A retired colonel, who was the deputy director of the Government’s Covid-19 task force, has been cleared of falsely claiming £43,470 to pay his children’s boarding school fees.
Prosecutors said Marcus Reedman, 51, claimed continuity of education allowance (CEA) payments to help fund his three children’s £75,000-a-year private school fees, which matched his entire British Army salary.
Reedman’s last job was as the deputy director of the Covid-19 task force with the rank of acting brigadier.
During his Army career, he was pictured alongside the King, who was then the Prince of Wales, and David Cameron, who was prime minister at the time.
Prosecutors said he “cheated the system” to “dishonestly” collect taxpayers’ money while he was posted to a desk job at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) building in Whitehall.
Reedman’s eldest daughter and son attended Brighton College, costing about £30,000 each a year, while his youngest daughter was a daygirl at the Marlborough House prep school in Kent, for which no CEA was claimed.
To be eligible for the scheme – aimed at allowing the children of service personnel to stay at the same school while their serving parent is posted around the country or abroad – he had to be accompanied by his wife, Astrid Reedman.
He was alleged to have wrongly claimed the payments while she and his family were living at the family home in Rye, East Sussex, instead of his residence at work address (RWA) in Biggin Hill, south-east London.
The soldier, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, told jurors he was serving accompanied throughout the period October 1 2016 until August 17 2017.
He was acquitted of fraud by a jury at Southwark Crown Court on Thursday after 15 hours of deliberation.
His supporters in the public gallery cheered and he bowed to Judge Nicholas Rimmer before leaving the court.
Giving evidence, Reedman said he attended a prep school before completing state education and joined the Army aged 23.
He told jurors he decided to send his children to private school because his daughter was being “severely bullied”.
But he said he was not “wedded” to the idea and denied he had dishonestly defrauded the MoD.
When asked if he had moved to Biggin Hill alone, he said: “No, I moved with my family,” and told the jury his wife had not moved back to Rye by October 2016.