Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

'Reprehensible' breach of trust by Canterbury woman over disabled victim

A Canterbury woman who stole $110,000 from an intellectually disabled woman to fund her pokies gambling habit displayed an "astonishingly and reprehensible" breach of trust, a judge said today in sentencing her to five months of home detention.

The 66-year-old problem gambler, who was today granted permanent name suppression, had enduring power of attorney over the woman with the mental age of about 10 from 1997 to February last year, Christchurch District Court heard.

But between May 2009 and February 18 last year, she made 450 fraudulent transactions from the victim's bank accounts.

The majority of the transactions were made at bars, taverns, and gaming establishments around Christchurch, the West Coast of the South Island, and Auckland.

Police say that she stole more than $110,000 in total.

When police caught up with her, she admitted having a "problem with the pokie machines which she wants to seek help for".

Today, defence counsel Simon Shamy told the court the woman had been diagnosed with a brain tumour around the time the offending started.

She was extremely remorseful, had repaid some money, had $30,000 more today, and had vowed to repay the rest by selling her home to come up with the remaining amount, Shamy said.

"She's at something of a loss to explain why, in her sixties, she'd started stealing from [the woman] who she was close to," Shamy said.

The victim went without sufficient and adequate clothing and accommodation because her money had been taken, Judge David Strettell noted.

It was not clear whether the woman stopped stealing the money "because enough was enough" or because a member of the victim's family had started making inquiries about her poor circumstances.

"It can only be seen to be a astonishingly and reprehensible act of breach of trust," Judge Strettell said.

"She was a person in a very unfortunate circumstance herself and one who relied, in no doubt a very trusting manner, in you looking after her, caring for her needs and caring for her funds."

There was some suggestion that the woman may have been led by others who could have benefited from her stealing, the judge said, but found there was no way to say if that was true.

He accepted she had shown true remorse and said it was "highly unlikely" that she will come before the courts again.

Judge Strettell sentenced the woman to five months of home detention.

As the woman had already repaid some money, he ordered her to pay $61,000 of reparation - including $30,000 today, and the remaining $31,000 within nine months.

Judge Strettell also made a final suppression order of the woman's name, along with the victim's name and place that she lives, on the grounds that publication of their details would put undue stress on the victim.

- NZ Herald

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