When news happens send us your pictures, video and views. Text BE to 80360 or contact us by email
Couple who stole relative's home "to pay for her care" spared jail
A COUPLE who sold an elderly relative’s house after she became ill have been spared jail.
A charity boss has warned the elderly to ensure they can trust friends or relatives before appointing them to manage their financial affairs.
Jane White, 57, and her husband Michael White, 61, from Berkley Road, Pimperne, were found guilty of stealing £54,722 from Mrs White’s aunt, Olive Cutler, between June 1, 2006 and January 31, 2011, after she became too ill to look after her own interests.
Age UK Bournemouth’s chief officer David Leighton said: “Exploitation of vulnerable people is shocking but, thankfully, this is an isolated case. It will make people frightened to give power of attorney but it is important that they don’t leave it too late as it can cause dreadful problems.
“I would encourage people to be careful; it shouldn’t be done on a whim. They have to have complete faith and trust that the individuals involved have their best interests at heart. Where money is involved there is always a risk.”
Bournemouth Crown Court heard how widowed Mrs Cutler, who is in her late 80s and suffers from Alzhemier’s, lives at a North Dorset care home.
Prosecutor Carolyn Branford-Wood said the vulnerable pensioner had moved in with the Whites in early 2003. She added: “The following year Mr White was given power of attorney. After spending a few weeks in hospital in 2006 Mrs Cutler moved into a residential care home.”
Ms Branford-Wood said the first 12 weeks of Mrs Cutler’s care had been funded by Dorset County Council, adding: “Later that year her property was sold and funds from that sale were put into an account and used to pay the care home fees.”
An investigation was launched after Mr White applied to the council for financial assistance for Mrs Cutler in 2010. Mrs Cutler’s mental health has deteriorated so much she could not give evidence and is unaware her home has been sold.
Defending, Brian Sharman said: “The defendants feel that their aunt would not have minded what they did; that money is ironically money which would have gone to Mrs White – we have a copy of the will.”
He added: “In my career I have never been given a petition with so many signatures from villagers who regard this couple as of tremendous social value.”
Mr Sharman described Mrs White’s health as “in an extremely grave state” adding that she relied on her husband to care for her and her elderly parents.
Judge Samuel Wiggs said: “This was undoubtedly a high degree of a breach of trust but I do not think it is in the public interest to send either of you immediately to prison.”
He added that Mrs White’s health would make it “extremely difficult” for her to cope behind bars and said he was also taking into account their “exemplary character.”
Mr White was handed a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work. Mrs White was given a nine-month prison sentence, suspended for two years.
There were gasps of relief in the packed public gallery. The Whites, who were found guilty of theft, could have been jailed for up to six years.