Ballymena mother stole £12,500 from nursing home to pay back loan

Laura Dowie leaves court in Ballymena having received a five-month suspended sentence
Laura Dowie leaves court in Ballymena having received a five-month suspended sentence

A mother-of-two who abused her position as a nursing home administrator to steal more than £12,500, escaped jail when her five-month jail term was suspended for 18 months.

Ballymena Magistrates’ Court heard that the managing director of the Care Circle Group in Dunmurry called the police when the families of nursing home residents raised a “lacuna” in payments they had made for their relatives’ care.

Nursing home administrator, 29-year-old Laura Dowie, “immediately” admitted that instead of crediting residents’ accounts, “she had pocketed the money” in a situation where she was “robbing Peter to pay Paul”.

Dowie, from Parkmount in Ballymena, later pleaded guilty to one count of theft by an employee in that she stole £12,527, and a further charge of committing fraud by abusing the position she held on dates between October 31 2012 and January 20 this year.

A prosecuting lawyer told the court that when initially spoken to, Dowie admitted she still had £2,000 of stolen money at home, adding that since the offences were uncovered she had made full restitution.

Defence barrister Stephen Law revealed that Dowie had borrowed £400 from a payday loan company but that bill soon tuned into a massive £7,000 to be repaid, leading District Judge Des Perry to comment “how any government can allow these people to exist is beyond me”.

Mr Law said there is an ongoing investigation into Dowie’s loan.

He described her as “totally distraught” at having to pay back such a large amount, and so she thought stealing the money “was the quickest option”.

He conceded, however, that “she was always going to be found out”.

Imposing the suspended jail term, Judge Perry said such loan companies are “a blight on society where people find themselves having to repay ridiculous amounts of money”.

The judge told Dowie he was giving her credit for her early plea and clear criminal record, but that given the breach of trust, the “custody threshold is passed”.