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Former teacher guilty on 59 counts

Tuesday March 19, 2019 Written by Published in Crime

Former school teacher Tyronne Weerasinghe was found guilty and convicted by a 12-member jury on 59 counts of theft by conversion at the Cook Islands High Court yesterday.


He appeared before Chief Justice Sir Hugh Williams QC and was represented by defence counsel Wilkie Rasmussen.

Weerasinghe was found guilty on the fact that between March 4, 2015, and February 10, 2017, in Rarotonga he did intentionally convert for his own use the property of the Cook Islands government amounting to $30,700 with the intention to deprive the owner of such property.

In closing Chief Justice Williams told the jury to look at the evidence, apply the law and to credibly reach a decision.

Chief Justice Williams said Mr Weerasinghe was insistent that he should have received some letter of termination from the Ministry of Education.

Chief Justice Williams said in Weerasinghe’s evidence, he acknowledged that in May, 2016 his registration was cancelled but did not receive any attachment on email from the ministry.

He said in cross examination  Weerasinghe knew he had no contract but received no documentation for his contract being terminated.

Chief Justice Williams said after the Crown put to the defendant his analogy of babysitting he said he knew how a relief teacher worked.

“The money was a mistake and you took advantage of it, his answer was correct. It was mistakenly put into your account; he answered I don’t believe that.

“You continued doing this even after teacher registration expired, answer - yes.”

He said the requirements for a non-Cook Islander to teach are a current work permit, passport and registration as a teacher.

He said Crown Law’s Alex Herman said Weerasinghe did intentionally and dishonestly take the payment because he did not teach for one day between March 4, 2015, and February 10, 2017.

He knew how the system of a relief teacher worked and he never complained when the payment stopped.He said Rasmussen highlighted that the defendant was treated unfavourably as a foreigner, was prepared to go to the Northern Group stay there and was reliant on the ministry in regards to everything.

Chief Justice Williams went through each of the 59 charges with the jurors in which they gave each count a guilty verdict.

He ordered for a probation report to be readied and adjourned the matter for sentencing on April 4.

The Chief Justice said an application for bail was unrealistic and remanded Weerasinghe in custody.

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