Fraud charge is dismissed

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A Crumlin teacher said she was eager to get back into the classroom after a nightmare two and a half years, when her fraud case against her was dismissed.

Collette Ward (31) from Ballyquillan Road wept outside of court after the charge was dropped during a contest hearing in Belfast on Wednesday.

Ms Ward who had been head of home economics and a co-ordinator at a Belfast school had been accused of falsely representing the number of hours spent working in the extended schools programme at St Joseph’s College.

The charge related to a period between April 1, 2010 and March 31, 2013 and the overpayment the court heard of £14,250.

Audit manager Aaron Curragh with the former Belfast Education and Library Board told the court it queried the amount of figures Ms Ward claimed.

Mr Curragh said one such claim was for 103 hours made in July 2013. Defence barrister Jonpaul Shields said Ms Ward maintained that a new computer system introduced to document the number of hours worked had created difficulties.

Errors were only made when Ms Ward was no longer able to document the hours by hand.

Mr Shields claimed the figures sent using the new computer system were not the same figures Ms Ward thought she had worked.

The school later abandoned the new computer system.

Mr Shields said no documentation was ever produced to say extended summer schools work could not take place during the summer months. Mr Shields said Ms Ward was first made aware of the issue which included a claim for work carried out on July 12.

District Judge Ken Nixon said the standard of reasonable doubt would not be reached and dismissed the matter.