A Co Antrim man who defrauded his dementia-suffering mother to buy alcohol has avoided jail.
Graham McKinnell, 39, received a six-month suspended sentence for making unauthorised transactions while he was her carer.
District Judge Fiona Bagnall described it as among the worst kind of breach of trust.
She said: “This was an elderly lady who needed support, needed help, and it was her son of all people who exploited that situation.”
McKinnell, of Henly Gardens in Carrickfergus, was convicted of fraud by false representation following a contest at Belfast Magistrates’ Court.
He had acted as carer for his mother, who suffered a brain tumour before developing the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
It was alleged that he dishonestly claimed to have permission to make cash withdrawals and payments from his mother’s bank account between July and December last year.
McKinnell had her debit card to buy groceries but abused that trust by purchasing alcohol.
Although initially suspected of a fraud involving more than £5,000, he was ultimately only found guilty of an amount less than £100.
With his mother unfit to give evidence, McKinnell was convicted following an assessment of police interviews.
Appearing in court for sentencing, Mrs Bagnall told him: “This is a vulnerable lady, as a breach of trust it couldn’t get much worse.”
But defence counsel Stephen Toal said McKinnell has now reconciled with his family.
The barrister also stressed his client had provided support for his mother over the years.
“This lady had a brain tumour, that led into Alzheimer’s, and he’s been there all the way through that,” he said.
“It’s not easy for a man of his age to dedicate his life to his mother.”
Seeking a lenient sentence, Mr Toal emphasised: “He was convicted of a much smaller amount ... buying some alcohol.”
With the judge reassured that different care arrangements are now in place for the victim, she decided to suspend the six-month prison term for three years.