Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland home help Robyn Barr jailed for stealing £3,000 from 81-year-old woman

By Nevin Farrell

A home help has been jailed for the “despicable” theft of £3,000 from a vulnerable 81-year-old woman.

District Judge Peter King told Ballymena Magistrates’ Court he wanted to send out a strong message that the courts will protect the elderly from carers who breach trust.

Robyn Barr, who had a previously clear record, was jailed for four months yesterday.

The 21-year-old, of Arran Avenue, Ballymena, was sacked from her job and had previously admitted a charge of fraud by false representation.

The charge stated that 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 cause a loss to the woman.

The judge said if Barr had not pleaded guilty or paid the money back she could have been jailed for up to eight months despite her having no previous convictions.

Barr was released on her own bail of £750 ahead of appealing her sentence.

A prosecutor said the victim lived on her own and Barr was her home help.

When the theft came to light she told police it wasn’t planned but was a “spur of the moment” offence, the court was told.

Defence barrister Aaron Thompson said it was a breach of trust and a “guileless” but “sneaky and nasty” offence and he said “she was always going to be detected”.

He said Barr had only been a carer for two months and visited over 20 homes a day to help dress and bathe the elderly.

Mr Thompson said Barr had lived with her grandparents and was a carer for her granny who died and was buried on the defendant’s 20th birthday.

The barrister said that had got Barr interested in caring for the elderly and she later began her ‘home help’ job. He said Barr was given her grandmother’s house in a will and when it was redecorated and re-furnished the defendant was left with a £20,000 debt and was in rates arrears.

He said Barr had behaved in an “abhorrent” way but had got a loan from an aunt to pay back the money she had stolen 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 courts”.

He said Barr noticed where her victim kept her chequebook and then made a cheque out; forged the signature and removed the stub.

Judge King said he had to mark his displeasure and “send out a clear message” that vulnerable elderly people deserve protection from the courts.

He said such fraud cases are “extremely rare” but added home helps had to resist the temptation of crime as the alternative was prison.

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