Former partner stole £12,000 from Harrogate man to fuel gambling habit

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A woman stole over £12,000 from her former partner and spent much of the cash on her gambling habit, a court heard.

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Sarah Wrightson, 52, from Skelton-on-Ure, started visiting the victim at his home following the death of his brother, who had looked after his finances.

Wrightson was ostensibly there to help him because he was alone and “vulnerable” due to memory problems, but she began rifling through his account after getting hold of his bank details, York Crown Court heard.

Over the course of nine months, between January and September last year, Wrightson stole £12,170 from the victim’s account and spent it on gambling and shopping.

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Prosecutor Heather Gilmore said Wrightson was betting at least £60 a day and withdrew between £50 and £300 a time from the victim’s account.

Wrightson claimed the victim, who was named in court, had given her permission to make the withdrawals and keep some of the cash.

She had known the victim for nearly 40 years and they had previously been in a relationship. The victim’s brother, who had looked after his finances, died in November 2016, and the following month Wrightson started visiting him, the court heard.

Wrightson, who was on benefits, said she started visiting him because he was alone and she “felt sorry for him”.

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She said the victim had given her his bank card and ID number to withdraw money for him. She claimed she had only been spending about £10 a week on gambling.

Ms Gilmore said the victim had suffered from “emotional distress” since Wrightson’s crimes came to light.

Wrightson, of Orchard Close, Skelton Village, appeared for sentence on Friday after pleading guilty to theft.

Her barrister Rod Hunt said the mother-of-one had mental-health difficulties, notwithstanding the “cunning” offences.

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He added that Wrightson, who had no previous convictions, had initially gone to care for the victim whom she had known since her teens and who was the father of her child.

Judge Andrew Stubbs QC said Wrightson had “probably” gambled away all the money she had stolen.

However, he acknowledged that she had her own difficulties and that it “would be wrong to sentence you on the basis that, at 52, you have, for the first time in your life, turned into a completely heartless, callous thief”.

“From the outside, that’s exactly what it looks like,” added the judge.

“But, having read the (psychiatric) report on you, and all the difficulties you have faced in your life, and the background you shared with (the victim), I can substantially reduce the sentence for this large-scale theft.”

Wrightson was given an eight-month suspended prison sentence with a nightly doorstep curfew and a 30-day rehabilitation programme.