FORMER Greenwood Primary School principal Patrick Shelver dodged spending time in jail but was ordered to repay the money he stole from school coffers when he was sentenced in the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court yesterday.
Magistrate Stanley Gumede also sentenced him to 10 years in prison, suspended for five years on condition that he pay back the money he stole within that five years.
Shelver, 55, was found guilty on Thursday for his part in the R2.5-million theft from the school.
He pocketed more than R1-million, but still owes the school R600 000 after his assets were seized by the Assets Forfeiture Unit.
Shelver showed great relief as Gumede ordered him to pay R10 000 a month for the next five years, starting from March.
Shelver’s crime was driven by the "overwhelming desire for more”, the magistrate said. "Shelver was employed in a secure position. This was an offence driven by greed.”
However, Gumede said Shelver had served some form of punishment.
"Appearing in court and acquiring an attorney at a cost to the accused and receiving a form of persecution in the press has been the punishment he had to endure,” he said.
Shelver pleaded his remorse and admitted to having had a nervous breakdown and undergoing psychiatric treatment for two years.
The magistrate believed sentencing Shelver to imprisonment would serve no purpose.
"The accused is not likely to recommit an offence. Imprisonment serves an aspect of retribution and rehabilitation. The accused has positioned himself in such a way so that he can make amends and compensate the victims,” Gumede said.
His attorney, Stuart Laubscher, said he believed the legal system had achieved retribution for society.
"I had two objective as Shelver’s attorney. The first was to receive compensation for the school and the second was to keep my client out of jail,” he said. "Justice has been served.” Shelver pleaded guilty to stealing R1.35-million from the leafy Park Drive primary school when he pocketed money from the sale of a school property.
The disgraced former principal, along with the late school governing body chairman Michel Lascot and prominent city attorney Michael Randell, allegedly colluded to acquire a total of R2.5-million from the school’s trust fund.
According to Shelver’s plea, the three served as the sole trustees of the school’s trust established to purchase the property. As the only three trustees, the group had the power at the time to amend the trust without notifying anyone at the school.
After buyers showed interest to purchase the property the men amended the trust deed and registered themselves as beneficiaries, and then sold the property at a profit.
The property, which was initially purchased for R500 000, was sold for R3.5-million. The balance was used to pay costs such as tax and the outstanding amount on the bond.
While the school received no cash payment from the deal, the trustees justified the lack of payment because the buyer built six classrooms and two garages on a section of the land.
Shelver will appear as state witness when Randell’s case resumes later in the year
According to prosecutor Wilhelm de Villiers, who had met with the school’s governing body and principal Gary Pike on Thursday, the school did not want Shelver to serve a prison sentence.
"The money will benefit the school. They are satisfied that the accused is not sent to prison. The accused will still be able to work and pay back the money he owes,” De Villiers said.