Belfast Telegraph

Antrim home help Barr who stole £3,000 wins jail appeal

By Nevin Farrell

A home help who was given a four-month jail sentence for the “despicable” theft of £3,000 from a vulnerable 81-year-old woman has avoided prison after a successful appeal.

Robyn Barr (21), from Arran Avenue, Ballymena, was sacked from her job after previously admitting a charge of fraud by false representation.

Imposing a jail term, District Judge Peter King told Ballymena Magistrates’ Court in January that he wanted to send out a strong message that the law would protect elderly people from vulnerable carers.

On July 8 last year, Barr dishonestly claimed she had permission from the woman to present a cheque withdrawing £3,000 with the intention of making a gain for herself and a loss for the pensioner.

Judge King said that if the defendant had not pleaded guilty or paid the money back, she could have been jailed for up to eight months, despite having no previous convictions.

Barr appealed the sentence, and at the County Court in Coleraine on Monday the jail term was replaced with a one-year period of probation. She will also have to complete 100 hours of community service.

A prosecutor told an earlier sitting of Ballymena Magistrates’ Court that the victim lived on her own and Barr worked as her home help.

Defence barrister Aaron Thompson told the court the crime was a breach of trust and a “guileless, sneaky and nasty” offence.

He added that his client “was always going to be detected”.

Mr Thompson said Barr behaved in an “abhorrent” way, but had secured a loan from an aunt to pay back the money she stole from the victim.

Judge King said that as far as such fraud cases go, it was hard to imagine a “more despicable set of facts coming before the court”.

He noted the defendant had noticed where her victim kept her cheque book and then made a cheque out, forged the signature and removed the stub.

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