CAMPAIGNERS have called for a change in the law after a thief was caught out stealing £12,000 from his life-long friend suffering dementia.
Activists urging older people to stay safe want tougher safeguards in place.
Members of older persons groups have now joined Action on Elder Abuse’s rallying call to bring in protection for people who may hand over power of attorney to others.
The organisation is urging people to spot signs of pensioners being swindled out of thousands of pounds.
It comes after Ian Milburn was given power of attorney over his lifelong friend Brian Dix before the 82-year-old rapidly developed dementia and went into a care home.
Milburn, 56, of Westland Drive, Lee-on-the-Solent, went on to take £12,000 from Mr Dix’s account. His theft came to light when the care home’s bills went unpaid.
Portsmouth Crown Court heard how he went on holiday to Amsterdam but mainly spent the cash on debts.
Stephen McCarthy, from Action on Elder Abuse, told The News: ‘It’s incredibly damaging.
‘We’ve seen thousands in the past, people essentially targeting them with a view to stealing from them.
‘We think the danger is the power of attorney situation just isn’t open to any scrutiny.’
He added: ‘Sometimes a single person being power of attorney raises the risk of abuse.’
Mr McCarthy’s campaign group wants changes in the law so that there must be two people made power of attorney to hold each other in check and the person requesting it must undergo a mental health assessment.
The group also wants the axing of a £400 charge to challenge power of attorney in court.
Richard Strong, from Gosport Older Persons Forum, said: ‘It’s absolutely devastating, particular for people who lose tens of thousands.’
He added: ‘It strikes me that if the option of only one acting as attorney it might provide an additional safeguard.’
Gravely-unwell dad-of-three Milburn had been made power of attorney in January 2015 and stole the cash between January 12, 2015 and June 3, 2016.
In court Daniel Reilly, mitigating, said despite Milburn’s poor health the Department for Work and Pensions insisted he could work and refused Disability Living Allowance.
‘He was without therefore any income, debts were accruing, and your honour perhaps knows the rest,’ he told the judge.
Milburn, who admitted theft, started paying it back.
Sentencing, Judge Sarah Munro QC said: ‘You had the responsibly of making sure his car home fees were paid but instead you stole, it’s said £12,000, from his accounts in gross breach of the trust that he placed in you.’
Judge Munro imposed an eight-month prison sentenced suspended for two years.
Backing Action on Elder Abuse’s awareness campaign, police and crime commissioner Michael Lane said: ‘Any form of abuse is unacceptable and we must all do everything we can to help protect those who are most vulnerable.
‘Financial abuse not only strips people of their money it also takes away their, trust and independence.’
n Action on Elder Abuse’s helpline is 080 8808 8141.