A HIGHLY trusted senior charity support worker who stole almost £3,000 from three vulnerable men has been spared immediate prison.
Sharon Hesketh, 59, plundered the trio’s accounts using cards and PINs kept in an office within their Penrith accommodation during late 2017 and early 2018.
Carlisle Crown Court heard how the men – one with Down syndrome and two with learning difficulties – were all “incapable of accessing and managing their own affairs”.
An investigation revealed a total of £2,735.79 was removed by Hesketh. Prosecutor Charles Brown said: “The defendant had been identified once the discrepancies were found in the service users’ accounts as being the only member of staff on duty when all of the sums were taken.” The men were reimbursed by the charity.
Hesketh, of Victoria Corner, Kirkby Stephen, admitted three charges of fraud by abuse of position. She was “absolutely at the end of her tether” having “racked up significant debts” said her barrister, Kim Whittlestone, who added: “She acted in a way that was out of character. This is a lady who is deeply ashamed of her conduct.”
After hearing mitigation, Judge Peter Davies concluded there was “no public interest” in jailing Hesketh. A 12-month prison term was suspended for two years. She must complete a rehabilitation activity requirement and received a compensation order.
“You were trusted – highly trusted,” said Judge Davies. “It is not the amount; it is your position in relation to these people and how much that money meant to them both as individuals and as a charity.” He added: “It’s theft and there’s no other way to put it.”