A CARE worker from Hyde has been warned a prison sentence is a possibility after she admitted defrauding an elderly patient from Stalybridge.
Anastasia Barlow, 38, of Well Meadow, admitted taking £1,000 from the bank account of Katherine Baker, of Albion House.But the prosecution alleged £5,700 was taken between June 1 and August 17, which is why a Newton Hearing was held at Tameside Magistrates Court to determine the amount taken.
However after hearing the evidence chair of the bench Dorothy Longden said they were unable to say ‘without reasonable doubt’ Barlow took the money as other carers had access to Mrs Baker’s bank card.
In the light of the severity of the offence, a breach of trust, Mrs Longden said: “All options are open and that includes custody”.
Magistrates ordered reports before sentencing on March 31. Conditions imposed are Barlow lives at Well Meadow and does not contact Mrs Baker or enter Albion House.
The prosecution alleged the ‘fraud by abuse of position’ involved £5,700, but Barlow, who worked for Able Care at the time, claimed the figure taken from Mrs Baker’s bank account was £1,000.
Kate Draper, prosecuting, described Mrs Baker as a “vulnerable lady” who was in hospital and too ill to give evidence and it was unlikely she would be able to attend future hearings.
She said Barlow, who had pleaded guilty in September, had “dishonestly abused her position to make financial gain”.
Michael Cooper, Mrs Baker’s brother, told the court he discovered the unauthorised withdrawals from his sister’s bank account using her bank debit card.
He said: “I looked at my sister’s bank account with the Royal Bank of Scotland and realised money had been taken out which looked unauthorised because they were such large amounts that were unnecessary.
“The sums were £500 and £400 which were going out which she didn’t need. She only had money for general shopping.”
The court heard Barlow was asked to withdraw money by Mrs Baker who handed over her VISA debit card and PIN number.
It was alleged £400 was withdrawn one day by Barlow because she was unable to take out £500 because another company had withdrawn £100 for her shopping.
Mr Cooper told the court about the impact the allegations had in his sister.
“It has made her ill and much worse than she was. She was frightened to have to come to court,” he said.
Ms Draper told the court that when interviewed by police officers, Barlow admitted fraud after initially denying she had taken the money.
She explained: “Barlow said she was struggling with depression and anxiety and had bills to pay.
“She admitted taking and using the card and became very remorseful saying she was a ‘bad person’ and she was sorry.”
Tim Hopley, defending, explained the prosecution said £5,700 was stolen but his client had pleaded guilty to stealing £1,000 and it was “not possible to have taken that amount”.
Barlow told the court Mrs Baker asked her to use her card “not that often”.
She said she would take money back to Mrs Baker and sometimes a bottle of wine she had requested.
Mr Hopley told the court Mrs Baker had issues relating to mental health and alcohol.
The case was part heard on February 17 when Barlow was taken ill giving evidence, resulting in an adjournment.
It resumed on Monday, March 23 when Barlow, in her defence, told the court she was not the only person with access to Mrs Baker’s bank card.
“There were a couple of occasions when I was there that I saw her hand it over to someone from another care company,” she said.
Barlow, who admitted initially lying when denying the allegation, told the court she was in debt, owing £1,200 in rent.
“I am certain I didn’t take more than £1,000 but it could be less or it could be more. I cannot remember,” she said.
Ms Draper added no further money went missing after Barlow’s arrest adding she initially denied taking any.
Barlow told the court she even did Mrs Baker’s shopping paying for it with her own money.
She said: “I told her to put her money away as it was lying about with so many people coming into the house.
“I cared for her, staying longer than I should have done and had a coffee and talked with her about her issues.”
Baker, who admitted to still having financial difficulties, accepted she had done wrong as it was something she “will have to live with”.
Ms Draper added there was no dispute Barlow took money from Mrs Baker’s account, but it was the amount for magistrates to determine.
She argued Barlow was the only suspect and police were not looking for anybody else and she took the full amount.
Mr Hopley told magistrates they had to prove without reasonable doubt Barlow took all the money and the prosecution was unable to do that.
He said: “It is not good enough to say she must have done it. They must prove she had taken it and they have not met that burden of proof.”