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Sunset years to be spent in prison

Lawyer Randell sentenced for school fraud, but allowed to appeal

These were supposed to be his sunset years, but Michael Randell’s complete lack of remorse for defrauding a school out of nearly R3-million ensured that he would spend four of those years behind bars.

Yesterday, the good work the oncerespected lawyer and humanitarian did for Eastern Cape pupils and the poor fell short of convincing the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court to impose a non-custodial sentence.

In grave contrast to his guilty verdict in July, when Randell broke down and sobbed in court, he remained calm when magistrate Khamdilizine Nqadala sentenced him to six years in prison, two of which were suspended.

But Randell, 63, was granted a brief reprieve, and instead of being escorted to St Albans Prison to start serving his sentence, his bail was extended after Nqadala granted him leave to appeal against his conviction.

Just prior to that, Nqadala had criticised Randell’s lack of remorse and failure to take the court into his confidence as to why he had defrauded Greenwood Primary School out of more than R2.5-million

“The behaviour of an accused during trial may be indicative of a lack of repentance. Remorse must be distinguished from self-pity,” Nqadala said.

“One may say in this case that [Randell] only verbalised some regret for the circumstances surrounding the offence. He was not remorseful for the crime committed.”

Randell, of Thornhill, was found guilty in July of the fraud committed while serving on the school governing body between 1999 and 2006.

He acted in concert with former principal Patrick Shelver and governing body head Michel Lascot, who has since died.

Shelver received a wholly suspended sentence after pleading guilty to his role in the fraud.

Nqadala said Randell had worn many hats as the school’s legal adviser and member of its governing body, and in particular as the one who drew up the fraudulent trust deed which saw the men each pocket about R1-million meant for the school’s benefit.

“[Randell] was the dominant player in the offence,” the magistrate said.

“[Randell] continued to maintain his innocence in circumstances when one would have expected him to realise the wrongfulness of his actions.

“Even worse is that there were many instances where he could have reconsidered his position.”

Nqadala said he had looked at the manner in which the crime was committed, the premeditation and planning involved, and the fact that the fraud was executed over a long period.

“He had ample time to reconsider his conduct and do the right thing, but ... he continued his deceitful plans.”

However, Nqadala said he needed to consider Randell’s personal circumstances, which included his age, the fact that he was a family man, and most importantly the good work he had done for his community.

“He made many sacrifices towards uplifting the underprivileged,” the magistrate said.

“At the age of 63, he held a good record. Unfortunately, he tainted this towards the sunset years of his life.”

Randell, the director of Michael Randell Inc, pioneered several successful court cases against the education department.

He was struck from the roll of attorneys last month.