46-year-old Julie Smith, from Castle Vale, plundered her disabled daughter’s care money which was funded by the taxpayer. Her daughter, Hayley, suffers from cerebral palsy and cannot talk or walk. However, instead of putting it to its intended use, the judge says Mrs. Smith wasted it by playing on online gambling sites and in other “ludicrous ways.”
The total amount of £124,536 was spent over a six-year period, and last week Mrs. Smith confessed to the theft, adding, “I am a gambling addict,” and saying that she sometimes needed to switch off from Hayley’s full-on caring needs, using online bingo as “an escape.” She also insisted that she is “not a bad parent,” and that Hayley is her “world” and has never had to go without.
The accused began to receive regular payments from the council in 2006, which were meant to cover specialist equipment costs and day centre fees for 24-year-old Hayley. However, Birmingham Crown Court heard last week that Mrs. Smith used it to fund her gambling addiction, as well as purchase weekends away and new clothes. Her crime was only discovered due to a change in council policies, when employees subsequently realised there were no receipts to account for how the money had been spent.
The single mum had a strict telling-off from Judge Patrick Thomas QC, who described the amount of cash as “enormous.” He went on to say that she had acted “as if the money was part of [her] own state benefit,” and that she had used it “in ludicrous ways” by spending it on online gambling, as well as on “luxuries [she] appreciated far more than [her] daughter did.”
Mrs. Smith received a two-year community order and was instructed to perform eighty hours of unpaid work. The woman will also receive help for her gambling addition as part of the court order – a habit which she says was “too easy to get sucked in [to].” She did, however, publically apologise to Social Services for her misguided spending, although she claims she didn’t just use the cash to satisfy her own needs, but instead spent it “on the whole family.”