£3,000 theft from ‘helpless’ relative

Harrogate Magistrates Court
Harrogate Magistrates Court

A WOMAN who cheated her “helpless” mother-in-law out of thousands of pounds has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Alison Mennell, 39, of Trafalgar Street West, kept £3,000 which she withdrew from Audrey Mennell‘s post office account as her “elderly and vulnerable” relative lay in a care home.

Instead of spending the cash on paying for her mother-in-law’s care, she used the money to pay her own spiralling debts, York Crown Court, sitting at Harrogate, heard.

Audrey Mennell, who was described as “extremely good” to her relatives, has passed away since the criminal proceedings against her daughter-in-law began.

Recorder Andrew Campbell QC said that the defendant, who pleaded guilty to theft, had abused a position of significant trust.

Prosecutor Alan Mitcheson said: “Alison Mennell took on responsibility for financial affairs. Items were not paid for by the family which should have been. A bill was generated at the care home.

“Over time a significant quantity of money went in to the account and was withdrawn by this defendant. Some went to looking after her mother-in-law but other money she spent for herself.”

It was accepted by the prosecution that although Alison Mennell had withdrawn £30,000 from the account, she had kept £3,000 with the remainder going to pay for Audrey Mennell’s care.

Nicoleta Alistari, mitigating, said: “I must concede that this passes the custody threshold. The defendant was in a position of trust towards a vulnerable victim and the offending stretched over a number of years.

“She maintains that she maintained contact and visited the deceased on a regular basis, and did provide her with at least some of her needs.”

She added that Mennell’s offending was not motivated by greed, but by desperation.

Miss Alistari added: “She was having to fend off bailiffs from the property. The stolen funds were used to pay debts and not for a life of luxury.

“My client is ashamed. She has stolen from a helpless family member. She is in the process of divorcing and is the sole carer of two children.”

In addition to the 12 month jail sentence, suspended for two years, Mennell will complete 100 hours of unpaid work and 12 specified activity sessions.

Recorder Campbell added: “There came a time when your partner was no longer earning enough to pay the mortgage off. The debts began to spiral.

“You had been placed in a position of significant trust so far as your mother in law’s finances were concerned. You siphoned some £3,000 from money that should have gone directly to your mother-in-law to pay for your family’s debts.”