A TRUSTED carer stole more than £18,000 from a recently widowed pensioner she was meant to be looking after.
Catherine Middlemas spent the cash on “shopping, scratch cards and a holiday” after taking the 67-year-old victim’s card and pin number from her home.
The 39-year-old was collared after she used her own Iceland foodstore loyalty card to collect points during one of the dishonest transactions.
By that time the widow, who thought her late husband had left her enough savings to ensure she was looked after for life, had been notified by her bank that she was overdrawn.
Middlemas, of East Avenue, Washington, admitted theft of £18,423.
At Newcastle Crown Court, Mr Recorder Andrew Baker QC sentenced her to 18 months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, with supervision and a £1,000 compensation order.
The judge said he knew the suspended prison time could be viewed as “lenient”, but said Middlemas’ personal problems, including a serious gambling addiction, meant she could be spared.
He told Middlemas: “I am conscious there will be those in the community that will regard that as lenient and the court has sympathy for the view that theft from an elderly person in these circumstances really should only ever be met with immediate custody.
“But I am persuaded that the background circumstances in your personal life, your determination to address them, the harm that would be caused to your family, particularly your children still at home, all add up to sufficient, exceptional circumstances that mean I can and will suspend the sentence.”
The court heard Middlemas had been employed as a carer for her victim in January last year and took the cash between April and June.
Prosecutor Paul Rowland said: “A high degree of trust was reposed in her because of the day-to-day tasks she carried out on behalf of the victim. The victim was vulnerable by virtue of her position and was reliant upon help around the house.
“It was discovered that in excess of 100 dishonest transactions had taken place.”
The court heard the widow’s cash was reimbursed in full by her bank. Middlemas, who has never been in trouble before, confessed what she had done as soon as she was arrested.
Sue Hirst, defending, said Middlemas has worked as a carer throughout her career and had suffered personal problems, on top of mounting debts.
The court heard Middlemas, who cried with shame throughout the hearing, has contacted Gamblers Anonymous and has started a “long road” to recovery.