A WOMAN has been given a suspended prison sentence after admitting she forged her estranged husband’s signature to take out a loan and stole thousands of pounds from a disabled relative.
Mary Barker, 38, of West Road, Oakham, was sentenced on Wednesday at Leicester Crown Court.
She had previously pleaded guilty to false accounting, theft and making/supplying articles for use in fraud between 2007 and September 2010.
Jonathan Cox, prosecuting, told the court that Barker was trusted with the family finances, including those of a disabled relative.
In 2007 she took out a loan for £20,000 against the house she lived in with Andrew Barker, without his knowledge, and forged his signature on the documents, the court heard.
In 2008 Barker was made a trustee of a disabled relative’s trust fund which, at the time, was valued at £30,000.
The victim is dependent on the trust fund and benefits.
Mr Cox said that by September 2010, when her marriage broke down, the account had been emptied. Some of the expenses were legitimate but about £20,000 was still unaccounted for.
Mr Cox added: “One of the conditions of the trust fund is that receipts and invoices must be provided to transfer large amounts.
“The defendant created a false invoice to access £1,500.”
Barker was also put in charge of the disabled relative’s current accounts which held benefit money from the Department for Work and Pensions and by September, 2010, there was only 79p left. She had withdrawn £19,180 for herself, the court was told.
Mr Barker discovered the money was missing when he took control of the finances again in 2010.
Grace Hale, mitigating, said Barker had not used the money to fund a lavish lifestyle, but had used it to pay family debts after Mr Barker was made redundant.
She said the loan is no longer secured against the house and there is no danger of it being repossessed by the bank.
She added: “The defendant bears the full responsibility for repayment. There has been no deficit since 2007.”
Mrs Hale said if Barker was given a prison sentence she would lose her job and would not be able to afford to pay back the loan. She also said the sentence would affect the couple’s five-year-old son and that Barker was unlikely to reoffend.
Sentencing her the judge, Recorder Mr David Mason, QC, said: “These are mean offences.”
Summing up, he added: “It is causing me anxiety to know what to do with you.
“I take into account that you are 38 years old, your previous good character and that you pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.
“My one grave concern is how you were using the money but there is no evidence of lavish living of lifestyle. It is quite the contrary. You were in a desperate financial situation.
“In addition you have a five-year-old son who lives with you half the time.”
Mr Mason sentenced Barker to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered her to carry out 250 hours of unpaid work.