A 57-year-old woman without previous convictions has received a four-month suspended sentence after she was convicted of stealing over €6,000 from a 91-year-old retired teacher in West Cork.
Mary Ann O'Sullivan who is a native of Horsehill, Kinsale, Co Cork but now lives in San Pedro de Alacantara, Malaga in Spain, pleaded guilty to 27 counts of stealing money from Catherine Beardsmore.
The money was taken from an account in AIB Bank Kinsale between December 24th 2014 and April 20th 2017.
At a hearing of Bantry District Court presiding judge Colm Roberts said that pensioners must be protected from persons who prey on their vulnerability.
Judge Roberts said that Ms O'Sullivan had committed a major breach of trust when she stole the money from her elderly relative after the pensioner retired from the UK to Kinsale.
Judge Roberts said that he feared such an offence was happening to other elderly people nationwide who put their financial affairs in the trust of relatives.
Sgt Patricia O’Sullivan said the DPP had directed the matter be dealt with on a summary basis only on a guilty plea. Defence solicitor, Denis Healy said that O’Sullivan wanted to enter a guilty plea.
Det Garda Mick Brosnan of Kinsale Garda Station told Judge Roberts that O’Sullivan had assisted Ms Beardsmore, who was a distant relative with her financial affairs when she retired to Kinsale.
The 91-year-old was having her teacher's pension from the UK paid into a Barclays Bank Account account there.
Ms O'Sullivan assisted her in setting up a joint emergency account with both their names on it at AIB Bank in Kinsale. This account was set up with both the knowledge and consent of Ms Beardsmore.
However, Ms O'Sullivan without permission or consent also set up a second joint account with AIB and from 2014 to 2017 she stole €6,427 from this secret account in 27 transactions.
Det Garda Brosnan told the court that he met Ms O’Sullivan by arrangement in July 2018 when she returned from Spain to Ireland. She presented voluntarily for interview at Bandon Garda where she acknowledged that the transactions should not have occurred.
Det Garda Brosnan said that Ms Beardsmore was greatly upset by the chaos that her distant relative had caused to her finances. She had to close bank accounts and open new ones as a result of the theft.
Mr Healy said that his client had initially behaved like “a good friend” to Ms Beardsmore in setting up a bank account for her. However, she then had stolen the money to set up a business venture. He stressed that she planned to pay the funds back but the business venture failed.
Mr Healy said that the crime was completely out of character for a woman who had an unblemished record having never been before the courts. Ms O'Sullivan wrote a letter of apology to the pensioner. She is said to be deeply remorseful and ashamed of her actions.
Ms O'Sullivan brought €6,500 in compensation to court – more than the amount that she had stolen.
Judge Roberts said he accepted that O’Sullivan had been “an upstanding, decent and honourable person” prior to this offence.
However, he emphasised she taken money from an elderly vulnerable person whom she was supposed to be helping and that could not be ignored.
He said he had to mark the gravity of the offence by recording a conviction against her. However, he suspended a four month sentence taking in to account her guilty plea, her lack of previous convictions and repayment of the funds.
He added that the offence would never have come to light without the sterling investigative work of Det Garda Brosnan. He commended him for his excellent performance of his duties.