A disability carer stole almost $30,000 from her quadriplegic client over two years, but the judge said her cooperation with investigators and remorse meant her sentencing required “leniency”.
According to a report by the ABC, Mackay District Court heard the theft was a “gross abuse of her position of trust” to her client, a 64-year-old man who had been confined to a wheelchair since a car accident in 1993.
In sentencing, Judge Ian Dearden said, “You are dealing with someone who has very limited abilities and capacities to look after their own interests, they rely on you,” he said.
“When you misuse that position of trust and use it to your financial benefit, albeit it appears every single cent went down the pokies, you have acted appallingly and disgracefully.”
The case highlights the enormous degree of trust anyone receiving care in the home places in their carer. This is by no means the first time a carer has stolen from a client under the client’s own roof; every time it occurs, it is a horrific breach of trust. This case is a reminder of the absolute importance of police checks and the necessity of thorough reference checks when employing carers before they go into the homes of those who need help with the tasks of daily living, some of the most vulnerable people in our society. It also highlights the need for supervision and oversight by organisations employing carers, and the need for processes and procedures, checks and balances to prevent these “appalling” and “disgraceful” crimes from being committed.
Theft occurred at height of gambling addiction
Sally Ann Spindler began stealing her client’s money in July 2016, and continued to do so until September 2018. She used the funds to gamble on poker machines.
While working for Mackay & District Spinal Injuries Association, a spinal injury support service, Ms Spindler used her client’s bank card to pay for everyday expenses.
“The offending was protracted and persistent over a two-year period; there were a lot of transactions,” the court heard.
The Association raised the alarm when they identified payments linked to a sporting club.
Remorse created entitlement to “leniency”
Despite acknowledging the seriousness of Ms Spindler’s offence, Judge Dearden said Ms Spindler’s sentencing required some leniency due to her contrition and her addiction to gambling at the time.
Police were only able to prove Spindler had stolen about $4,500, but she admitted to police that she’d taken around $28,900.
“[There was an] extra $23,000, which was otherwise suspicious money but without her admissions couldn’t positively be proved,” Crown prosecutor Alex Baker told the court, the ABC reported.
Ms Spindler’s gambling was an “uncontrollable addiction” at the time of the offence, the court heard.
Since being charged, Ms Spindler has repaid her former client in full, and written him an apology letter. She has also received psychological support for her gambling addiction, and gave up gambling in 2019.
Judge Dearden said her cooperation with the case was to her own detriment, and meant she was entitled to “leniency” by the court.
“It’s a level of remorse, contrition and cooperation we don’t often see in these courts,” Judge Dearden said.
Spindler was sentenced to two and a half years in jail but released on immediate parole, according to the ABC. The maximum sentence for this type of offence is up to 14 years behind bars.
In court, Ms Spindler was apologetic and said she was deeply ashamed.
“I’ve been getting help with everything that I need to get help with and it will be ongoing,” she said.