A MOTHER spent tens of thousands in council cash which was left over from her disabled son’s care costs.
Peterlee Magistrates’ Court heard Kathleen Debage spent the money on Christmas, her daughter’s wedding, to pay off a debt and on day-to-day living.
The 62-year-old received regular payments from the council to pay for son Ian’s accommodation and living costs, and any surplus cash was supposed to be returned to the authority.
Checks found she had spent £22,414 which should have been returned before the council regained control over his accounts.
The court heard the mother-of-four has since paid back £8,765 – in part by selling a house, leaving the outstanding amount at £13,649.
Debage, of St Ives Place, Murton, admitted five counts of fraud by abuse of position.
One charge related to the full amount of debt, while the four others related to cash which had been withdrawn on separate occasions.
Vickie Wilson, prosecuting, said: “She would ensure her son’s bills were paid for and the surplus money had gone on day-to-day living, she spent money on Christmas for her family and paid for her daughter’s wedding.
“She has made full admissions to the officer and says she didn’t realise the amount she had taken.”
Magistrates were told the council made several requests to see Debage’s bank accounts as part of an audit, and while other documents were sent on, the bank statements were not, causing delays in an investigation.
Dave Smith, defending, said Debage disputed she had helped cover her daughter’s wedding costs.
He added: “It’s not a case of funding a lavish lifestyle.
“It’s often easy to fund many day-to-day expenses without living a lifestyle that is associated with big accounts.
“She feels remorse and shock and has been a single mother for most of her life and has been living close to the bread line and this, in effect, has been born out of that.”
Debage was sentenced to 26 weeks in custody, suspended for 12 months, for the main offence, with a further six weeks to run concurrently for the four other charges.
She was also ordered to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work and to pay £750 in compensation.