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Teacher pursued by CCC cops fraud charge for chucking sickies


A Brisbane teacher who took sick leave to attend Melbourne Cup Day functions and travel interstate with her school principal husband has avoided a conviction for fraud.

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Suzette Maree Webster’s actions were “more stupidity than any great intention to deceive” but clearly fraud, acting magistrate Peter Cooke said in sentencing the 56-year-old on Friday.

Webster admitted committing the fraud while working as a teacher at Wellers Hill State School in the Brisbane suburb of Tarragindi.

She was charged after an investigation by the state’s corruption watchdog into her husband John Leonard Webster.

He is facing charges of misusing a corporate credit card and dishonestly obtaining money relating to school activities.

Crime and Corruption Commission investigators found text messages that didn’t correlate with her being at work when she should have been, defence barrister Joshua Jones told Brisbane Magistrates Court.

Webster was first charged with 14 counts of fraud, but all but one were dismissed by the prosecution.

She pleaded guilty to the remaining charge relating to 17 days when she took sick leave she was not entitled to between August 19, 2015 and November 7, 2018.

On three days she attended Melbourne Cup functions, while on others she went interstate with her husband who was on school trips.

Soon after the fraud was detected Webster paid back $6600 which was the value of the sick leave benefit she had received.

Jones told the court teachers are called on to do much more than one would consider their job entails and there was a culture at the time of people taking sick leave in return.

“It was a perception that because of a significant number of overtime hours that were done that were not renumerated it was OK,” he added.

“It wasn’t just her –  that doesn’t excuse it … but it also mitigates the criminality in the sense that it was a cultural thing, not a deceitful thing.”

Webster acknowledged her actions were wrong, but Jones said her behaviour didn’t equate to that of people who forged medical certificates.

Webster – who had accumulated more than 31 weeks of sick leave – had been suspended for almost two years with pay over the low-level offending.

The court heard she had worked in regional Australia during her career, running tutorials in her own time to improve education levels.

Cooke accepted Webster was “extremely remorseful” and has had a “long and fine career as a teacher”.

“Sadly it may come to an end and that’s a result of your actions,” he told Webster in sentencing her.

“It appears to me that it was perhaps more stupidity than any great intention to deceive; nonetheless it’s clearly fraud.”

He sentenced Webster to a $1000 good behaviour bond which she would have to pay if she offended again within 12 months.

No conviction was recorded.

John Webster’s matters are listed for mention in the same court on September 12.

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