Court dismisses former NLESD manager’s appeal of corruption convictions

A former Newfoundland and Labrador English School District manager who was convicted of fraud and breach of trust has lost his appeal.

Derek Newhook was charged in 2016 with abusing his position by directing staff at the NLESD’s depot in Burin to do work that was of no benefit to the school district, but was of benefit to himself and a friend.

In 2018, Newhook was found guilty on three counts. Fifteen others were dismissed.

Newhook’s appeal was heard last fall

In a two-to-one decision released over the weekend, the province’s top court dismissed Newhook’s bid to overturn the convictions.

“The verdicts reached by the trial judge are not unreasonable and are adequately supported by the evidence,” Court of Appeal Justice William Goodridge wrote.

“There was no misapprehension of the evidence, and no miscarriage of justice.”

A three-judge panel heard Newhook’s appeal of his fraud and breach of trust convictions. (Rob Antle/CBC)

Justice Gillian Butler concurred.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Gale Welsh wrote, “The reasons the trial judge gave for rejecting Mr. Newhook’s evidence do not withstand scrutiny.”

Welsh found the trial judge erred in his application of the law regarding criminal fraud, and said it was appropriate to set aside the guilty verdicts in Newhook’s case and acquit him. 

Convictions related to trailer, shed

Newhook had been convicted of two fraud charges and one count of breach of trust after a lengthy trial at provincial court in Grand Bank.

Judge Harold Porter ruled Newhook — during his time as regional operations manager with the school district — had employees of the Burin Peninsula school bus depot make a shed and trailer that were “surplus to the requirements of the school board.”

The trailer and shed were then taken to the equipment yard of Newhook’s friend, where they remained “out of reach of the school board” for two years.

Newhook got a suspended sentence, a year of probation, and was ordered to pay restitution of about $4,000 to the NLESD.

AG called in for ‘thorough review’

Newhook was charged days after the then education minister went public in April 2016 about allegations of possible fraud in purchases made by the school district.

At the time, Dale Kirby told reporters the province had called in the auditor general to do a “thorough review.”

The auditor general’s damning report was released 2½ years later. It focused on the facilities and maintenance branch of the school district’s eastern region, and found a history of poor financial oversight and questionable purchases and spending decisions.

The auditor general’s findings were forwarded to the police after the report was released 18 months ago. No charges have since been laid.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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