Tears of Northern Ireland care home nurse Charlene Farrell who stole £100 from resident's room
A south Down nursing home staff member who stole £100 from a vulnerable resident days before Christmas has been given a 12-month conditional discharge.
Kilbroney Nursing Home carer Charlene Farrell (39) of Carrickbawn Park, Rostrevor, cried at Newry Magistrates Court as she pleaded guilty to theft on December 19.
The court heard that she entered the bedroom of the male resident and opened a security safe with a key.
CCTV footage captured her taking a number of banknotes and putting them into the front pocket of her work tunic.
The nursing home's owners identified Farrell from the footage and the theft was reported.
During police interview she admitted to the theft.
"I was going to put it back when I got my wages," she told officers.
"I didn't know where my mind was. I took the money to pay Halfords for the children's Christmas bikes."
She claimed she was too embarrassed to ask for an advance in her wages to pay for the Christmas presents.
She confirmed that she had taken the key from the nurse on duty, as was normal practice.
Her defence barrister said it was a "serious matter" and his client had breached a position of trust in her 20-year employment as a care home nurse.
"She has now lost her employment and has not been able to find any other work," he said.
"She has four children who are all of a dependant age.
"She had some financial difficulties at the time, but was able to pay the money back. It was a moment of madness.
"To her credit, she took the money on the Monday. She was confronted on the Wednesday and on the Thursday she had paid back the money.
"This was an entirely stupid and regrettable thing to have done. She has suffered some mental health issues over the years and is on medication.
"This is a serious matter with some aggravating factors, though in a responsible way she has dealt with the matter head-on."
District Judge Eamonn King alluded to the date of the offence, with the modern era adding undue financial pressures on parents.
"This was eight days before Christmas when you were experiencing financial difficulties," said Mr King.
"You had fully intended to pay the money back as soon as possible.
"The reason you are here today is that circumstances require nursing homes to have CCTV in place.
"As a consequence you now have a conviction for dishonesty.
"The victim was a vulnerable resident of a nursing home. The money was for his own personal care.
"You have paid a heavy price for your aberration.
"A redeeming factor about what you have done is to pay the money back, but it does not keep you from a criminal conviction.
"I do accept that this was out of character.
"People are under severe pressure in this day and age to pay for children for Christmas.
"I hope you will put this behind you and we will not see you back here (in court) again."