A WOMAN has been jailed for stealing thousands of pounds from a dementia sufferer while working as her cleaner.
Linda Barnes used the 80-year-old’s bank card to obtain £12,072 to help pay off her mounting debts, Ipswich Crown Court heard on Tuesday.
Barnes, formerly of Bury St Edmunds and now living in Caister on Sea, pleaded guilty to a charge of fraud committed between August 2008 and March 2010 and was jailed for 16 months.
After hearing that Barnes, 62, had no money and no assets, Judge John Devaux made a confiscation order for a nominal £1 which she must pay or face seven days in prison.
Prosecuting, Robert Sadd said the offence had been a breach of trust as it occurred while Barnes was working as a cleaner for the elderly victim, who lives in the Horringer Road area of Bury.
Barnes claimed to have repaid up to £1,000 of the total she took and told police that details of repayments were in a notebook, but the document did not support her claims, the court heard.
In mitigation for Barnes, Kevin McCarthy said that she had begun by borrowing small sums from the woman, which were paid back, but that cash withdrawals using a bank card turned to theft as her financial position worsened.
“She found herself in a situation where her financial life was in turmoil,” said Mr McCarthy.
He said she found herself under great financial pressure from catalogue debts.
“Her way out was the easy way out. She took from a vulnerable victim over a period of time.”
Mr McCarthy said Barnes was ‘utterly ashamed’ of what she had done and was not aware of the full amount until told by police.
Sentencing Barnes, Judge Devaux said: “The breach of trust here was to a high degree because of the role you played in the victim’s household and also because of the condition of the victim herself which did deteriorate during the time you knew her.”
A spokeswoman for the Alzheimer’s Society said: “We do not comment on individual cases but cases such as this are a moral outrage. Dementia sufferers are amongst the most vulnerable people in society and we need to make sure we are doing everything in our power to protect these people.”