A woman who ‘emptied’ her father’s accounts after he fell seriously ill was caught out by an unpaid care home bill of £17,000.
Staff at The Dell care home in Gorton, Manchester, discovered Michael Leahy had just £3.43 left in his account, despite having a £1,000 a month pension income.A court heard much of the money had gone to pay an ex-husband's gambling debts.The discovery was made after his daughter, Louise Leahy, 46, who had been his carer, ignored repeated requests to settle his care home bill as he recovered from a stroke.
Leahy, a mum-of-three of Longsight, Manchester, has now been sentenced after admitting theft, having taken thousands of pounds from her father’s accounts without his permission.
Former bus driver Mr Leahy, who was 73 when he died of cancer last month, said he felt ‘disgusted’ and ‘betrayed’ by her behaviour, had lost all trust in her and ‘wanted nothing more to do with her’.
However, since then, prosecutors have accepted that of the £24,000 taken from his accounts while she was in charge of them, £15,000 had been spent by her on him. But £9,000 still cannot be accounted for.
Mr Leahy suffered a stroke which left him wheelchair-bound in 2012. He spent months in hospital and was cared for by daughter Louise before moving into The Dell the following year.
But, by summer last year the care home was owed £17,000, Mr Leahy’s landlord was owed over £9,000, and the ailing pensioner wasn’t getting the ‘personal allowance’ spending money his daughter was supposed to be handing over to him.
Confronted by staff from the care home, Louise Leahy handed over his bank card and pin number, which revealed the account had been effectively emptied.
She later admitted to police that a former partner’s gambling debts had left her with money woes of her own - but she initially denied having taken any of her father’s money, saying she had only spent it on his bills and debts.Iain Johnstone, defending, said she now accepted she ‘took considerably more than what was needed for her father’.
Asked by Judge Martin Steiger QC why she had not paid the care home, Mr Johnstone added:
She was initially under the impression it was a full care package that had been paid for by the state. When she was written to she buried her head in the sand.
Mr Johnstone said Leahy had been prevented for a year from seeing her father because of the matter, with the ban only lifted when he got a ‘terminal diagnosis’.
He died days after she was finally able to visit him.
It has been extremely stressful – regardless of what she has done, she did care for her father and was attending upon him over a long period of time. Unfortunately, Mr Leahy is dead now - she has to deal with that situation and finds it very difficult.
Sentencing, Judge Martin Steiger QC described the offence as a ‘serious breach of trust’, saying Leahy had been ‘very generous to herself using her father’s money’.
The judge added:
I accept, of the money taken, that the greater portion is said to have been used on her father, nevertheless some £8,000 or thereabouts was used wholly inappropriately, in part to pay debts from her former husband who was a gambler. The discovery can’t have done anything at all to improve (her father’s) health.
Sentencing Leahy to a 14-month jail sentence, suspended for a year, with a 200 hour unpaid work requirement, Judge Steiger ordered her to pay £5,000 compensation to the home, which remains £17,000 out of pocket.