Power of Attorneys – The Real Danger of Abuse

In a recent case coming before the Court, an Attorney was found guilty of abusing her position as a Power of Attorney.

The daughter of a man, who had been diagnosed with dementia, has abused her position of trust, and had stolen £4,600 over an eight-month period, spending money on purchases at Asda and Argos.

Following the dementia diagnosis in October 2014, Mr Gould drew up a will giving Power of Attorney to his four children. Arrangements were also made to reduce the estate, ‘legally’ by making gifts from the estate, by splitting them four ways.

However one of Mr Gould’s daughters, Mrs Winter, began to act as an ‘official’ point of contact for the family, and her fathers money from his account.

In March 2019, however, after Mrs Winter’s sister requested a statement of the account, which stated ‘unusual activity’ was found, and her actions were discovered.

At a family meeting, the issue was raised, and Mrs Winter admitted she was responsible for the ‘transactions’, but offered no apology. A second meeting saw Mrs Winter sitting ‘in silence’, and refused to speak to her brothers and sisters.

Despite Mrs Winter’s husband offering a solution, whereby some of the money would be re-paid, and Mrs Winter relinquishing some of her inheritance, no agreement was met, and the family stated they would seek legal advice.

The family had been informed that Mrs Winter had voluntarily reported the theft to the police, it was at this point, and due to the lack of contact, the family felt that they had no option, other than to pursue a criminal case against her, as ‘all reasonable civil options had been explored’.

The Court has heard that the abuse of trust has had a ‘huge impact’ on one of Mrs Winter’s brothers, who now has to take medication, and time off work through ‘stress and anxiety’, and the whole debarkle has caused emotional stress and harm.

Mrs Winter’s defence team, stated that ‘it is unfortunate that these matters couldn’t be resolved without anybody coming to Court’.

It was her who informed upon herself to the Police. That is a very significant feature.

She accepts by her plea she has done wrong, and is facing an immediate custodial sentence, but the Court can step back from that. She is a lady of good character.

She was caring for her father, had her own personal difficulties following an accident, and her husband had been made redundant.

It was a question of these features coming together, and she found it difficult to cope with – the Author of the pre-sentence report, says ‘her judgment was rather lacking, she was willing to pay the compensation within a short period of time’.

Mrs Winter has been sentenced to a nine-month jail sentence, suspended for eighteen months, as well as a hundred hours unpaid work, as well as an Order to pay £4,600 compensation.

Recorder Mr Blakey at Preston Crown Court, upon sentencing, stated:

‘I accept that this was not pre-planned, and it shows a substantial lack of judgment on your part, you now have on your record an offence of dishonesty.

‘What you did, I was going to use the word unforgivable, but one hopes and believes that perhaps your family, will forgive you in due course’.

Taking on the role as a Power of Attorney has real responsibilities, and one must remember that in doing so, the first rule is to act honestly, and in the best interests of the donor.

Even if this situation is in an unofficial capacity, but in this case, stressed and referred to in a will.

Silence and refusal to comply with reasonable request is no defence.

If you have issues regarding Power of Attorneys and people acting dishonestly, please do not hesitate to contact us.