Four staff members sacked at Leeds care home and one prosecuted after whistle-blower reported 'systematic stealing' from vulnerable disabled residents

A carer was found to have stolen more than £7,000 from a vulnerable disabled resident after a whistle-blower contacted police to report 'systematic stealing' by staff at a Leeds care home.

By Tony Gardner
Sunday, 16th August 2020, 6:00 am

An investigation resulted in five members of staff being sacked at Larchfield care home in Hunslet.

The company in charge of the care home, Anchor Hanover Group, issued an apology to the victim after former employee Benjamin Ralph was sentenced at Leeds Crown Court after admitting a charge of the theft.

The court heard Ralph, 29 , 'bled dry' the bank account of a 63-year-old resident by using his bank card to withdraw cash which he then shared with members of staff at the care home on Joseph Street.

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Five staff members were sacked after whistle-blower reported 'systematic stealing' from residents at Larchfield care home.

Andrew Epsley, prosecuting, told the court how an investigation was launched in 2017 after a whistle-blower contacted police to report a series of the thefts at the home.

The home cares for up to 40 people who have physical disabilities, mental health conditions and may be living with dementia.

The whistle-blower was unwilling to give a statement but told police that employees were involved in 'systematic stealing' from residents

Police launched an investigation and identified a number of victims and suspects.

Larchfield care home, Hunslet

The court heard West Yorkshire Police were only able to obtain sufficient evidence to prosecute Ralph.

The investigation was hampered as one of the complaints in the case died and the health of another deteriorated so they were unable to give evidence.

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The victim also suffered with depression and anxiety and spent much of his time in bed

Ralph used the victim's bank card to withdraw around £5,000 in cash from machines, some of which he shared with others

The defendant also spent £1,869 at a Morrison's store on items for himself and his colleagues over 15 occasions.

Ralph was arrested on November 9, 2017, and denied any wrongdoing when interviewed under caution.

The total loss to the victim was £7,297. Ralph pleaded guilty to theft on the basis that he had benefited by £6,000.

Probation officer Mick Berry said Ralph felt "shame, embarrassment and regret" for what he had done.

Mr Berry said the defendant had said in interview that he was drinking heavily and gambling at the time of the offending and was in a 'toxic' relationship.

The court heard Ralph now works for a medical supply services company.

Mark McKone, mitigating, said Ralph had managed to turn his life around in the three years since the offending, is in well-paid employment and has responsibilities for his family.

The barrister said: "My submission would be that to pass a sentence that causes him to lose his employment would be a very significant setback in his life."

"He (Ralph) knows who else was involved and he has done nothing to help the prosecuting authorities to bring others to justice.

"Where you embark on a course of dishonest conduct together with others who you know are doing exactly the same thing, then you are at the very least conspiring in the acquiescence of milking someone's bank account."

The judge told Ralph: "The offence to which you pleaded guilty is one of the meanest and wickedest to come before the Crown court.

"It defies human understanding how someone can be so cruel to do that to another human being.

"The only thing, I will tell you now, that saves you from immediate custody today is the unconscionable length of time it has taken to come to court.

"I cannot begin to understand how it has taken almost three years.

"It is only the delay which has saved you from going immediately to prison."

He was also ordered to do 120 hours of unpaid work and take part in a ten-day rehabilitation activity requirement.

Ralph was ordered to pay £6,000 under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

After the hearing, Mishel Ingle, District Manager for Larchfield care home, said: “We take the wellbeing of our residents very seriously and were appalled when we were notified of this incident.

"As soon as we were informed, we acted immediately, launching our own investigation and worked closely with the police and other agencies.

“We apologise to the resident and their family for any distress caused.

"This was an isolated incident which undermines the hard work and dedication of our colleagues who provide our usual high standards of care.

“This individual no longer works for us and was immediately dismissed.

"Although there was not enough evidence for police to pursue claims against four others who were implicated, through our own investigation we identified they had failed to follow our stringent policies and procedures, leading to their suspension and subsequent dismissal.

"Additional steps were also taken and a referral was made to the disclosure and barring service to prevent those dismissed from seeking to gain future employment within the care sector.”