Father who stole disabled daughter’s benefits gets suspended sentence

Scales of justice
Scales of justice

A debt-ridden father spent almost £15,000 in benefits which should have gone to his own disabled and vulnerable daughter, a court heard.

Former Calderdale Council support worker Kevin Sutcliffe was given a two-year suspended prison sentence by a judge after he heard how the 40-year-old was “idolised” by his 22-year-old daughter.

Prosecutor Stephen Wood told Bradford Crown Court that the complainant suffered from a rare syndrome, severe mobility problems and learning difficulties and a decision had been taken not to tell her what her father had done.

The woman was living in supported housing at the time of the fraud and her father’s offending only came to light when a member of staff became concerned about the lack of money in her bank account.

“What was going on here over the entire period of time was the defendant was using a card to withdraw money from her account,” said Mr Wood.

Sutcliffe, of Mayfield Grove, Halifax, admitted the fraud allegation which involved a total of £14,750 being taken from his daughter’s account between July 2010 and December last year.

Mr Wood said following his arrest Sutcliffe initially claimed to have used the wrong bank card, but later confessed to having severe financial difficulties and using the money to make up the difference.

Sutcliffe’s offending led to an investigation into his financial affairs and today (Wednesday) it was agreed that his benefit from criminal conduct could be fixed at £14,750.

But Mr Wood confirmed that the defendant had no available assets at the present time to repay the total amount and Recorder George Cook had to make a nominal order that Sutcliffe should pay £1 in compensation to his daughter.

Mr Wood explained that the order under the Proceeds of Crime Act meant Sutcliffe could face further proceedings to reclaim more money in the future if he acquired any assets.

Barrister Peter Byrne, for Sutcliffe, said his client was deeply ashamed of his conduct and appreciated that the court would be considering an immediate prison sentence.

But Mr Byrne submitted that the sentence could be suspended on the basis of Sutcliffe’s early guilty plea at the magistrates court, his lack of previous convictions and his genuine remorse.

Mr Byrne said the fraud was committed against a background of significant debt and there was no evidence of high living.

He said Sutcliffe had nothing to show for the money he had taken and it had been used to “keep his head above water”.

Recorder Cook said it was a serious fraud committed against Sutcliffe’s vulnerable daughter and he had taken advantage of her over a sustained period of time.

Having read references in support of Sutcliffe and bearing in mind the care he had given to his daughter in the past Recorder Cook concluded that it was appropriate to suspend the two-year prison sentence for two years.

The judge said Sutclifffe would also have to do 200 hours unpaid work for the community and he must also comply with a 30-day activity requirement.