A single mum, whose baby has serious ongoing health problems, has been jailed for Christmas after a court heard how she stole cash from a vulnerable pensioner.
Sarah Louise Ley, 32, wept as she was led away to start serving a
26-week prison sentence.
Flintshire Magistrates Court heard that Ley, of Clover Place in Lache, Chester, was pregnant at the time and had been trusted by the victim with her debit card so that she could withdraw cash for her.
But it emerged that Ley used the card to withdraw cash and to pay bills at supermarkets and had taken a total of £2,800.
Deputy district judge Timothy Gasgoyne said she had problems in her personal life, but had stolen from an elderly woman who was more vulnerable than her.
“Although you had your difficulties, she was elderly, in her 80s, her husband was in hospital and she had limited capacity,” he said.
The defendant appeared to be “picking on the most vulnerable person she possibly could”.
He said he had thought long and hard whether he could suspend the sentence.
She had no previous convictions, but she had a previous caution for stealing from a vulnerable victim in a care home.
“You knew you should not be doing this, but you have done it again,” he said.
Prosecutor Rhian Jackson told how the victim was a woman in her 80s in Connah’s Quay who lived alone and whose husband had been in hospital for two years.
She had restricted mobility and used a wheelchair and relied upon family for support.
The victim had previously suffered a brain haemorrhage and had limited mental capacity.
Mrs Jackson said that the defendant’s mother had attended her home for many years to do her hair, and Ley had started attending in recent times.
She was a carer who was off work because she was pregnant and she would do various things for her including running errands, at £10 an hour.
In February the family realised that cash was going missing from the house and it was decided that she would be provided with a debit card.
The victim gave the card and her PIN to the defendant, trusting her, in order to get £50 cash out of the bank to pay her mother for doing her hair.
But when the family looked at the bank statement it turned out that 75 unauthorised transactions had taken place amounting to £2,803.
The victim did not know where the card was, the defendant turned up while a search was going on, and she went to a sofa which had already been searched and produced the card, saying she had just found it.
Mrs Jackson said that the victim was unable to leave the home unaided and would not have been responsible for transactions at an ATM and at Morrison’s, Asda and the Spar.
The defendant was suspected to be responsible because she had access to the card and PIN, the mother was spoken to, and the defendant admitted what she had done, saying “sorry, it’s me.”
She said that she did not want anyone else to be blamed.
When told how much it was, she appeared shocked, said Mrs Jackson. She intended to pay the money back, she said.
The court heard that Ley had no previous convictions, but she had in 2015 been cautioned for an offence of theft by an employee.
On that occasion, she worked in a home and stole £5 from the handbag of a lady aged 87. It had been caught on CCTV.
Probation officer Tracey Flavell said that Ley accepted full responsibility and was remorseful.
At the time she had been living with her mother after escaping from a violent relationship.
Her baby had been born with medical difficulties, underwent surgery at Alder Hay Children’s Hospital at a very young age, and continued under the car of that hospital and The Countess of Chester Hospital.
She was in debt but wanted to pay the money back on a monthly basis.
The defendant’s former partner had been killed in a motorcycle accident seven years ago and she had been receiving counselling.
She suffered from anxiety and depression and had panic attacks.
The defendant was a low risk of
re-conviction, said Mrs Flavell.
Solicitor Justine McVitie, defending, said her client co-operated with the family and the police.
She held her hands up and had entered a guilty plea at the first occasion.
Miss McVitie said: “She succumbed to temptation at a very difficult time in her life.”
She said Ley was struggling financially, had been in the grip of a violent relationship, she had given birth and her daughter now seven months old had significant, ongoing, health problems.
She had a limited support network because her former partner had a restraining order not to approach her and her mother worked full-time as a hairdresser.