Caregiver admits rest home thefts

Court House-general 3It will take years to pay back the very elderly victims of a rest home caregiver who stole jewellery from frail and vulnerable residents.

Christchurch District Court Judge Noel Walsh said he thought Bronwyn Saunders’ thefts were opportunistic rather than driven by “extreme poverty”.

He ordered Saunders to make reparation payments at $35 a week, but she owes $13,785 to victims who are aged 87 and 90, as well as money to Cash Converters which bought the stolen rings.

To boost the reparation chances of the victims, Judge Walsh remitted $2400 in fines that 46-year-old solo mother Saunders copped in April when she admitted supplying alcohol to minors.

She had supplied drinks to a party at her house to her two teenage daughters and their friends.

Judge Walsh noted that the alcohol-related offending had occurred while Saunders was on bail on the theft charges, which she admitted.

The court was told that she was remorseful for the thefts, which she said occurred because she had been unable to make ends meet and had fallen behind in her rent.

Judge Walsh said one of the victims suffered from Alzheimers disease and the other had memory difficulties at age 90. Remembering where the women had last seen their jewellery had posed difficulties when it was found to be missing.

The court was told that Saunders had made visits to Cash Converters to sell the items, and some of the rings were recovered from the pawn shops.

Judge Walsh said Saunders’ offending had been an abuse of a position of trust because the victims were vulnerable because of their age and ill-health. She had deliberately preyed on these elderly and vulnerable victims.

He noted that Saunders had four previous dishonesty convictions, the most recent in 2008.

He also noted that she had co-operated with the police enabling some of the jewellery to be recovered.

It was callous and mean-spirited offending, and a term of home detention was warranted rather than the more lenient community detention that was being sought.

He imposed home detention at a Christchurch address for six months, and 260 hours of community work, as well as the order for reparation for the jewellery that has not been recovered.



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