A carer escaped jail when her 12-month sentence was suspended after she stole nearly £5,000 from an 80-year-old vulnerable woman.
Prosecutor Jo Maxwell said Darlington carried out cleaning and shopping for the victim over more than six years with access to two bank cards linked to accounts for daily expenses and her pension.
Over a three month period in 2015 Darlington, who had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing, stole £4,980. But unauthorised withdrawals raised suspicions with the victim’s family.
Ms Maxwell said the relationship between the family and defendant had been such that Darlington had previously been able to approach them for assistance when experiencing financial difficulties.
The victim’s son had provided her with £100 on an earlier occasion.
Ms Maxwell said a victim impact statement read as follows: “That she and her extended family have been adversely affected by Miss Darlington’s actions. The effect of those actions have been emotional. All have been put in a situation nobody wanted to be in.”
The victim had to give a video interview to police, which she found particularly stressful, affecting her ‘already fragile mental health’.
“Miss Darlington has taken advantage of a vulnerable and elderly person,” she added.
Ms Maxwell said HSBC bank had written off the stolen money so the victim was not left out of pocket. But she nevertheless successfully argued for a confiscation order to the sum of £4,980 because Darlington had now sold the house she and her sister had co-owned so could afford to pay.
Adam Antoszkiw, defending, said: “This had been a lady of previous good character and your honour is right, this was not an offence of greed but of desperation.”
Passing sentence, Judge Woodward described a tearful Darlington as a ‘hard-working woman’ who had brought up two children on her own.
He accepted the offences were ‘totally out of character’, adding: “But what you did was serious and it was a mean offence.
“The victim is a vulnerable, elderly person, who had given you some work and trusted you to act in the appropriate and proper way and you breached that trust.”
He gave her full credit for the guilty plea and accepted she had hoped to pay back the money after selling her house ‘before everything came to light’.
Judge Woodward added: “I also accept that you felt driven to this action because your modest income left you with extremely limited funds left to feed your family and quite simply the maths didn’t add up. You weren’t possibly ever going to manage on that sort of money.”
The judge handed down a 12-month suspended sentence to which the defendant said ‘Thank you’.
She must undertake a rehabilitation programme and carry out 160 hours unpaid work on behalf of the community.
An indefinite restraining order means she must not contact the victim or her family. She was also asked to pay £530 prosecution costs.
Darlington did not wish to comment after the court hearing.