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No jail for care home worker who stole €3,000 from pensioner

40-year-old care home worker Lorraine Hennessy has avoided prison after pleading guilty to 22 theft charges against an 83-year-old nursing resident.

The theft – which involved the Co. Clare woman taking pensioner Terrance Stevenson’s bank card to make purchases – amounted to €3,011 being taken from his bank account over several months in 2020.

Stevenson had given Hennessy his Visa debit card to get his messages, whereupon she used the money to pay “domestic bills” in 22 separate payments.

The theft was discovered when direct debits to the nursing home from Steven’s accounts bounced because, according to Detective Garda John Jenks, “there was no cash in the account.”

Stevenson had become a resident of the nursing home in December 2018, and died in January of 2021 shortly after the theft was discovered. During his time at the home, he had no visitors, leading the judge to speculate that he had nobody overseeing his affairs.

Hennessy’s solicitor said that the accused’s partner had died 6 years prior to her actions, and that was the worker was “totally ashamed” of her behaviour.

After reading Hennessy’s Probation Report, Judge Alec Gabbett said that it was “a very sad story” and that “she was driven to steal effectively.”

“It is an extremely serious thing to do to a vulnerable party – an elderly man and taking his bank card unbeknownst to himself,” the judge said, adding that it was a “breach of trust.”

However, the judge fully suspended the prison term for 24 months, saying that she had a “very positive” Probation Report which described her as being at very low risk of re-offending.

The judge also took into account the fact that the accused also has no previous convictions, and her early guilty plea and strained personal circumstances at the time of the offence.

When Detective Jenks went to arrest Hennessy in 2021, “she put her arms up straight away,” with the Garda adding: “Ms. Hennessy was aware that Mr Stevenson was dead and she was fully co-operative and pleaded guilty very early.” All the money has reportedly been repaid, and the culprit has lost her job as a result of her conduct – though she has since found a new job in the meantime.

Recently Gript asked Justice Minister Helen McEntee about what some see as soft-sentencing in the Irish courts for serious offences. Her response can be viewed below.

 

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