There was no money to pay for the care bills of an 83-year-old nursing home resident after a worker at the facility stole over €3,000 from his bank account, a court has heard.
At Killaloe District Court sitting in Ennis, care home worker, Lorraine Hennessy, escaped prison for the theft of €3,011 from Terrance Stevenson after Judge Alec Gabbett imposed a nine-month suspended prison term.
Judge Gabbett said Hennessy had committed "a breach of trust" by stealing the monies from Mr Stevenson’s bank account.
"It is an extremely serious thing to do to a vulnerable party - an elderly man and taking his bank card unbeknownst to himself."
Hennessy (40), of Glor na Srutha, Clonlara, Co Clare, pleaded guilty to 22 theft charges concerning €3,011 between August 20th and October 5th, 2020 from Mr Stevenson.
The 22 thefts from Mr Stevenson were carried out through a Visa debit card that Mr Stevenson had given to Hennessy to get his messages.
Det Garda John Jenks told the court the thefts only came to light in January 2021 after direct debit payments from Mr Stevenson’s bank account to the nursing home bounced "because there was no cash in the account".
Det Jenks described the circumstances of the case as "sad", adding Mr Stevenson had become a resident of the nursing home in December 2018. Since that time, he had not had any visitors before his death on January 25th, 2021.
In response, Judge Gabbett said: "Isn’t that why it all happened? That there was no one monitoring of his own affairs."
Det Jenks said that Mr Stevenson knew that he was dying when he provided gardaí with a statement in January 2020 on the thefts.
The court heard Hennessy made 22 separate payments, totalling €3,011, with Mr Stevenson’s debit card.
Mr Stevenson was a single man and moved to Killaloe, Co Clare from the UK around 30 years ago.
Solicitor for Hennessy, Daragh Hassett, said she spent the funds on "domestic bills". He told the court the accused had lost her partner six years ago.
After reading Hennessy’s Probation Report, Judge Gabbett said: "It is a very sad story. The Probation Report reads that she was driven to steal effectively."
Mr Hassett said Hennessy is "totally ashamed" of her actions.
Det Jenks said he went to Hennessy's home in early 2021 with the intention of arresting her "but she put her arms up straight away".
He added: "Ms Hennessy was aware that Mr Stevenson was dead and she was fully co-operative and pleaded guilty very early."
Det Jenks said all monies have been repaid and the accused lost her job as a result of the thefts but now has alternative employment.
Judge Gabbett said under normal circumstances the offence would warrant a custodial sentence, but suspended the prison term for 24 months due to the "very positive" Probation Report, describing Hennessy as being at very low risk of re-offending.
Hennessy has no previous convictions and Judge Gabbett said he also took into account her early plea, her own circumstances at the time and the insight she has into her behaviour.