Teachers who filed false claims to get subsidy are ordered to perform community service The principal and supervisor of a Tuen Mun kindergarten who fraudulently claimed HK$505,000 in government subsidies to keep the school afloat were ordered yesterday to perform community service. District Court Judge Esther Toh Lye-ping ordered Li Shuk-han, the former supervisor of Agnes English Kindergarten, and principal Eva Wong Yee-wah to perform 180 hours of community service. The pair pleaded guilty on March 19 to one count of conspiracy to defraud. 'I accept that both defendants committed the offence out of a sincerity of heart to help the kindergarten,' said the judge in sentencing. 'I have considered all sentencing options, including whether a discharge was appropriate.' Having heard the mitigation from defence barristers Joseph Tse Wah-yuen SC and David Boyton, on behalf of Li and Wong, the judge acknowledged the pair's contribution to the education of the young and the support shown by their family, friends and parents of pupils. The court was told that Li and Wong were of previously good character and did not benefit from the offence. Li had paid back all the money to the Education and Manpower Bureau. At an earlier hearing, Mr Tse said the pair had not committed the offence for personal gain, but rather to keep the kindergarten operating and the teachers in their jobs. In a courtroom that was packed with supporters of the defendants, Judge Toh said the court should ensure the community's interests were protected and the rules of the bureau were followed. Li and Wong dishonestly applied for government subsidies from the bureau for the 2004-05 school year under the Kindergarten Subsidy Scheme. In order to help the non-profit-making school cope with its debts, they decided in a meeting to reduce the salaries of eight teachers. But in the application for subsidies, Wong informed the bureau that the teachers were fully paid. After the funds had been released, the defendants opened a joint account for depositing the money after deducting the teachers' pay. Prosecutor Bernard Ryan told the court that several meetings concerning the fraudulent arrangement were held between November 2004 and January 2006. In December 2005, the joint account was closed and the money transferred to Li's personal account. Then about HK$9,000 was transferred back to the school account from Li's account. The school account then contained a total of HK$110,276. Speaking outside court after the sentencing yesterday, Li, who had burst into tears in court, said she felt relieved for having been understood. 'I thank everyone who has shown support for me in this incident. I was very worried about being locked up,' she said, adding that it would be up to the Education Bureau to consider whether she should be allowed to continue her career in future.