Copland School: Brent Council pay out hundreds of thousands towards legal costs of staff cleared of bonus fraud

Copland School

Copland School - Credit: Archant

Brent Council is set to pay out hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal fees to two staff members found not guilty of defrauding Copland School and Brent Council.

In October 2013, Richard Evans, Columbus Udokoro and Michelle McKenzie were found not guilty of conspiracy to defraud, over a £2.7million bonus scam at the school.

Former headteacher Alan Davies pleaded guilty to six false accounting charges between April 2007 and June 2009. He was given a 12-month suspended sentence and was later stripped of his knighthood.

Earlier this year, Mr Davies was told he must pay back £1.9m, including costs. Former governors Indravadan Patel and Martin Day, were told to pay £1m plus costs between them.

However, according to a letter from the authority’s lawyers to one of the former staff’s solicitor seen by this newspaper, the authority is set to pay a six-figure sum to two of the cleared defendants for their legal fees in the civil case.

It also revealed one of them spent nearly £1m in legal fees.

Combined, this could mean Brent Council is barely any better off, as a result of the legal case and action.

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One of the staff members cleared said it had been “ten years of psychological and emotional torture” for cleared former staff.

Copland School, in Cecil Avenue, closed in 2014. The Ark Elvin Academy has reopened in its place.

Brent Council initially told this newspaper it had not paid out any money to any staff in the case.

It later issued a statement saying: “Dr Evans, Mr Udokoro and Ms McKenzie were each found by the High Court to have been in knowing receipt of payments that should never have been made.

“Given this, the Council is entirely vindicated in pursuing the legal case, which also included Mr Davies, Dr Patel and Mr Day, who between them have been required to repay more than £1.3million to the Council, excluding costs.

“Separately, in considering the legal costs of a complex case the Court has ruled that the Council pay a small percentage of the legal costs of Dr Evans and Mr Udokoro.”