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Cockermouth man who stole £30k from elderly grandmother is spared prison

Andrew Penney after leaving a previous crown court hearing

A GRANDSON who stole more than £30,000 from his elderly grandmother has been handed a suspended prison sentence.

Andrew Christopher Penney, 28, had  initially been given Winifred Cleveland’s cash card to buy her shopping.

But in early 2017, as he assumed a greater degree of care, Penney set up online banking on her current and savings accounts despite her having no internet connection or mobile phone. He made overdraft applications and, fraudulently, applied for a £10,000 loan in her name.

This was paid into her account, from which Penney plundered £30,799 during a 17-month period as he made withdrawals of up to £2,000 a time, also racking up hundreds of pounds in overdraft fees.

His dishonest deeds were discovered during a review of her finances after Mrs Cleveland – who was aged in her late nineties and died in February, 2019 – was taken into respite care following a fall, and initially missing bank statements were examined. “Much or all” of her money was said to have been removed.

Prosecutor Charles Brown told Carlisle Crown Court today (THURS): “It is reported that before her death, the effect of the investigation and the idea that her grandson had been stealing money from her had a detrimental effect on her health, affected her mood and her mental and her mental and physical health.”

Penney, a bin man with a partner and young son, admitted theft and fraud charges. The court heard he had one previous conviction and one caution, both for theft from previous employers.

Penney’s barrister, Kim Obrusik, said he was “genuinely remorseful” and “devastated” by his conduct. “It is something he can never take back,” said Miss Obrusik. “He has no ability to apologise to her now.”

Judge Nicholas Barker called Penney’s offending “a disgraceful act of dishonesty” and concluded: “You found that the temptation was simply too great.”

But he also noted Penney, of Ballad Close, Cockermouth, was the main breadwinner for his family and that “others will suffer greatly if you are deprived of your liberty”.

A 15-month jail term was suspended for two years, and Penney must complete a rehabilitation requirement, 200 hours’ unpaid work and a three-month electronically monitored night-time curfew.

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