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Judge names 'extravagant' spenders

Two women criticised for the "extravagant" way they spent money belonging to an elderly relative who had dementia can be named, a civil court judge has ruled.

Judge David Hodge QC has decided that a cloak of anonymity which had been placed over Janet Miller, 72, and Margaret Johnson, 61, can be lifted as a result of the death of Gladys Meek at the age of 94.

He made the decision following the latest in a series on hearings in the Court of Protection - which handles cases relating to sick and vulnerable people - and has named Mrs Miller, Mrs Johnson and Mrs Meek in a written judgment.

Detail of the case emerged a year ago following another ruling by another Court of Protection judge - Denzil Lush - who did not identify anyone involved.

The judges indicated that people involved lived near Derby. They said Mrs Meek had lived in a "small town in Derbyshire".

They said Mrs Miller was a niece of Mrs Meek's late husband Bert, who had died in 1961, and Mrs Johnson a great-niece.

Judge Lush had explained how the Court of Protection had in 2010 given Mrs Miller and Mrs Johnson power to manage Mrs Meek's financial affairs because Mrs Meek lacked the mental capacity to make decisions.

But he stripped them of the responsibility in 2013 - and appointed another "property and affairs deputy" - after hearing how they had spent more than £230,000 of Mrs Meek's money on "gifts" and more than £45,000 in "expenses".

Judge Lush outlined what the money had been spent on in a ruling published in April 2013 - following a hearing in London - in which he did not identify anyone involved.

His judgment revealed that:

:: Mrs Miller had "received personally" gifts including a £17,000 Omega watch, rings worth in total more than £10,000, two Mulberry handbags worth in total more than £1,000 and a £20,000 "cash gift".

:: Mrs Johnson had "received personally" gifts including an £18,000 Rolex watch, a £16,000 ring, an Alexander McQueen handbag worth nearly £1,000 and a £20,000 "cash gift".

:: Mrs Miller's daughter and granddaughter had also received gifts - including Vivienne Westwood handbags.

:: Mrs Johnson's daughters had also received gifts including Vivienne Westwood handbags.

:: And Mrs Johnson's husband had received a £500 season ticket for Derby County football club.

The two women had also donated more than £50,000 of Mrs Meek's money to charities, Judge Lush said.

Judge Hodge had then been asked to consider - at a hearing in Manchester - whether police should be called in to investigate.

The judge delivered a ruling in April 2014 - before Mrs Meek's death - and said he had decided against calling in police.

He said a police investigation might result in Mrs Meek being approached and would not be in Mrs Meek's best interests.

But Judge Hodge said a £275,000 "security bond" offered by Mrs Miller and Mrs Johnson should be called in.

Judge Hodge then analysed whether the identities of people involved in the case should be revealed following Mrs Miller's death on April 21.

He concluded that publication of names would pose no risks to anyone other Mrs Miller and Mrs Johnson.

Judge Hodge said: "Mrs Miller and Mrs Johnson engaged in a course of conduct involving extravagant gifts, not only to charities, but also to themselves and members of their respective families, and involving the purchase of a motor car for each of them, computers, jewellery, watches, designer handbags and football season tickets, and involving very large transfers of cash."

He said in April this year records showed that Mrs Meek's assets to be worth nearly £115,000. But he said more than £90,000 of that could be eaten up in legal costs.

Judge Lush had said, in April 2013, that Mrs Miller and Mrs Johnson had asked the Court of Protection to approve spending on gifts and donations "already made".

The two women had said they had made "gifts and donations" on behalf of Mrs Meek - and her late daughter, Barbara, who had died when in her 60s in 2010.

They said they thought that money they had spent was "as per" the Court of Protection approval given to them.

And they said they thought that Mrs Meek and her daughter would have approved.

Judge Lush said the two women had been "oblivious to the seriousness of the situation".

The judge said they had sought approval of spending on gifts and expenses totalling more than £270, 000.

He approved spending totalling about £73,000.

Judge Lush said the women owed Mrs Meek's estate more than £200,000 and must pay it back.

The judge had said, in April 2013, that Mrs Meek had not made a will.

He said Mrs Meek had assets of her own worth about £200,000.

The judge also said daughter Barbara's estate had been worth about £300,000 and had passed to Mrs Meek.

Judge Lush had said at that stage Mrs Meek had an income of about £200 a week - largely made up of pensions.

Care home fees were nearly £500 a week.

He said the people who would be entitled to inherit were Mrs Meek's dead brother's daughter and the children of her dead brother's dead son.

And he said Mrs Miller and Mrs Johnson were related to Mrs Meek by marriage not blood.


From Belfast Telegraph