Gateshead care worker stole more than £30,000 from the bank accounts of two vulnerable residents

Nicola Clarkson was handed a suspended prison sentence at Newcastle Crown Court
-Credit: (Image: Northumbria Police)

A senior care worker stole more than £30,000 from the bank accounts of two vulnerable residents.

Nicola Clarkson targeted both women while she was working as a senior support worker at Cambourne Lodge in Gateshead. The home provides care for people with mild and modest learning difficulties.

Newcastle Crown Court heard how the 45-year-old's first victim had learning disability as well as schizophrenia and psychosis. The woman was deemed to have capacity to control her own finances and trusted Clarkson, who was her key worker, to look after her bank card.

However Clarkson set up online banking and transferred £27,340 into her own bank account between November 2021 and August 2022. She also spent £375.90 in three shops - Select, Shoezone and Aldi.

Daisy Wrigley, prosecuting, said Clarkson had worked at Cambourne Lodge for eight years and been promoted to senior support worker. This meant she was the most senior employee on the premises.

She said the fraud came to light when the first victim looked at her bank statements, while doing a benefits review. She expected to see upwards of £20,000 but had £1,623.09 in one account of £72.65 in the other.

During a disciplinary meeting, Clarkson admitted taking money from the woman.

Ms Wrigley said: "The first victim statement she was upset, she trusted the defendant and did not want to see the defendant. (She) was scared of seeing her."

The court in Newcastle heard how the home discovered that a second woman had also had £2750.16 removed from her account by Clarkson while she was in hospital during the summer of 2022.

The prosecutor said: "The second victim is hurt and angry. She said she had had horrible dreams and was worried in case she bumped into the defendant."

Ms Wrigley told the court that the sums of money had now been returned to both victims.

Clarkson, of Blaydon, Gateshead, pleaded guilty to three charges of fraud. The court heard how she was of previous good character and had no previous convictions.

Rachel Hedworth, defending, told the court: "She's incredibly sorry for what she's done. She's somebody who has been otherwise incredibly hardworking throughout her life.

"She drank copious amounts of alcohol, she's stopped that. Basically that was something she was using as a coping mechanism."

Ms Hedworth said she lives with her husband and cares for her granddaughter.

She said Clarkson described being "utterly disgusted and feeling sick" by her actions but had no proper explanation as to why she'd done it. She said: "In her words 'It's like watching someone on the TV and all of a sudden I'm that person'.

Ms Hedworth said that there was no evidence she had used the money to live an extravagant lifestyle. She said: "The money used was frittered on absolute rubbish. For example, buying two pairs of shoes, not wearing them and then taking them to a charity shop."

She said Clarkson was having personal intervention to work out what caused her to behave in his way. She added: "This offending now dates back two years. Clearly she's still in turmoil about the way she's behaved."

In relation to the first victim, Recorder Georgina Nolan said: "She needed support with daily living and she had every right to put her trust in you and, over that time, you breached that trust for your own financial gain."

She said Clarkson had told the probation service that she could not fathom why she had committed the offences but did say she had significant financial difficulties due to rent arrears.

Recorder Nolan said Clarkson: "I do accept that you are genuinely remorseful. I do accept that you regret your actions." She sentenced her to two years in prison suspended for 18 months.

She also ordered Clarkson to complete 25 rehabilitation activity requirement days, carry out 100 hours of unpaid work and pay £500 in costs.