SINGAPORE — A senior teacher who was convicted after trial of misappropriating student funds over two years was sentenced to one-and-a-half years' jail on Friday (5 March).
Maslinda Zainal, 46, who had been suspended as HOD for English Language and Literature at Woodgrove Secondary School, oversaw the collection of student monies by the teachers in the English department for learning materials. Her role in this area was to coordinate with the bookshop that printed learning materials for students.
However, she siphoned the money meant for the printing of the material in 2016 and 2017. She claimed trial to both charges of criminal breach of trust as a servant but was convicted.
Her lawyer, Singa Retnam, asked for a stay of the jail term as Maslinda will be filing an appeal against both her conviction and sentence.
The prosecution had earlier sought two years' jail for Maslinda, whom it said had betrayed a "position of great trust as a senior public servant".
"As Head of Department for the English Department at Woodgrove Secondary School, she was entrusted with substantial responsibility and given a wide remit to conduct the affairs of the department as she saw fit.
"In such capacity, she supervised the collection of substantial monies for educational packages. The teachers who worked under her charge trusted her to the degree that they unquestioningly handed her substantial sums of money, believing that the entire sum was being used to purchase educational packages for students," said Deputy Public Prosecutors David Koh and Stephanie Chew.
Motivated by greed, said the DPPs, Maslinda misappropriated a sum of over $40,000 over two years from almost 1,000 students in each school year. Maslinda's actions will affect public confidence in the teaching service, said the DPPs.
Maslinda's lawyer Singa Retnam had left the sentence to court. He pointed out that Maslinda was an "outstanding" teacher who had been given awards.
"Unfortunately circumstances have come where monies are missing and she has been unable to explain and she has been convicted," said Singa.
"In my years of practice, we have principles of sentencing...You listen to the case, you hear the evidence, you look at mitigating factors and you arrive at a sentence....Sentencing is the discretion of the judge," he added.
As for Maslinda's sentence, the lawyer said that the term "should not be crushing" given that Maslinda had made restitution in the first instance when asked by an investigating officer. No loss to school or public funds was sustained, he added.
For criminal breach of trust as a public servant, Maslinda could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined on each charge.
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