A top education official did not abuse her position when she helped transfer a friend’s niece into a school under her supervision the High Court heard on Friday, as the woman appealed against her conviction for misconduct in public office. Yuen Wai-cheong, 53, was sentenced to 140 hours of community service last February for getting her friend’s niece into a school under her charge in 2011, when she was a senior school development officer at the Education Bureau. Yuen, who is appealing against her conviction but not the sentence, argued that her act was not serious enough to leave her with a criminal record. She helped get the pupil transferred to Church of Christ in China Mong Man Wai College – a secondary school in Kwun Tong that teaches mainly in English – from a Chinese-language school without declaring her relationship to the girl’s aunt, who was her long-time landlord and friend. Her lawyer, Lawrence Lok SC, said there was no evidence to show the child obtained any advantage from Yuen’s referral. The school principal made the decision based on the child’s academic results and personal background, he said. “Whether the result has any unfairness, this is what a criminal court should consider,” Lok said. Lok admitted Yuen had sent a letter to the principal mentioning the child. This conduct might be not appropriate but it was not serious enough to leave Yuen with a criminal conviction, he argued. Prosecutor Martin Hui Siu-ting said Yuen had used her position and acquaintance with the principal to make the referral for the child. “Yuen’s position was a supervisor of the school. When she made the referral, she had the intention to use her position to interfere with the principal’s decision,” he said. “It is a serious matter and is serious enough to convict her of misconduct in public office.” Mrs Justice Judianna Barnes Wai-ling reserved judgment. The court was previously told that Yuen was a senior school development officer of the bureau, posted to its Kwun Tong District school development section. She was tasked with supervising the performance of aided schools under her command in the district, including Church of Christ in China Mong Man Wai College. On July 5, 2011, the school’s principal received a phone call from Yuen asking him to consider admitting the child. Afterwards, the principal received another call from Yuen and the child’s academic documents covered by a facsimile cover sheet bearing the letterhead of the bureau. The principal then passed the documents to the vice-principal of the school for processing, the court heard. Yuen called again the next day and asked about the progress of the child’s application. The school arranged an interview with the child three days later and she was then admitted. Both the bureau and the school confirmed to the court that the defendant had never declared her relationship with the child or any conflict of interest and had not reported the matter to the bureau.