Carer jailed for stealing from elderly patients

The courthouse at Bishop Street, Derry.
The courthouse at Bishop Street, Derry.

A care worker who fraudulently used a debit card belonging to a woman suffering from dementia, spending more than £10,000 on purchases which included hotel stays and restaurants, has been jailed for nine months.

Danielle McDermott, whose address cannot be published, also admitted fraud and stealing money from another woman who she cared for.

Londonderry Crown Court heard the offences were committed when the 25-year-old worked as a care worker for elderly and vulnerable people to assist them in their daily life.

Both victims were elderly women and McDermott would call to their homes twice a day.

One of the complainants became suspicious that money was disappearing as she was short of money all the time.

In October 2013, the woman’s daughter gave her between £220 and £240 before McDermott made her house call. When McDermott left the woman checked her mother’s purse and only £40 was remaining.

The court was told the woman’s daughter marked notes, took note of their serial number and set up a mobile phone camera to try and get footage of any misbehaviour.

Money went missing again and the camera footage showed the defendant at the victim’s handbag.

During police interview, McDermott denied stealing any money but claimed she had been given £20 to collect pre-cooked dinners.

The defendant was suspended from her job and an enquiry relating to other clients she had cared for was undertaken.

In March 2014, a number of suspicious transactions were discovered in the account of a 75-year-old woman with dementia.

The court heard that 29 transactions were carried out on the account between August 13, 2013 and April 14, 2014 in the name of Danielle McDermott.

In total almost £11,000 was taken from this account.

The court was told the money was used for shopping, car insurance, hotels and heating oil.

McDermott also spent £2,000 on flights to the Isle of Man.

The court was told that the money lost was being borne by both the bank and the people McDermott bought services from.

Defence counsel Ivor McAteer described the offences as ‘mean’ and said they did not make for pleasant reading.

He said many of the transactions were used by his client to make her feel better but she had a nagging guilt she was doing something very wrong.

The barrister told the court his client has saved £2,000 and was willing to pay back £250 per month in the future.

He added that the defendant ‘does not have her sorrows to seek’.

Jailing McDermott, Judge Philip Babington said: “In this case ‘there is quite clearly a breach of trust in that the defendant was entrusted to provide care to injured parties in their own home settings and abused that position.”

He said both injured parties were taken advantage of because they were vulnerable.

“Unfortunately as people live longer more and more people need the assistance of carers to enable them to live in their own homes,” he said.

“This sort of conduct stands in stark contrast to the very good and necessary work carried out by the thousands of carers who are honest and caring.

“There is no doubt in my mind that this is very serious, mean and nasty offending and it is this sort of offending that has to be deterred by the imposition of immediate custodial sentences.”