Belfast Telegraph

Fake exams music teacher avoids jail for swindling children

BY PAUL HIGGINS

A music teacher who conned seven children into believing they were sitting genuine piano exams has walked free from court after receiving a two-year suspended sentence.

Single mother Claire Thompson had been teaching children how to play the piano and other instruments for two years, then put them through exams apparently registered with the London College of Music.

However the exams – which were held at three different churches – were fake.

District Judge Rosemary Watters told the 25-year-old she had never dealt with a fraud like this before.

She handed Thompson a two-year probation order and ordered her to undergo a "thinking skills course" during this time.

Judge Watters also ordered the fraudster to pay £50 to each of the conned families, allowing her 10 weeks to pay. Outside the court Thompson refused to acknowledge the parents of one of her young victims. She also refused to respond when asked if she had any comment or personal apology to make.

Police first began investigating Thompson in November 2011 when a number of parents alleged the music exams their children had sat were not legitimate.

Thompson, from the Old Hillsborough Road in Lisburn, was questioned about the allegations, but tried to shift the blame on to a supposedly new course co-ordinator.

The lawyer said that Thompson now accepted her claims were lies and that the certificates provided by her had been "doctored".

Defence lawyer Peter Coiley added that Thompson had instructed him to "extend her regret, embarrassment, shame and apologies to all of the families for the distress cause".

QUOTES

"One of the other mothers pushed and pushed and pushed for the certificate and threatened that if it did not come, she was going to call the music board and Claire used the excuse of having to register her with the board to borrow the real certificate. Well, lo and behold, the very next day a certificate was pushed through her door, but it had the wrong name on it; same first name but wrong surname. Claire tried to explain it away that she was a 'numpty' and would get it sorted. It was because of that that the mum contacted one of the music boards about it."

Joanne, mother of one of Claire Thompson's victims

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