A CARE worker who stole £21,000 from a 82-year-old woman with dementia has been jailed for eight months – a punishment described as “disgusting” by her former colleagues.
Bernadette Launder (40) was a senior care worker at Dove Court Nursing Home, Shuttleworth Street, Burnley, where her victim, Mrs Mildred Rigby, was a resident.
Mrs Rigby has now lost all her life savings after Launder admitted making cheques out to herself totalling £21,544 between October 1st, 2009 and October 15th last year.
Launder admitted squandering the money on luxury items such as clothes, perfume and presents for her children.
Jailing her, Judge Simon Newell at Burnley Crown Court described the theft as a breach of trust. But 10 former colleagues of Launder’s who still work at Dove Court were furious with the sentence.
They said: “We all think it’s disgusting. Eight months is a paltry sentence for what she did to Mildred, who was a very vulnerable person.
“She will probably be out in four months and has said she can’t pay the money back. Mildred has been left with nothing. The sentence was no deterrent at all to someone committing a similar crime in future.”
Burnley Crown Court heard it was only when the care home received a letter from the bank stating Mrs Rigby had gone thousands of pounds into her overdraft that the crime was discovered and Launder handed herself into Burnley Police Station.
Launder, of West Street, Burnley, stood in the dock with her head bowed as prosecuting barrister Mr David Macro described her heartless crime.
He said: “Mildred Rigby was a very unwell woman suffering from dementia. She received a pension and benefits to cover the cost of her care and living arrangements.
“Launder was a senior care worker at Dove Court where she had worked for two years. She had access to Mrs Rigby’s chequebook and was responsible for getting the resident to sign cheques for bills and fees.
“However, she admitted to making cheques out to herself and disposing of the bank’s statements when they arrived at the home. She says she is sorry for her actions but has no way of paying the money back.”
Despite this, a proceeds of crime hearing has been set for December 9th.
Mr Philip Holden (defending) said his client’s life had been “on a downward spiral” for sometime. The mother-of-two had been on anti-depressants and the family had had their home repossessed. They were living in rented accommodation when the crime took place.
He said: “Initially the money was taken to cover the family’s rent but she has been very frank and candid in admitting much of it went on luxury items. She is disgusted with herself and more than anxious about the outcome. Bernadette Launder is a timid lady who has never done anything wrong in the past.”