Preston thief betrays vulnerable friend by stealing from her

A vulnerable woman with a progressive brain disorder was betrayed by a former friend who stole her bank card, a court has heard.

By Stef Hall
Tuesday, 17th March 2020, 5:00 pm

Lara Sutherland had genuinely been the vulnerable woman’s friend at the start, helping her with tasks, and even doing her cleaning for her, Preston Crown Court was told.

But in June last year, Sutherland, of Edale Court, Preston, took her bank card and used it to make cash withdrawals.

It is understood the victim, who suffers Huntington’s disease and lives close to Sutherland, had previously given her a key to her flat.

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Crown Court

On Thursday June 6 last year, at around 9.10am, the victim received a text message from the Santander bank about some suspicious transactions involving withdrawals from her account at various locations.

They amounted to a total of £300.

The victim realised she had been asleep at the time of the transactions.

Later she discovered her bank card was missing from her home.

The 36-year-old defendant admitted to police that she had made two withdrawals from the woman’s account.

The first was for £200 at the Santander branch on Fishergate, Preston.

The next was for £100 at the ATM at the Spar on Plungington Road, Plungington.

She pleaded guilty to theft of the card and two counts of fraud at Preston Magistrates’ Court on February 13.

On that occasion the bench ruled their sentencing powers were insufficient to deal with her, due to the seriousness of the offences.

The case was committed to the Crown Court, where Judge Andrew Jefferies QC ruled the offence was a breach of trust and agreed it passed the custody threshold.

But the court heard Sutherland was of previous good character and had a good work record up until about two years ago.

She had suffered mental health difficulties, and it is also suspected another person was involved in the offence.

Judge Jefferies acknowledged Sutherland “was always going to be caught”.

He agreed to suspend her sentence on account of her personal difficulties.

He imposed a four month jail term, suspended for two years, with a 40 day rehabilitation activity.

It means if she commits another offence within two years she could have the four month jail term activated.