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‘There are no excuses’ - carer could face jail after being caught on camera stealing £600 from man, 94

PUBLISHED: 09:14 09 March 2019 | UPDATED: 08:45 10 March 2019

Kelly Harris is remorseful after admitting stealing money from a resident at a care home where she worked. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Kelly Harris is remorseful after admitting stealing money from a resident at a care home where she worked. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Archant

The son of a “bright but frail” 94-year-old man whose carer stole £600 from him has said his father is recovering from an “enormous amount of stress and anxiety”.

Kelly Harris, 39, could be facing prison after she was caught on a secret camera at Weavers Court care home in Diss taking money from Raymond Barker’s wallet.

She pleaded guilty to the crime and at Norwich Magistrates’ Court on Friday, deputy district judge Richard Adkinson postponed her sentencing for reports, taking into account factors including her responsibilities for her 10-year-old son who has Asperger syndrome and is home educated.

Speaking before Friday’s hearing, Harris, of Buxton Road in Diss, said her life had been falling apart when she started taking the money.

She said: “From the beginning of October last year my personal circumstances just blew up.

“I had a relationship breakdown, I was given three weeks to move out because the landlords wanted to sell the house. I was looking at my son and myself being homeless.

“There are no excuses but there are reasons. Mum’s got bipolar and was not doing well in autumn, I was trying to keep me, my mum and dad and my little one going. My own mental health wasn’t great because I have depression.”

Victoria Bastock, prosecuting, asked the court on Friday to consider compensation for Mr Barker and costs of £88. She said: “As a carer with access to the complainant she has acted in high breach of trust.”

Ms Bastock told the court how Raymond Barker moved into Weavers Court last summer after breaking his hip in a fall.

His son Martin, who has power of attorney and manages Mr Barker’s finances, said he noticed large amounts of cash were going missing from his father’s wallet.

The second time it happened, he told the care home and the police, who collaborated to record the bank note roll numbers and install a secret camera in the living room where the wallet was kept. Harris was caught on film and arrested on January 10.

She described her situation as “quite stretched, especially coming up to Christmas”, and told police she had spent the money on a food shop in Morrisons.

She said: “People have been asking why I did it, and to be honest, I can’t say. My head wasn’t where it should have been.

“My water and mobile phone bills were due before I got paid and I knew I didn’t have enough.

“I was called into the office and the officer introduced themselves straight away. All I could think about was letting my mum and my little one down.

“That was when I knew I needed help. I couldn’t control the situation and I was trying to.”

In a statement read out to the court, the victim’s son said: “Raymond is a bright but frail 94-year-old who values his independence. He put his trust into strangers who frequently came into his home in order to care for him.”

Mr Barker also said that his father had been settling in well at Weavers Court until the arrest, and added: “It caused him an enormous amount of stress and anxiety. It was a shock that this happened in his own home.

“This has been such a stressful time for the family. We suspect if we had not caught her she would still be doing it.”

Harris did not come to court with legal assistance, but was advised to speak with a duty solicitor by the deputy judge.

When the court reconvened, duty solicitor Ralph Gillam said: “She has expressed remorse to me. She stated that following her arrest she has regretted her actions every moment of every day.

“The combination of the move, caring for her mum and financial pressures really impaired her judgement in committing these offences.

“After her arrest she recognised that she needed help so she went to her GP, who increased her dose of citalopram. She’s taken steps to address the problem.”

Mr Gillam said although Harris clearly breached her position of trust the court should consider suspending a prison sentence, in particular due to concerns about care for her 10-year-old.

Harris was granted unconditional bail until her case is heard again on April 9.

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