THE family of a vulnerable elderly woman - whose niece defrauded her out of £1,900 - have claimed they warned social services not to let her handle her aunt’s post office account.
Mother-of-three Caroline Reynolds, from Ashgrove Manor, Portadown, admitted stealing from the account of dementia sufferer Dorothy McGurgan on four separate occasions, when she appeared at Craigavon Court, and was given five months to make reparation.
A brother of Ms McGurgan’s has described the court ruling as “totally inadequate”, adding that he suggested to social workers in a meeting - which Caroline Reynolds attended - that she should not be entrusted with his sister’s money.
The court was told that Reynolds - who pleaded guilty - is the sole carer for her 11-year-old disabled son who is brain damaged after being born with meningitis, and this was taken into account by Crown Court judge Desmond Marrinan. He described Reynolds’ action as “shameful”, adding that in other circumstances, he would not have hesitated to impose a six to nine months sentence. But he stated he had to consider Reynolds’ disabled child and was “going to adjourn this case for a substantial period of time”.
He also requested details of Ms McGurgan’s accounts, medical details about the accused’s disabled son, and proof that she was attempting to pay back the £1,900. She is due to appear for sentencing at Craigavon Crown Court on November 30.
It was also revealed in court that Reynolds had two convictions as a teenager for obtaining stolen cheques and theft.
Ms McGurgan’s brother told the Portadown Times, “I told social workers at the meeting that, in my view, she was unsuitable to handle my sister’s post office accounts, and the court case bore this out.”
He added that they “refused to listen” and that he later became suspicious about how the withdrawn money was being used. He reported his misgivings to social services and informed the police.
During the investigations, it was claimed that the single mother was unable to account for a number of withdrawals on July 19, 20, 22 and 28, 2010.
The court heard that, during police inquiries, Reynolds claimed the sums of money had been “gifts” willingly given to her and her family by Ms McGurgan. But Judge Marrinan said that Ms McGurgan was not competent to give gifts and that McReynolds’ actions were “shameful”.
Her defence, after referring to her disabled son, said, “She is very keen to make reparation now.” The judge commented, “This time will give your client the chance to repay as much money as she can. It will then also prove to me that she means what she said.”
A spokesperson from the Southern Health and Social Care Trust, said, “The Southern Trust is satisfied that all relevant procedures were followed at every stage in this case.
“The trust takes any issues of theft very seriously and works with all relevant agencies including the PSNI. When a criminal offence is suspected, the Trust always investigates in line with its Adult Safeguarding Procedures.
“Due to our duty of confidentiality, it is trust policy not to publicly comment on individual circumstances. However, we fully acknowledge the distress that these issues can cause and the Trust continues to work with individuals and families regarding concerns and issues of this nature.”