Harrogate woman defrauded seriously ill elderly mother out of more than £100,000
A woman who defrauded her seriously-ill elderly mother out of more than £100,000 has been spared jail - but is now facing a hefty financial punishment.
Emma Shackleton, 48, was given power-of-attorney over Pamela Ballard’s finances when the elderly victim, who lived with dementia, was moved into a care home.
But instead of paying the care-home fees from the capital available to her adoptive mother, Shackleton, from Harrogate, withdrew vast sums from the victim’s accounts, transferred money into her own account and splashed the cash on foreign holidays, furniture, clothes and hairdos, York Crown Court heard.
Shackleton, of Otely Road, appeared for deferred sentence shortly before Christmas after a judge at a previous hearing gave her three months to make good on her promise to repay the money and save herself from prison.
The prosecution said that Shackleton’s deception lasted three-and-a-half years and the total fraud came to what was initially estimated to be £126,000.
Mrs Ballard, now 82, was moved into a care home in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, in July 2014, six months after her husband - Shackleton’s step-father-died. Shackleton had power-of-attorney over her mother’s finances from June 2014.
“In October 2014, Mrs Ballard’s property in Cheltenham sold for just short of £250,000,” said prosecutor Mike Greenhalgh. “Under the terms of her husband’s will, half of the figure - £123,783 - went to Mrs Ballard, and the rest was split between their children.”
Given the windfall from the property sale and her mother’s other assets, Shackleton, the wife of an IT expert, could easily have made the payments to the care home, but apart from initial monthly payments between October 2014 and June 2015, they were not forthcoming.
Shackleton was supposed to pay the care home a four-figure sum each month, but the payments stopped. When the Faithfull Homes care group tried to contact her, they got “little or no response”.
By November last year, the care group was owed £57,316. Faithfull Homes instructed a solicitor who contacted Shackleton, only to be told that “the money had run out”.
“The defendant eventually provided bank statements regarding three (of Mrs Ballard’s) accounts she was attorney for,” said Mr Greenhalgh.
“They showed a large amount of transactions, both cash and payments to retail outlets. The transactions… included numerous ATM withdrawals.”
Shackleton spent just under £25,000 in card transactions at outlets such as Ikea, River Island, Bensons for Beds, the Asda home-delivery service, as well as hotel stays and trips to Holland and Spain. She was arrested in February 2018.
Despite Shackleton’s duplicity, her mother had been able to continue living in the residential home, but only thanks to money from the public purse.
The prosecution said that the total amount due for repayment to the care home was £100,000, to cover costs and losses. Defence barrister Derek Duffy said Shackleton had got the money together for repayment and her solicitors were just waiting to see which account the money was to be paid into.
He said that Shackleton never desired power-of-attorney and moved to Cheltenham at one stage because her widowed mother, who was then still living at home, couldn’t cope on her own.
Shackleton cared for her mother “for six months or more” and made regular trips to the South West, he added.
Shackleton, who pleaded guilty to fraud, had shown “genuine remorse” for her actions. Judge Sean Morris branded Shackleton’s offences “an unpleasant deceit” and “a breach of trust and responsibility”, but said he had to take account of her own mental-health struggles and the impact an immediate jail sentence would have on her family and also her role as a mother.
Due to these mitigating factors and the fact that Shackleton had the money ready to repay the home and the public purse, the judge said he could impose a suspended jail sentence.
The two-year jail term was suspended for 18 months and Shackleton was also handed a four-month doorstep curfew which bans her leaving her home between 6pm and 6am daily.
Financial-confiscation proceedings were adjourned to April next year, but Mr Morris told Shackleton she would have to pay £100,000 compensation to the care home for its losses, with the balance going to her mother to meet her further care costs.