Financial Abuser Avoids Repayment
It was widely reported in the press recently that Yvonne Davies, who stole around £115,000 from her aunt between 2013 and 2016, will only have to repay £10 of the money that she stole. The 65 year old from Swindon was jailed for two years and five months last September for fraud by abuse of position. The recent court proceedings were brought against her under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to see if any of the money could be recovered.
The shocking aspect of the case is that the fraud started nine months after she had been appointed by the Court of Protection as a ‘deputy’ responsible for safeguarding her relative’s affairs. This means that her aunt had lost mental capacity to manage her finances and did not have a power of attorney (POA) in place.
Under a POA, an attorney is given the responsibility to manage a named individual’s personal and financial affairs should they lose the mental capacity to do it themselves. There are two types of POA – one covering property and financial affairs, and the second covering decisions around health and welfare.
Deputies, on the other hand, are appointed by the Court of Protection if an individual loses mental capacity withouta POA being in place. A deputy takes decisions in much the same way as an attorney would but is more closely scrutinised by the authorities and won’t necessarily be the person the individual would have wanted to be making those choices.
Unfortunately, despite being approved to act as a deputy – which would have involved
her having a clear idea of her responsibilities – Yvonne Davies brazenly stripped her vulnerable aunt’s accounts of a significant sum of money.
Judge Jason Taylor QC ruled that Davies had benefitted from her crimes to the tune of £75,051. However, such is the state of her finances and assets she can only afford to pay back £10. If she fails to pay the £10, she will serve seven days behind bars in default.
Judge Taylor said: “This was greed, pure and simple. Greed for yourself and greed for your immediate family over anyone else.”
Davies should have safeguarded Ms Owen’s affairs, he said. “You didn’t do that. Along with your husband you systematically set about using her money as your personal piggy bank.
“Whilst in a position of trust you used what you saw as an open cheque book to feather your nest, frittering away an inheritance of which you were not the only beneficiary.”
Financial abuse isn’t just theft or fraud; it can also be:
- Misappropriation of money or property.
- Exerting ‘undue influence’ to give away assets or gifts.
- Pressure to make or change a will or power of attorney
The victim may not even know that they have been duped; ‘grooming’ is prevalent in financial abuse cases involving the elderly or vulnerable.
Why are we seeing more financial abuse? The baby boomer generation benefited from increasing property prices and is a relatively wealthy section of the population. We are living longer – but often with cognitive impairment associated with the ageing process. In addition, divorce, separation and work opportunities often leaves older people isolated within their communities. The fastest growing demographic in the UK is elderly people over 85 whose numbers are projected to more than double by 2035, increasing by 1.5 million.
It is sobering to think that Yvonne Davies is by no means the only person ripping off an elderly relative. The law, try as it might, can’t yet prevent this sort of abuse or always ensure that the money taken is recovered.
Sarah Young of Ridley & Hall feels strongly about financial abuse of the elderly. Whether the abuse take place by those in a formal position of trust, such as attorneys and deputies or by friends or relatives of an elderly person, Sarah is determined to take action whenever possible to protect the rights of victims. If you have any questions related to this topic, get in touch with Sarah on our freephone 0800 8 60 62 65 or fill in our free enquiry form and we’ll call you back asap.