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Office manager Yvonne Pucknell and ex-head teacher Robert Juniper took cash set aside for Phoenix school pupils

By Paul Hooper

Office manager Yvonne Pucknell made frequent trips to the supermarket to buy food for her primary school’s ‘Breakfast Club”.

Only when an official took a closer look at the bill...it included meat...and alcohol!”

The school’s credit card had also been used for items at Pets At Home...only Ashford's Phoenix Community Primary School didn’t have any animals!

Yvonne Pucknell leaving court
Yvonne Pucknell leaving court

That triggered an investigation into how the school’s credit cards were being used.

And that led police to discover the 62-year-old mother had been paying for a hotel stay, presents for her daughter, a Playstation console and her fuel bills, totaling in all more than £9,600!

But a court has heard that it wasn’t only Pucknell, of Bybrook Close, Kennington who was using the cards illegally...so was its former head teacher, Robert Juniper.

Now the two have received suspended jail sentences at Canterbury Crown Court after admitting fraud charges.

Juniper, of Jubilee Field, Upchurch, near Sittingbourne, had helped himself to cash as a “free” loan intending to repay it, the judge was told.

Former headteacher of Ashford's Phoenix Primary School, Robert Juniper
Former headteacher of Ashford's Phoenix Primary School, Robert Juniper

Prosecutor Adam Wolstenholme said the two had admitted “fraud by abuse of position” while working for Kent County Council at the school in Belmont Road, Kennington.

He said the cards were used illegally between Jan 2011 and April 2013 and the scam was only discovered when Juniper’s successor Frances Nation queried accounts which had been officially audited.

The prosecutor said he discovered a discrepancy in the figures relating to how the school’s two credit cards were being used by the head and office manager.

“They were supposed to be for school use but Pucknell had used one of the cards for her own use paying for £2117 petrol, for food items at supermarkets, buying working tools, a hotel stay in Belfast, and payments to Amazon.

Phoenix Primary School. Picture: Paul Amos
Phoenix Primary School. Picture: Paul Amos

“The school accounts had been amended to claim library books had been bought through Amazon. “

But Mr Wolstenholme revealed that a Playstation and “collectibles” had been bought for Pucknell’s daughter using the card.

Juniper, who was working at Knockall Community Primary School inGreenhithe when the offences were discovered, disputed the amount he was alleged to have taken.

He claimed he only took £651 but the prosecution say the figure is nearer £4228, the court heard.

Guy Wyatt, for Pucknell, said she now planned to repay the money from herKCC pension.

“The reality is she will never work again, never be trusted again by anyone in relation to keeping financial records and she has now retired.”

Martin Khoshdel, for Juniper, 57, said he had been “stupid and naive” and has since repaid more than £4200.

“You were regarded as pillars of society but you took credit cards and used them to fund you own lifestyles" - Recorder Mark Ockelton

“He accepts he made purchases at that time which were not for the school but intended paying it back. He is extremely remorseful.”

The judge, Recorder Mark Ockelton gave Pucknell a 12-month jail sentence suspended for two years and ordered her to do 200 hours of unpaid work.

He said: “The presents you gave your daughter were not acts of generosity but acts of fraud.”

Juniper was given a 30-week jail sentence suspended for two years and ordered to do 150 hours of community work.

He added: “You were regarded as pillars of society but you took credit cards and used them to fund you own lifestyles.”

  • The judge also revealed that some of the money had been used to pay someone to carry out work in school who “for reasons of his own criminal history” couldn’t be officially employed there. No other details were given.
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