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GCSE PAPER CHEAT'S REDUCED SENTENCE BID THROWN OUT

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A once highly respected teacher who stole GSCE exam papers to show them to privately tutored students today failed ...
A once highly respected teacher who stole GSCE exam papers to show them to privately tutored students today failed to win her freedom from a three-month jail term.

Farzana Akbar, 46, of Seaforth Avenue, New Malden, Surrey, was jailed on September 13 at Kingston Crown Court after admitting stealing five maths papers from the Archbishop Lanfranc School in Croydon, Surrey and showing them to students at her husband's private tutorial college, Headstart Education in Motspur Park.

London's Criminal Appeal Court today refused to cut her jail term, saying prison was inevitable for such a serious offence and three months was the shortest sentence which could have been passed.

Mr Justice Astill, sitting with Mr Justice Roderick Evans, said confidence in the integrity of the national examinations system was essential.

'The whole of the education system, from entry into school to university and beyond, is dependent on the system not only being fair but being seen to be fair and accepted as a balanced test of acadamic ability,' he said.

Police raided Headstart on June 10 after a pupil told authorities the questions Akbar had set her were the same as the exam.

Tamper proof bags of exam papers were found to have been sliced down the spine to enable a paper to be removed and then glued back to conceal the theft.

Akbar's QC, Helena Kennedy, said her client was a woman of the 'highest integrity and honesty in normal circumstances', as was clear from many testimonials from a wide range of people.

Lady Kennedy referred to her skill, dedication and devotion to students and to her physical ill health and the emotional stress she was under when she stole the papers.

Her 12 days to date in prison had left her very depressed and she had been on suicide watch, the QC said.

But Mr Justice Astill rejected arguments that Akbar should have received a community or a suspended sentence due to exceptional circumstances.

He said it was a 'measure of the depth of the breach of trust' shown by Akbar that she took positive and thoughtless steps to bypass the openness and fairness of the examinations system.

'In one stroke she wiped away all the virtues of integrity and conscientious which have been the subject of comments,' he said.

'The openness of the pupil who declared she had seen the examination questions before contrasts starkly with the deceipt of the appellant.'

He concluded that the sentencing judge took into acount all matters that were in her favour, 'and there were many'.

'He set those matters against the seriousness of the offence,' he said.

'His conclusion that prison was inevitable is beyond criticism and the sentence of three months is the shortest this serious offence allowed him to pass.'

STRAND NEWS SERVICE

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