Monday, 23 October 2017

Carer fraudster spared jail

A CARER who stole more than £1,700 from three elderly clients in Goring has avoided being sent to prison.

A CARER who stole more than £1,700 from three elderly clients in Goring has avoided being sent to prison.

Michelle Brandish was given a 26-week suspended jail sentence and ordered to pay more than £3,300 in compensation and costs when she appeared at Banbury Magistrates’ Court on Monday.

Brandish, 42, of Beeching Way, Wallingford, was also placed under a four-week curfew, meaning she must not leave home between 8pm and 6am and must wear an electronic tag to ensure she complies.

She was also ordered to attend a rehabilitation course to reduce her risk of re-offending.

Brandish was found guilty of three counts of fraud at Oxford Magistrates’ Court last month.

At the time, district judge Tim Pattinson warned her that imprisonment was likely but on Monday he opted for the more lenient sentence after hearing she suffered from mental health problems, including depression and compulsive spending.

He asked Brandish’s solicitor Howard Wilson why the pre-sentencing report said she still denied committing the offences but also that she was extremely remorseful. Mr Wilson replied: “Since her conviction she has been extremely emotional and difficult to take instruction from.

“She cannot, in her own mind, reconcile her conviction with what she feels to be the situation.

“However, she accepts she has caused harm to three people she was meant to safeguard and that she wasn’t fit to do the job. I would suggest her mental condition is one of incapacity at this stage.”

Brandish committed the offences while working at the Towse Court sheltered flat complex in Icknield Way, Goring.

Between April and October last year, she used her victims’ debit and credit cards to withdraw cash and buy hundreds of pounds’ worth of clothing from online retailers.

On one occasion she bought groceries, dog food and cigarettes from a convenience store.

Her victims were Anne Stobie, who is in her sixties and severely disabled due to multiple sclerosis, 92-year-old Joan Bosson, who has lung cancer, and 93-year-old Violet Dance, who died earlier this year. When Brandish was arrested at work in October, Mrs Stobie’s card was found in a crisp packet inside her handbag. It had been used to withdraw about £600 in cash and for small purchases.

Officers then searched Brandish’s home and found one of Mrs Dance’s credit card statements showing it had been used to buy £745 worth of clothes over the internet. Several of these items were located at the property.

It then emerged she had withdrawn £400 from Mrs Bosson’s account using a cash machine in Goring high street.

Brandish pleaded innocence on all counts, saying she withdrew money on the women’s behalf and at their request, and took the statement home to help Mrs Dance with an unspecified “problem”.

Mr Wilson said: “Mrs Brandish’s real punishment is the way she is now regarded by those around her and how society views what she has done. People are aware of what has happened and are disgusted by it.

“If she is sent to prison her health will deteriorate further. It would be disproportionate to the benefits and I am confident that this defendant is unlikely to appear before a court again.”

Mr Pattinson told Brandish: “This was a serious breach of trust…. [against] people who were entitled to trust in their carers. By doing so, you have made them very distressed and fearful.

“There was some sophistication and planning in what you did. You removed Mrs Dance’s statement, possibly by intercepting her post, so that she never saw you had paid for items on her card.

“On each count you tried to claim, completely dishonestly, that they had forgotten the money or given you permission — effectively accusing them of lying, which makes it even worse.

“I find your claim of remorse somewhat hollow when you are unclear to me about whether you fully accept guilt. I reject any submission that you are in any way blameless for this.”

Mrs Brandish must pay £1,749.42 to her victims’ banks, which refunded the money, £1,500 court costs and a victim surcharge of £80.

Brandish was suspended when the allegations came to light and then dismissed following an internal inquiry by the Orders of St John Care Trust, which runs care services at Towse Court.



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