Prosecution seeks jail for ex-Woodgrove Secondary School teacher for taking S$40,000 in student funds
SINGAPORE: The prosecution is seeking two years’ jail for a former Head of Department for English at Woodgrove Secondary School who was found guilty of misappropriating about S$40,000 that was collected from students for learning materials.
Maslinda Zainal, 46, was convicted last month, after contesting two counts of criminal breach of trust as a public servant in a trial where all 20 teachers in the department testified.
After hearing submissions from both sides, the judge adjourned sentencing to next month.
Maslinda was in charge of collecting money submitted by students to their English teachers for learning materials. However, she over-collected about S$40,000 between January 2016 and April 2017.
READ: ‘Not good faith’: Prosecutor urges judge to convict Woodgrove teacher of taking S$40,000 in student funds
The offences were discovered when the school’s lower-secondary head for English asked the bookshop seller for a copy of the invoices and realised that she had been told to hand them only to Maslinda. She later found discrepancies between the amounts collected by the teachers and the amounts in the invoices.
Maslinda was investigated by officers from the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the police. She admitted in police statements to spending the money but said it was not on lavish items.
However, she testified in court that she had been pressed by the police to confess, and said she used the money to buy stationery and other items for the students and did not know she had to keep records.
MOTIVATED BY GREED: PROSECUTOR
The prosecution on Wednesday (Feb 24) said Maslinda was “a senior public servant entrusted with significant responsibility” over her department.
“It’s unfortunate that in the commission of the offences, she has damaged hard-won confidence in public service, especially in handling monies,” said Deputy Public Prosecutor Stephanie Chew.
She charged that Maslinda was “motivated by greed” and was purposeful in her offending, trying to prevent the crimes from coming to light.
“Her assertions on how she spent the money has changed over the course of the trial,” she added.
The judge interjected to say that some stationery and books were found on Maslinda’s table, and she was not allowed to go back.
Ms Chew replied that there was “no proof” that the money had been spent on those items, adding that Maslinda has “shown no remorse throughout the conduct of this trial and in her mitigation”.
Lawyer Singa Retnam said that “all sentencing depends on the facts of the case”. He said his client was “an outstanding teacher” who was given awards, including one for most caring teacher in 2016.
“Unfortunately, circumstances have come where monies were missing and she’s unable to explain and she has been convicted,” he said.
“In my years of practice, we have principles of sentencing, we don’t do these curves and graphs, this is not how you sentence an accused person. You listen to the case, you hear the evidence, you look at mitigating factors and you arrive at a sentence. Do not be bound by figures and curves, this is not the way sentencing is. Sentencing is the discretion of the judge, flexibility of the judge,” the lawyer added.
He said he is leaving the sentence to the judge’s discretion.
“She made restitution at the first instance, so there’s no loss to the school or public funds,” he told the court.
Maslinda has been suspended since 2017, MOE previously said. For criminal breach of trust as a public servant, she could be jailed for up to 20 years and fined for each charge.