Care worker McAllister who swindled £1k from elderly couple to buy car walks free from court
A care worker who abused her position by taking £1,000 from an elderly couple she was looking after to buy herself a car has been spared a prison sentence.
Louise McAllister was employed by Admiral Care Services as a home help and had been looking after frail couple James and Cissy Brownlee for six months.
The court heard how Mr Browlee, who has since died at the age of 100, and his wife, who suffered with dementia, enjoyed a good relationship with the carer and were "very fond of her".
However, the mother of three abused her position when she drove the couple to the building society and waited outside while they withdrew the cash, which they gave to her in an envelope.
McAllister, from Cedric Street, Larne, appeared at Antrim Crown Court yesterday after previously admitting fraud by abuse of position.
The charge stated that on August 11, 2014, while occupying a position in which she was expected to safeguard or not to act against the financial interests of the man and woman, she dishonestly abused that position in "accepting £1,000 cash from them" which was never repaid, with the intention to make a gain for herself.
In court last week, prosecution counsel Michael Chambers said the couple had told another care assistant in casual conversation about the exchange, she then reported it to management, who stated the breach was against company policy. Admiral Care Services repaid the couple and contacted the police.
The elderly couple said McAllister, who was of previous good character, constantly hinted to them that she needed a new car but did not have enough money to buy one and they thought the money was a loan for repairs, not a new car.
But the court heard how, despite her husband having a full- time job, the money was probably going to be used for rent and credit card bills as well as household items, though she did not have a chance to spend it. McAllister (42), admitted to police that she accepted the money. And while she claimed she had never actually asked for it, she agreed it amounted to an abuse of position.
The court was told the deceit affected Mr Brownlee, who felt "deeply embarrassed and let down" and "unable to trust" those responsible for his care and had also become withdrawn and quiet.
Defence barrister Neil Moore told the court his client said the money was only a loan, and that £420 had been paid back, with a cheque with the other £580 brought to court. Judge Desmond Marrinan said McAllister had a duty of care to the couple but had taken advantage of them.
Passing sentence he said he believed McAllister had "given into temptation and deserved a custodial sentence", which he would suspend, but did not wish "to appear soft" to others tempted to abuse their positions of trust.
"I have drawn attention to how important it is for people to trust those who are responsible for their care, such as those who work for care homes or help to get the elderly washed and dressed in the morning.
"You have come here with a previously clear record and have been of previous decent character.
"You have said that your life had been on hold since this offence and your financial difficulties mean that you have had to withdraw your children from enjoyable activities. You cannot eat or sleep, tend to stay at home and don't go out unless your husband is with you, and you have been ostracised by people who have read about you, and who are shocked and horrified about what you did.
"Mr and Mrs Brownlee were known as good, kind people and it is my understanding that they were so good as to not want you imprisoned.
"It's unlikely you will gain employment in a position of trust again. You have lost your good name and brought shame not only on your life but on that of your family."
She was sentenced to one year imprisonment, suspended for three years, and ordered to pay a compensation order to Admiral Care Services of £580, to be paid within seven days.
McAllister left court without commenting.