Thieving pensioner told to undertake community service

THE MONTROSE pensioner who stole £31,205 from her frail mother was sentenced at Arbroath Sheriff Court last Tuesday.

Patricia Stephen (68), 9 Baillie Norrie Crescent, had admitted at a previous hearing that between July 10, 2006, and May 22, 2010, she stole the money from Mrs Mary Christie.

Originally the charge had been that she had embezzled the money while she was her mother’s financial and welfare guardian, but the Crown decided to proceed with the alternative charge.

Stephen was ordered by Sheriff Norrie Stein to undertake 240 hours unpaid work in the community, but the Sheriff was obliged to reduce this to 160 hours because Stephen had pleaded guilty at the earliest possible opportunity.

Sentence had been deferred from a hearing a week earlier for a psychological assessment to be completed.

Sheriff Stein was told that Stephen had siphoned off her mother’s savings in order to pay her own mortgage and a loan on a car.

Her mother was resident in a nursing home in Kirriemuir and Stephen had been given power over her mother’s financial affairs to enable her to make regular payments to the home.

And it was when these payments stopped being paid that alarm bells rang and police became involved.

Defence solicitor Paul Cannavan told the court that before the offence was committed the accused’s husband had lost his job and the couple were in severe financial difficulties. They had gone from a comfortable standard of living to being on state benefits.

The Sheriff heard that since the first hearing in September, Stephen had paid off the money she owed on a credit card, but still had debts relating to council tax and mortgage payments.

Mr Cannavan added that his client ‘maintained an interest’ in a charity in the Angus area.

Sheriff Stein told Stephen that the crime she had committed would have fully justified his imposing a custodial sentence.

However, he went on to say that there were a number of aspects to the case, including her age, and that she was a first offender.

In all the circumstances, he felt that a community service order was the appropriate course to take.