A MAN who fleeced his elderly grandmother to pay for his own excesses – including his cocaine habit – was spared a prison sentence yesterday.

James Hugh McKinnon, 30, offered to look after his 89-year-old grandmother’s finances for her after she suffered a fall and broke her hip.

She trusted him so much that she handed everything over to him and agreed to set up new accounts.

Mold Crown Court heard yesterday that she even signed her property over to him and on his 30th birthday gave him £4,000 as a gift.

But he breached her trust in him by stealing £15,922 from her.

McKinnon, of Chester Road, Penyffordd, near Mold, admitted four charges of theft and one of fraud and received a 48-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months.

He was also ordered to do 300 hours unpaid work and to pay £4,000 in compensation.

Judge Niclas Parry told him: “You don’t need me to tell you that this was a despicable offence.

“Any right minded person would be sickened by what you have done. You knew better than anyone how vulnerable she was. You gained her trust.

“She trusted you to such an extent that she was prepared to sign over her property to you.

“You breached that trust – you fleeced her to fund your excesses.”

But the judge said he took into account that McKinnon was a man of good character, who had pleaded guilty and who was now remorseful.

Elen Owen, prosecuting, said the grandmother, Mrs Dorothy McKinnon, was 89, and in the summer suffered a fall which resulted in a broken hip.

“The defendant offered to look after her finances while she was incapacitated,” said Miss Owen.

He had her bank statements, her credit card, her cheque book and PIN and he advised her about the best accounts to put her money in. But between July and September he made out cheques to himself and to others, paid £400 for a party, and cash was taken out of the account and money transfers were also made.

It was clear the grandmother was vulnerable and the offences had left her feeling very distressed.

Interviewed, McKinnon said he was unemployed and claiming benefits. He was trying to set up his own business, but he admitted his outgoings were greater than the money he had coming in.

He also had a cocaine habit and told police temptation got the better of him.
McKinnon agreed he signed her name on a number of cheques without her knowledge.

Simon Rogers, defending, said the defendant was a young man of previous good character who had made admissions to the police and who had pleaded guilty at his very first appearance in court.

It was appreciated that it was a serious matter, he said.

Compensation was an issue, said Mr Rogers. The defendant had no money but he was due to start a job in January as a self-employed salesman on a contract basis.