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Former John O'Groats businesswoman jailed after stealing from her dying mother's estate

By Court Reporter

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Sheriff Neil Wilson said a custodial term was unavoidable.
Sheriff Neil Wilson said a custodial term was unavoidable.

A woman who embezzled £50,000 from her mother's estate while acting as her Power of Attorney has been jailed for a year by a sheriff who described the fraud as "a very serious breach of trust".

Anne Collier committed the fraud while resident at St Clair, John O'Groats, where she ran a dress-making and gift shop for a time.

She siphoned the cash from her mother's account, at banks in Caithness and Sutherland.

On April 4, 2012, Joan Hall gave consent for her daughter Collier (65) to become her Power of Attorney due to her declining health and vascular dementia.

Three days later, Mrs Hall, who previously lived in her own home in Cornwall, became a privately-funded resident in an Andover home financed by the sale of her house, for £79,661. In addition to this, she was in receipt of an RAF pension and a state pension which gave her a monthly income in excess of £1100.

Later, in November of the same year, Collier took responsibility for her mother's care home fees and set up a standing order to pay for them.

However, between October 2013 and June 2015, only five payments were made.

Collier was repeatedly contacted about the arrears without success and, subsequently, there was £30,000 outstanding.

In May 2014, Hampshire County Council passed details of their concerns regarding Collier's Power of Attorney having reported matters to the Office of the Public Guardian and also contacted the police. Mrs Hall died in 2017.

Fiscal David Barclay said: "The OPG concluded that Collier had mismanaged Mrs Hall's estate and the accused's Power of Attorney was revoked and an alternative appointment was made."

Outlining police involvement in the case, Mr Barclay said that investigations into Collier's personal and business banking accounts revealed that the accused had transferred money from her mother's bank account into her own account and had been using the cash to pay her own bills.

Mrs Hall benefited from some of the cash but not the £50,000 libelled, which was misappropriated.

The accused told police officers that her financial circumstances were "dire" and she owed money "everywhere" to the tune of between £9000 and £10,000.

Solicitor Fiona MacDonald referred to Collier's health and financial difficulties and appealed to Sheriff Neil Wilson to step back from a custodial sentence, while acknowledging that a prison sentence was a real possibility.

Sheriff Wilson, who saw a background report, said he had considered whether he could avoid sending Collier to prison but had concluded, given the breach of trust and the amount involved, that a custodial term was unavoidable.

Collier, now living in Macrae Street, Wick, admitted the fraud on an amended indictment which reduced the original sum embezzled, from £62,000 to one of £50,000.

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