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Elderly victims of fraud couple 'let down by judge'

'This is certainly not a robust enough punishment and surely is no deterrent'

John Garvey


01635 886628


A NATIONAL charity director has criticised a judge who allowed a father and daughter who swindled vulnerable, elderly victims to avoid immediate imprisonment.

Stephen McCarthy, of Action on Elder Abuse, spoke out after the Newbury Weekly News reported how 20-year-old carer Gemma Smith stole cash and credit cards from a 94-year-old Newbury woman and a wallet from an 88-year-old Kintbury man suffering from dementia

Her father Robert, aged 52, then used the man’s credit card to withdraw cash.

On Wednesday, June 6, Judge Maria Lamb, sentencing the pair at Reading Crown Court, said: “It’s really difficult for me to see how I can deal with this in any other way than a custodial sentence.”

But she sentenced Ms Smith, of Eagle Road, Bishops Green, to 14 months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, and ordered her to carry out unpaid community work.

Her father, who lives at Howarth Court, Newbury, was sentenced to six months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to carry out unpaid community work.

Mr McCarthy subsequently wrote to this newspaper, stating: “At Action on Elder Abuse, we were disappointed to read the story of Gemma and Robert Smith, the father and daughter who took hundreds of pounds from two vulnerable older people.

“These were pre-meditated acts, with carer Ms Smith abusing her position as a carer to steal not once but twice.

“And as Maria Lamb, the judge presiding over the case noted, the impact on the victims was ‘devastating’.”

He added: “And yet despite this, both offenders received suspended sentences. Despite deliberately targeting these extremely vulnerable people, one of whom had dementia, they will not see the inside of a jail cell.

“This is certainly not a robust enough punishment and surely is no deterrent. Yet again, our older people have been let down by our justice system.”

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Article comments

  • Louise


    05/07/2018 - 13:01

    Government thinking is that women should never be locked despite being found guilty, with the exception hopefully being murder; perhaps they have a get out of jail card for that offence too by claiming domestic abuse. Appalling that she's not in clink for having betrayed the trust placed in her by those she cared for. Perhaps the Attorney General can review this case; the relatives (or anyone) can request such a review.