An Army doctor fraudulently booked thousands of pounds worth of flights to visit his family, a court heard today.
Lieutenant Colonel Chris Baird-Clarke was moved from his job in Scotland to a new role in England assisting new recruits, but was unhappy with the posting.
A court martial heard that even after he was told he could not claim an allowance for the flights, he continued to book the travel through the Army without telling his superior officers.
The prosecutor said Lt Col Baird-Clarke, ‘just wanted to fly home at public expense so came up with a ploy to achieve his aim.’
Lt Colonel Baird Clarke arriving at Bulford military court this morning
Up until June 2019 the 48-year-old had been working as the head of Defence Occupational Medicine for the Army based in Edinburgh.
He and his wife and four children lived in Cornhill, in Aberdeenshire in the North Eastern corner of the country.
Bulford Military Court in Wiltshire heard that despite his six-figure salary, Lt Col Baird-Clarke claimed that after his ‘obligatory’ payments he was left with less than £600 a month.
As an Army doctor of senior rank his minimum salary would have been £120,000. However, he could have earned more because of his qualifications.
Prosecuting, Lt Col Bilal Siddique, said: ‘He was posted on 18 June 2019 from Scotland to Upavon in Wiltshire against his wishes.
‘He did not wish to move for family and for personal reasons and was concerned about financial implication for weekend flights.’
The court heard Lt Col Baird-Clarke initially requested a job-share arrangement that would allow him to carry on working at weekends as an Army doctor in Scotland and therefore have his flights home paid for because he would be travelling for ‘service reasons’.
However, that work could be done remotely and he accepted he could pay £40 a month to get unlimited Wifi at his mess hall in Wiltshire if needed.
His commanding officer, Colonel Andrew Griffiths, OBE, told the court he had rejected the proposal because he had to put ‘the needs of the army first’.
In an email to the chief of staff at the Army Recruiting and Initial Training Command Operations base, Lt Col Baird-Clarke also claimed he would be unable to afford weekly commuting from his home in Scotland.
He wrote: ‘[This situation] produces a horrible juxtaposition of employment placing overwhelming financial strain and embarrassment on my family.’
Bulford Military Court in Wiltshire heard that despite his six-figure salary, Lt Col Baird-Clarke claimed that after his ‘obligatory’ payments he was left with less than £600 a month
Lt Col Siddique continued: ‘[It was] made it clear he was to stop any work and focus 100 per cent of his capacity on improving [recruit] inflow into training at his new base.
‘He ignored this and proceeded with his own plan which included booking flights…This was done by sending an email to his old clerk in his old unit.
‘Lt Col Baird-Clarke just wanted to fly home at public expense so he came up with a ploy to achieve his aim.’
In total, he booked 19 flights but only took seven and was forced to cancel the remaining 12 after being told again by his commanders that he was not to make any more trips at the taxpayers’ expense.
The total cost of the bookings and cancellations reached £2,200.
The Brigadier in charge of the Upavon base told the court Lt Col Baird-Clarke was required to work a 12-hour drive away from his home because ‘the needs of the Army were higher than those of the individual’.
Lt Col Baird faces two charges of fraud and one count of failing to perform a duty.
He admits making the bookings but claimed he did not realise he was unable to do so, and claims he should instead be convicted of three charges of failing to perform a duty.
He has since left the Army and works as an occupational health physician but retains his title.
The trial, expected to last two days, continues.