A decorated and "inspirational" former headteacher who was accused of a role in an alleged £1 million fraud has been cleared of the offence - but convicted over false accounting.
Sir Alan Davies, who was knighted for his services to education, walked free from court after pleading guilty to creating a false paper trail on bonus payments and allowances.
Davies, who resigned from his £160,000-a-year post at the Copland School in Wembley, north London in October 2009, was handed a 12-month sentence, suspended for two years.
But he and five other defendants no longer face legal action over the more serious offence of conspiracy to defraud after prosecutors agreed to offer no further evidence. Davies also had a charge of money laundering dropped.
Speaking outside Southwark Crown Court after being sentenced, Davies said he had been vindicated of accusations that payments had been dishonest. His conviction related to paperwork completed retrospectively in support of payments of around £300,000 to which he was legally entitled.
Davies, of Grants Close, north west London, said: "In some instances I have felt that we were being tried by the media and there were a lot of misrepresentations made in the press, many of which were wholly unfounded.
"Allegations were made against me and others about the money we earned from our work at Copland.
"All these allegations have now been abandoned.
"I do, however, have to accept that I did not have all the necessary paperwork in place and I made a profound error of judgment by backdating eight documents."
Prosecutor John Black QC said the six charges of false accounting to which Davies admitted related to payments made dating back to 2007, totalling £315,000, and including several bonuses for Davies himself.
Mr Black said: "Suspicions occurred because of alleged impropriety in bonus payments to staff at the school, over a period of many years.
"As a result of (local authority) concerns about possible criminal offences, police were called in."
Mr Black said there was no dishonesty in the making or receiving of the payments.
"The dishonesty relates to false paper trails in order to legitimise these payments," the prosecutor said.
"The Crown say they (paperwork backing up payments) were all generated at the same time, after Sir Alan Davies had become aware of the impending or likely scrutiny, to give the impression the right procedure was being adhered to."
William Clegg QC, defending Davies, said the offences - which referred to eight pay documents - needed to be taken in context.
He said: "This is not a case of documents being forged to permit payments to be made that were unlawful and not agreed or made dishonestly. The position is the opposite.
"The payments were honestly made and honestly received. This is not somebody seeking to obtain money he was not entitled to."
Mr Clegg described how long-serving Davies was an "inspirational" teacher, who had transformed the Copland to take it "from the very bottom of the academic ladder to very near the top".
He added: "Sir Alan Davies is one of the leading teachers of school children of his generation."
J udge Deborah Taylor described Davies's offences as "serious".
She said: "You were in a position of trust at that school. Your dishonest behaviour represents a fall from grace.
"You have failed in your duty as head of the school - in failing to ensure proper, transparent management and, more importantly, you lied about it and resorted to dishonest fabrication.
"What sort of message did that send to the children?"
Conspiracy charges against five others - Dr Indravadan Patel, Richard Evans, Martin Day, Columbus Udokoro and Michele McKenzie - have also been dropped, prosecutor Mr Black told the court.
In a statement released through their solicitor Sarnjit Lal, Dr Patel and Mr Day - both former governors at the school - said they were pleased their long wait for vindication had come to an end in court.
The statement said: "We are delighted that we have been cleared of any wrongdoing, and relieved the ordeal is finally over after four and a half years.
"We strongly believe this is a case which should never have been brought against two unpaid, voluntary school governors.
"Nothing can make up for the damage to the reputations, health and livelihoods (we and our families) have suffered."
Police began their investigations after concerns by Brent Council.
An authority spokesman said: "The council will always act robustly and take action where allegations of financial irregularities have been made, to investigate and pursue legal action.
"In this case the guilty plea of false accounting vindicates the actions taken although we are disappointed the Crown Prosecution Service saw fit not to pursue the conspiracy to defraud.
"This has been a turbulent time for the school but there is now an opportunity to put this behind and to build on the current good work that is taking place."