A 'MEALS on wheels' lady, who stole from the housekeeping money of a 77-year-old 'vulnerable' customer, has been told she could have been 'sent to prison straight away'.
Kirsty Dryden, 41, of Saundergate Lane East, Wyberton, admitted stealing £86.50 from Robin Sellars when she appeared before District Judge Peter Veits at Boston Magistrates Court.
Prosecuting, Shelley Wilson said Mr Sellars, a vulnerable man with early onset dementia and who had recently had a minor stroke, was living at home with a care package which included the delivery of meals by Ms Dryden, for which he paid £32.50 a week.
She said he kept his housekeeping money in a bag in a kitchen cupboard and he trusted Ms Dryden to take the correct money for the meals when she delivered them.
Ms Wilson said that a neighbour, who 'kept an eye on Mr Sellars', noticed that his housekeeping money was getting less and less and so a cctv camera was installed in his kitchen which revealed that Ms Dryden and another carer were taking money, although it was stated they were not acting together.
Ms Wilson said it was estimated that around £1,000 was missing altogether and a review of the cctv images showed two occasions in which Ms Dryden took money and secreted it on her person.
Mitigating, Philippa Chatterton said that Ms Dryden, who had no previous convictions, was 'genuinely remorseful' and that the offences were 'out of character'.
She said Ms Dryden could give no real reasons why she had done this as she had no financial needs, but she had 'struggled with depression', for which she is medicated.
Judge Veits told her he 'could easily justify sending you to prison straight away for this offence' but after hearing from the Probation Service that the explanation for the offences could be 'factors in her early life', he decided to suspend the sentence.
She was given a 10 weeks prison sentence suspended for a year and ordered to carry out 12 rehabilitation days and 80 hours of unpaid work for the community.
She was also ordered to pay £86.50 in compensation to Mr Sellars and £200 in costs and charges.