Teacher with cocaine habit is struck off after stealing from school

A teacher has been struck off for fleecing his school out of thousands of pounds to fund a cocaine habit.

James Garner, a technology and engineering teacher at St Mary’s RC High in Astley, has been banned from teaching indefinitely following a probe which found he had stolen between £15,000 and £16,000.

St Mary's RC High School

St Mary's RC High School

The 27-year-old came under suspicion from Wigan Council back in 2016 after a probe was launched into fraudulent activity at the school.

Garner, who was responsible for buying iPads, software licences and IT equipment on behalf of the school, was found to have fraudulently signed a number of petty cash receipts as well as receiving payments not owed to him and falsely claiming from school funds for invoices.

In August 2016, the local authority reported Garner to the police and two months later he pleaded guilty to fraud by misrepresentation.

During a sentencing hearing at Bolton Crown Court on December 1, Judge Timothy Clayson said to him: “You are very knowledgeable in relation to IT issues.

“You were permitted to purchase and indeed required to purchase on your own behalf equipment for the school, to provide the appropriate receipts and reclaim the equivalent amount of money. “You were obviously in a position of trust and by a number of different fraudulent means you effectively stole money from the school.

“You created fraudulent receipts by inflating figures, creating fictitious transactions and ordering lower specification equipment than was appropriate.

“When the police got hold of the matter you admitted it pretty quickly and explained that you were in very substantial debt due to a long-standing addiction to cocaine.”

He was sentenced to 10 months in prison, suspended for two years, and must complete 150 hours of unpaid work and 10 days of rehabilitation activities.

In a hearing conducted by the Teaching Regulation Agency’s professional conduct panel this month, Garner’s actions were described as “sustained and calculated”.

A report published following the tribunal said that he “deprived the school of resources which should have been available to educate pupils.”

The report adds: “The offence was serious. Mr Garner’s conduct involved serious dishonesty and fraud and amounted to a sustained and serious breach of trust. This was calculated fraud and Mr Garner’s actions were deliberate.

“He went to elaborate lengths to provide the information on which the fraud was based including creating false invoices to address substantial debts arising from his long-standing cocaine addiction.

“Mr Garner’s personal circumstances appeared to have been challenging but the panel had no evidence of the treatment he had sought or received for his long-standing addiction to a class A drug, namely, cocaine.

“The panel found that Mr Garner has been responsible for committing fraud or serious dishonesty and theft of resources from a school in which he held a teaching post and a position of trust.

“Mr Garner has shown limited insight and remorse into his behaviour.”

The panel concluded that the offence was so serious that the only appropriate action would be to prohibit Garner from teaching again.

He has been banned from teaching in any school, sixth-form college, relevant youth accommodation or children’s home in England indefinitely.