A headteacher who engaged in sexual activity in his office and defrauded the school out of £102,000 was a “sexist, racist and fattist bully” a court heard today, Friday.
James Stewart, former principal of Sawtry Community College, was sentenced to four years after he admitted four counts of fraud, two counts of aiding and abetting fraud and one count of misconduct in public office relating to his time at the school - he will have to serve at least two years before being released on licence.
Prosecutor Charles Myatt told the court that Stewart defrauded Sawtry Community College out of £102,000 and set up a ‘sex dungeon’ in his office.
The money - much of which was spent on his own credit card but claimed as expenses -was spent on oysters, TVs and trips to London. The court was told Stewart was a ‘sexist, racist and fattist bully’ and had sex aids and condoms in his office.
He also set up a private phone line in his office, used to make calls to bet on horse races.
He was having an affair with his PA during school hours, but his wife has stood by him throughout the trial despite his admissions.
The court was told he would regularly make himself unavailable to staff during school hours, and staff could hear ‘sexual noises’ coming from the room.
Stewart and his PA would emerge with ruffled clothes, and Stewart would be slurring his word having drank alcohol.
Some of the money involved in the fraud was spent on the office - described as his ‘inner sanctum.’
The court also heard many areas of the school had fallen into disrepair during the fraud - and following inspections, it had cost them thousands of pounds to fix.
The former vice principal, Alan Stevens (64) of Sapperton, Werrington, has also pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud relating to just over £360.
He was sentenced to 24 weeks suspended for 12 months with 80 hours of unpaid work at the same hearing at Huntingdon Crown Court today (Friday).
He was ordered to pay compensation and £2,000 costs as well.
The court was told Stevens had suffered serious health problems, including cancer and heart trouble.
Stewart (72) of Kimbolton Road, Bedford, has now repaid the £102,000. He was principal of the college for almost 30 years before resigning in 2012.
The fraud was uncovered by Sarah Wilson, deputy principal, who raised concerns to education authorities.
The fraud in Stewart’s case is said to have happened before and after the school converted to an academy. It was only when staff raised concerns that an EFA investigation started.
Since the fraud, the school has seen a drop in pupil numbers from more than 1300 to less than 1,000, and seen a higher number of staff leave than the school had previously.
Both Stewart and Stevens expressed apologies to the school staff, pupils and community in Sawtry through their barristers.
In passing sentence Judge Bridge said: “You were charging school everyday living expenses.
“It’s impossible to calculate the impact on college in terms of reputation, staff morale and time taken to address this.”
Stewart remained seated during the hearing, and showed no emotion as he was led away to start his sentence.
The judge took into account Stewart’s remorse and guilty plea in passing sentence but noted he earned a salary of £120,000.
Judge Bridge commended the two police officers who led investigation for their work.
Mark Woods, Chief Executive Officer of Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust (CMAT), which now runs Sawtry Village Academy said: “The presentation of the case by the prosecution made completely clear the destructive impact that Mr Stewart’s absence of leadership over an extended period has had on the local community and school.”
“The school has undergone dramatic improvements since joining our trust and is now in a very strong position with consistently strong academic results and strong leadership.
“However, we need our partners including the Educational Funding Agency and Cambridgeshire County Council to support us by making the significant investment required to address the legacy of neglect apparent in the buildings. The local community has united behind our New Building Strong Future campaign with over 1000 offers of support so far and some wonderful acts of local generosity. After having been failed for so long this community deserves a school that they can be proud of.”
CMAT took over the school in January 2015 after Mr Stewart had stepped down.