Woman Found Guilty Of Abusing Power Of Attorney
The daughter of a man who had been diagnosed with dementia, has abused her position of trust and stolen £4,600 over an eight-month period, spending money on purchases at Asda and Argos.
Following his dementia diagnosis in October 2014, John Gould drew up a will giving power of attorney to his four children. Arrangements were also made to reduce the estate ‘legally’ by making gifts from the estate, splitting them four ways.
However, one of Mr Gould’s daughters, Julie Lorraine Winter, began to act as a ‘unofficial’ point of contact for the family and her father’s money from his account.
In March 2019 however, after Mrs Winter’s sister had requested a statement of the account, that ‘unusual activity’ was found and her actions were discovered.
At a family meeting, the issues were raised and Mrs Winters ‘admitted she was responsible for the transactions’ but offered no apology. A second meeting saw Ms Winters sit ‘in silence and refused to speak to her brothers and sisters’.
Despite Mrs Winter’s husband offering a solution whereby some of the money would be repaid and Mrs Winter relinquishing some of her inheritance, no agreement was met and the family stated they would seek legal advice.
The family had then been informed that Mrs Winter had voluntarily reported the theft to the police. It was at this point, and due to the lack of contact, the family felt they had no option other than to pursue a criminal case against her, as ‘all reasonable civil options had been explored’.
The court has heard that the abuse of trust has had a ‘huge impact’ on one of Mrs Winter’s brothers who now has to take medication and time off work because of ‘stress and anxiety’, and the whole debacle has caused ‘emotional stress and harm’.
Defence barrister Mark Stuart said:
“It’s unfortunate that these matters couldn’t be resolved without anyone coming to court.
“It was her who informed upon herself to police. That is a very significant feature.
“She accepts by her plea she has done wrong and is facing an immediate custodial sentence but the court can step back from that. She is a lady of good character.
“She was caring for her father, had her own personal difficulties following an accident and her husband had been made redundant
“It was a question of all these features coming together and she found it difficult to cope with. The author of the pre-sentence report says her judgement was rather lacking.
“She is willing to pay the compensation within seven days.”
Mrs Winter has been sentenced to a nine-month jail sentence, suspended for 18 months as well as 100 hours unpaid work, as well as an order to pay £4,600 compensation.
Recorder Michael Blakey, at Preston Crown Court, upon sentencing, stated:
“I accept this was not pre-planned and it shows a substantial lack of judgement on your part. You now have on your record an offence of dishonesty.
“What you did, I was going to use the word unforgivable, but one hopes and perhaps believes that your family will forgive you in due course.”