An Enniskillen man who breached the trust of his grandmother for whom he had been appointed legal controller of her financial affairs, took thousands of pounds to feed a gambling addiction, in what a judge described as “a most serious matter, by anyone’s stretch of the imagination.”
The offence was compounded by the defendant’s previous record which including thieving £4,000 from a British Legion Poppy Day Appeal, for which he was an organiser.
David Elliott (53) of Derrychara Park, appeared in the dock of Dungannon Crown Court for sentencing, having pleaded guilty to taking £45,000 over the course of two years between 2015 and 2017.
He had been his “grandmother’s favourite” and a such, chosen to oversee her financial affairs.
A prosecution barrister explained concerns were raised when Elliott’s brother became aware of financial irregularities in their grandmother’s accounts, who was by this stage in a nursing home.
The matters were reported and an investigation commenced which uncovered the regular removal of funds by Elliott, over a significant period of time.
The prosecution stated this amounted to breach of trust, given the position he was expected to up uphold and the close relationship with his grandmother. It was stated while the activity was agreed to be opportunistic, it was nonetheless sustained activity over a period of time against a vulnerable lady.
The court was reminded of Elliott’s previous convictions, in particular the Poppy Day Appeal theft, which was dealt with at crown court last year, resulting in a sentence of 12 months imprisonment suspended for two years.
In light of the relevant record Judge Neil Rafferty QC remarked, Elliot was not a suitable person to be chosen as a controller. While attributing no fault against those who appointed him, Judge Rafferty said Elliott, “Would have benefited from someone looking over his shoulder”.
The defence advised the court his client was utterly devoted to his grandmother and it was widely accepted he was her favourite, which was why he had been chosen to take responsibility for her financial affairs. He and his siblings were destined to be the principal benefactors from their grandmother’s estate.
Elliott was said to have cared for his grandmother, visiting her on a regular basis and taking her out for lunch, which he paid for using her credit card.
But the defence disclosed Elliott had developed a gambling addiction which had “taken a grip”, and he began using the credit card to fund this.
Judge Rafferty pointed out, “The fact he has an addiction is a reason but not an excuse … “Such behaviour does not make the basis for a happy family gathering.”
The defence conceded the offence was “Mean and unsavoury … It has driven a massive wedge between the siblings”.
Imposing a two year prison sentence of which half will be served in custody and the rest on supervised licence, Judge Rafferty concluded, “This breach of trust was serious matter by anyone’s stretch of the imagination. It has unfortunately had an almost Dickensian effect on the brother and sister in that their legacy has been spent on the defendant’s gambling addiction”.
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