Matthew Bolt successfully challenges the imposition of a Service Compensation Order in the Court Martial Appeal Court, overturning an order that his client pay thirty nice thousand pounds to the Ministry of Defence.
Mr Heslop, served in the British Army for over 30 years, rising from private to major in the Royal Tank Regiment. In 2018 he had been in receipt of Continuing Education Allowance for a number of years which permitted his sons to attend Gordon’s School. Continuing Education Allowance is provided on the condition that an officer serves accompanied by their partner and makes their main family home at their duty post. In 2017 Mr Heslop was posted to British Forces Germany and Mr Heslop expected his wife to join him shortly. However, Mrs Heslop decided to remain in the UK. Mr Heslop dishonestly failed to declare this fact, fearing the allowance would be withdrawn and continued to make claims until 2019, allowing his sons to remain at their school until the completion of their education.
Mr Heslop’s dishonesty was detected, and he pleaded guilty to two charges of fraud. Careful analysis of JSP 752, the military regulations governing CEA revealed that tragically Mr Heslop would have been entitled to the sums he claimed had he disclosed the failure of his marriage. Matthew Bolt submitted to the Court Martial that the Ministry of Defence have not in fact suffered a genuine loss as the sums would have been paid to Mr Heslop in any event. This submission was rejected and Mr Heslop received a suspended sentence and was dismissed from Her Majesty’s service. He was also ordered to “repay” £39 000.00 to the Ministry of Defence.
Matthew Bolt appealed the order submitting there had been no genuine loss. Before CMAC, the SPA conceded that had the Defendant been honest about his position he would have received the same sum, further conceding that JSP752 is an “unwieldy document”. The Court closely examined paragraphs 09.0122 and 09.0123 of Vol 2 of JSP752, noting that the interpretation was ‘not free from difficulty’. Giving the judgment of the court Holroyd LJ concluded:
- That it was ‘certain or almost certain’ that had the Defendant honestly disclosed his change of circumstances, CEA would have continued. This conclusion was a relevant consideration for the Court Martial when considering an SCO.
- Whilst the Court Martial had the power to make an SCO because the payments were the result of fraud, it was not obliged to and having concluded the sums would have been paid in any event, the Court was unable to uphold the SCO.
This case was reported in the National Press and by CrimeLine. The judgment was reported by the ICLR and ASPALS.Matthew Bolt is a member of Chambers military team.