Sunday 21 January 2018

Carer who robbed €30,000 from elderly woman is spared a jail sentence

Alison Wilkins
Alison Wilkins
Alison Wilkins

A carer for an elderly lady has received a three year suspended sentence for stealing over €30,000 from the retired school teacher.

Alison Wilkins (48), a Dublin mother of four, had access to Rita Keogh’s debit card and PIN number after the accused endeared herself to the woman.

The court heard that Ms Keogh is a widow who suffers dementia. She was provided home help from a company that Wilkins worked with but would often have different carers from that firm attending to her.

She became close to Wilkins and showed a preference for her to work with her. The accused subsequently became her sole carer.

Wilkins of Balcurris Park West, Balcurris, Ballymun, North Dublin, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to nine sample charges of theft on dates between July 2013 and March 2014. She has no previous convictions.

Garda Paul Ryan told Anne Marie Lawlor BL, prosecuting, that Wilkins’ role involved ensuring that Ms Keogh had all her meals and took her daily medication.

The lady then began to trust her more and encourage Wilkins to run errands for her. She provided her with her bank card and PIN number for that purpose. She would also leave her handbag downstairs unattended while Wilkins was in the house and Ms Keogh was upstairs resting.

Judge Desmond Hogan described the offending as “a mean crime” involving a huge breach of trust but told the court he was not going to impose a custodial sentence “for reasons of restitution.”

He ordered Wilkins to hand over the €1,500 she had raised so far and gave her four years to come up with €28,500 to be paid back to the victim's family.

He further ordered that Wilkins do 240 hours of voluntary work in the community, undergo 12 months probation service supervision and complete any recommended drug treatment programme.

During the sentence hearing, Gda Ryan agreed with Ms Lawlor that Ms Keogh received €2,100 per month into her bank account from both her and her late husband’s pension.

She had €33,000 in her account in July 2013 and by the time Wilkins’ theft came to light there was €13,900 remaining.

Gda Ryan confirmed that Wilkins carried out 57 unauthorised transactions on the account, including ATM withdrawals and debit card payments, from July 2013 to March 2014.

The gardaí were notified after Ms Keogh’s son checked her bank balance when his mother requested he do so and he noticed that the balance was significantly less than expected.

Gda Ryan agreed with Kerida Naidoo SC, defending, that as Ms Keogh has dementia, his client’s admissions were useful to the State.

He further agreed with counsel that Wilkins developed a drug habit that had been going on for a year by the time she started to take care of Ms Keogh.

Gda Ryan accepted a suggestion from counsel that Wilkins is “a decent woman who had gone off the rails and committed these crimes”. He agreed that she is unlikely to come to garda attention again.

Mr Naidoo told Judge Hogan that his client led a decent admirable life until she went off the rails for that year.

He said she had worked all her life and after caring for her own parents in their latter years, she decided to re-train to work as a carer full-time.

Counsel said his client came from a decent, law-abiding family, many of whom were in court to support her.

Mr Naidoo handed in a letter his client had written to Ms Keogh which stated how sorry she is for what she did.

“I cannot seem to find the right words,” she wrote before she added that she was ashamed and horrified about the way she had abused Ms Keogh’s trust.

She said she had been “in a bad place, from a bad relationship” but described her behaviour as “inexcusable” and hoped that Ms Keogh would find it in her heart to forgive her.

She thanked her for her friendship and stated how the lady had been someone she could confide in over a cup of tea.

Wilkins acknowledged in the letter that she had also hurt her own children and again offered her apologies and remorse. She said she hoped one day she would be able to pay back Ms Keogh.

Wilkins’ eldest daughter wrote a letter outlining how her mother worked three jobs at the same time to provide for her and her siblings. She described her as a positive role model who taught her to value her education.

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