CROOKED care worker Kate Watson hides her head in shame as she walks free from court despite helping herself to almost £2,000 from an elderly client.
The 22-year-old was the main carer of a “vulnerable” 74-year-old woman, who relied on Watson for her day-to-day care in the Sunderland retirement home where she lived.
But instead of supporting the pensioner, Watson would take her bank card and withdraw cash on numerous occasions from cash points across the city.
“Miss Watson was a careworker for Comfort Call,” prosecutor Keith Laidlaw said. “She was the main carer for the woman and had been for some time.
“This put her in a position of considerable trust.
“On September 27, 2014, police were informed by her daughter that a quantity of money was missing from her bank account.
You knew what you were doing and you abused your position of power and trust.Bench chairman John Bolam
“At the time it was believed to be in the region of £1,700.”
Watson was arrested in October and interviewed by officers, fully admitting that she had taken the debit card and withdrawn £1,911.
The fraudster has since been sacked from her job, but has since found work in a Peterlee call centre, dealing with accident claims.
She told police: “I’m going to tell you everything I did. I’ve been taking money from her bank account. I did it because I had money problems. I knew it was wrong and I shouldn’t have done it. I know it’s not an excuse.”
Watson said she had found the PIN number “just lying around” and that she used cash points in Fawcett Street, in the city centre, and in Red House to withdraw money.
She had taken the card and sometimes she had kept it, and sometimes returned it to where she had found it, she told officers.
Watson, of Davies Walk, Horden, County Durham, admitted theft from a dwelling and fraud by abuse of position between May 5 and June 10 last year.
Angus Westgarth, defending, said Watson had been estranged from her mother and step-father for some time.
She moved in with a friend, but payday loans spiralled out of control and she claims she was pressured by a third party to pay for a holiday.
“She found herself between a rock and a hard place,” he said. “That doesn’t justify what she did. She didn’t benefit financially, but she did buy a couple of items for her herself.
“She is embarrassed and ashamed and remorseful for what she has done.”
Mr Westgarth added that Watson’s sister had died from a heart condition when she was 13, and that Watson herself was undergoing tests for the same condition, adding: “She needs help and support.”
Sentencing Watson to 17 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, chairman of the bench John Bolam said: “This was very serious what you did.
“You knew what you were doing and you abused your position of power and trust. It was a planned offence and you targeted a victim over several weeks.”
Watson will be supervised by the probation service for the duration of her suspended sentence and was told to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work.
She was also told to pay £1,922 in compensation to her victim. At a rate of £40 per month, it will take four years to pay back.
Comfort Call managing director Jonathan Lees said: “Comfort Call was very pleased to hear that Ms Watson has received appropriate punishment for her crime.
“As a care worker, she was entrusted with the safety and welfare of vulnerable people and betrayed the trust of both Comfort Call as an employer and of the people that use its services.
“Ms Watson was suspended from duties and dismissed some months ago and an investigation at the time confirmed that she had passed all our usual rigorous recruitment checks, including a check of her criminal record, but this will offer little consolation to her victim and we deeply regret the distress caused by her deplorable crime.”