation of dishonesty is there?"

Colonel Jones replied: "None whatsoever."

Sally Howes QC, defending, said that Brigadier Beardmore had "lodged the full sum of money received by him" in respect of the autumn school term in question with his solicitors so arrangements could be made to repay it if required.

The hearing was adjourned for sentence on March 14.

A board of three officers is required to be present at the hearing, with the president to be of superior rank to the defendant or of the same rank but more senior.

The starting salary for brigadiers in the British Army is £101,147.

Brigadiers are senior to colonels and outranked only by generals.

The last brigadier to face a court martial is believed to have been Mike Calvert, a commander in the Second World War, in 1952.

He was found guilty of gross indecency with male persons, 15 years before homosexuality was decriminalised, but denied the charge until his death in 1998.

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