- 5 updates
A mother who stole a fortune from the compensation fund of her brain damaged daughter so she could live a life of luxury has been jailed for nearly six years.
Cathy Watson and her now ex husband Robert Hills plundered £500,000 from the trust over several years.
The couple from North East Lincolnshire paid for houses, cars and even plastic surgery.
Tina Gelder reports:
Judge Davies said: "There are many parents who have to look after disabled children.
"The majority do so without the sums of money that were awarded to your daughter to help with her care. They do so out of love."
The judge explained how Miss Svendsen has limited speech and has little body movement. She can move one of her hands, which she uses to operate her wheelchair.
Judge Davies said the initial medical negligence pay-out included a direct payment to Watson of £270,000 for expenses she had already incurred. It also provided for a £4,000-a-month income for the family on top of benefits they were entitled to.
The rest of the money, the judge said, was supposed to be invested to provide a secure income for Miss Svendsen for the rest of her life.
The judge said all these payments, plus rental income from a property portfolio, meant the family had a large legitimate income "but it was not enough to fund the extravagant lifestyle that you both clearly enjoyed for a substantial period of time".
She said that for about five years the couple, who divorced in 2004 after a 14 year long marriage, were spending about £117,000 a year.
Among the spending was £12,000 on Watson's cosmetic surgery and how she bought a business called Cathy's Wedding Bliss which "failed miserably".
She said they had also bought 15 or 16 luxury cars.
The judge said that partly as a result of her parents' actions, Miss Svendsen's fund was now extremely depleted and only £150,000 remained.
Judge Davies explained that because Miss Svendsen was no longer being looked after by her parents, professionals were now caring for her at a cost of almost £100,000 a year.
She said the fund will probably be exhausted in two years and the State will then have to pick up the bill.
"I do not know what the consequence will be to her (Miss Svendsen)," the judge said.
"She is well aware of what you have done and the emotional impact on her cannot be ignored."
Judge Davies said that the the couple legitimately bought a huge house in the Cleethorpes area for £117,000 and spent up to £600,000 renovating it and adapting it for their daughter. But, the judge said, it was now only worth £425,000 because most potential buyers have no need for the adaptations.
The judge explained how much of the money stolen by grandmother Watson and Hills was secured from the Court of Protection - the body that administers the compensation payment - in order to invest in property for their daughter.
But, she said, the pair sold the houses and pocketed the cash.
They even made a down-payment on a property in Florida and then spent the £90,000 when the deal was cancelled.
Judge Davies said the total amount of money stolen by the pair from their daughter was just over £450,000.
She was particularly scathing of £31,000 in cash Watson took out of a bank account when she realised the police were on to her and "you knew the game was up". Judge Davies ordered the six month sentence she imposed for this be served in addition to the five years for all the thefts.
Doncaster Crown Court heard how the couple bought more than a dozen cars, including luxury BMWs and Mercedes.
Watson bought a Mini Cooper which she had completely resprayed and reupholstered in pink and finished with the personalised number plate X66 MUM.
Judge Davies recalled how the pair spend thousands of pounds on jewellery and 250 Royal Doulton ornaments.
"We just spent and spent and spent," Hills told police.
Hills, 50, admitted four counts of theft from the fund which was supposed to provide for Samantha Svendsen, now 29, whom he adopted when he married Watson.
Watson, 44, was found guilty of three counts of theft and one of converting criminal property following a trial last year.
Compensation was awarded to their daughter Miss Svendsen, who suffers from cerebral palsy and needs round-the-clock care after suffering brain damage due to medical negligence at her birth.
Jailing the pair, Judge Davies said: "The way the money was spent was nothing short of greed and indulgence."
Turning to Watson, the judge said: "One can only begin to understand the difficult time you had giving birth to a severely disabled child at the age of 14.
"But you, as her mother, were the person closest to her - the person she looked to trust. You have betrayed that trust in the most appalling and distressing way."
Hills, of Holly Mews, Grimsby, and Watson, of Heron Gate, Scunthorpe, stood in the glass-fronted dock as they were sentenced, separated by a security officer.
Neither showed any emotion as they were led away.
Cathy Watson spent her disabled daughter, Samantha's money over a period of eight years.
Her spending included holidays, cars - one of which was sprayed pink - and cosmetic surgery including breast implants and liposuction.
Along with now ex-partner, Robert Hills, she stole the money from wheelchair user, Samantha, 29, who was brain damaged at birth due to oxygen starvation.
Watson, now of Scunthorpe, claimed in her defence evidence that it was her ex-husband who stole the money. She claimed to know little or nothing about the missing money.
A Grimsby mother who stole money from their disabled daughter, in order to fund a lavish lifestyle, has been jailed for five years and six months.
Cathy Watson's daughter, Samantha, was starved of oxygen at birth due to medical negligence - and when she was a teen, received a £2.6 million payout.
Watson, and husband Robert Hills, who adopted Samantha, used money from that fund to buy properties - which were never transferred into Samantha's name. When sold, the pair kept the proceeds.
Now divorced, the couple also bought luxury cars, jewellery and cosmetic surgery for Watson.
Sentencing Watson and Hills, who received three years and four months, the judge told them that the way the money was spent, was nothing short of greed and indulgence.