Unemployed Andrew McGill splashed the cash on a £1,000 Tag Heuer watch, food, gift cards for Amazon and Sainsbury’s – and a 55 pence newspaper just to check if one card worked.
Portsmouth Crown Court heard the 39-year-old admitted using three patients’ cards eight times in different shops, and on one day within an hour of a card being stolen.
But he was let off with a community order as the ex-IT technician and former Ministry of Defence worker was not charged with theft or handling stolen property.
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Judge Michael Bowes QC ruled he had to impose a lesser sentence as he could not say McGill, of Southbourne Road, Drayton, knew the victims were elderly patients when he spent around £2,200 of their money.
It was not clear how the defendant got the cards – but prosecutor Thomas Wilkins told the court: ‘His mother works for the community team for the hospital who have access for all the wards and a card to get into all areas of the hospital.’
Mr Wilkins added: 'The obvious explanation is that his mother's card, which gives him access to all areas of the hospital, was used.'
He added she was seen on CCTV a day after McGill used an elderly woman’s card to buy a £500 gift card at Sainsbury’s in Farlington. The defendant’s mother was seen ‘walking away from the till having used the gift card,’ Mr Wilkins said.
And the judge rejected McGill’s bizarre claim he found the cards when he went jogging through the grounds of Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham.
Recorder Bowes said McGill had told a probation officer that he ‘went running on each occasion through the hospital grounds... decided to look through the lost property’. He added that the defendant ‘couldn’t offer an explanation, [and said he] was looking for something silly to do.’
Opening the case, Mr Wilkins told how an 89-year-old woman with dementia was in hospital when McGill used her card to buy a £1,024 Tag Heuer watch under his own name on April 29 in 2017. Her son, who has power of attorney, was alerted in America where he lives by the patient’s bank which had frozen the account due to fraudulent activity.
Mr Wilkins also revealed how an 88-year-old male patient’s wallet had vanished after being tucked into a holdall and put on a trolley in hospital.
It was only when the patient left hospital it was noticed his wallet was gone. McGill was spotted on CCTV using the card at 1.05pm on August 7, 2017, at Sainsbury’s Farlington buying a newspaper and later £7.83 worth of food. It was also used in Tesco at Cosham.
McGill used the card from another victim, admitted into QA in September that year, at Sainsbury’s to get a £500 gift card. His mother was at the shop the next day.
Then on September 8 an eagle-eyed Tesco worker spotted McGill on CCTV at the Cosham branch – having handed police images of the defendant from the previous month.
McGill, who now has a job offer from HMRC, was in the process of buying a £600 Amazon gift card on the female patient’s stolen Mastercard.
Police were called and McGill stopped – with officers finding his mother with him and in possession of the luxury watch.
Mr Wilkins said: ‘Plainly whether they have dementia or are elderly, they are vulnerable and all are entitled to the greatest respect of their property and not to have it stolen.’
Sentencing the defendant to a 12-month community order with 20 rehabilitation days and 100 hours’ unpaid work, judge Bowes said: ‘I’m not satisfied that you knew [they] all came from vulnerable or elderly people. Had that been proved it would put the case into a different category.’
He added: ‘The public interest is best served by a community order.’
David Reid, for McGill, said his client had no previous convictions, was remorseful and that he ‘felt ashamed’. He said the defendant became depressed in 2017 after trying to get a better IT job, went for counselling but this ‘brought to the surface some issues’ he told probation about.
The judge indicated this was taken into account as mitigation but no details were given in open court.
McGill admitted eight charges of fraud at the first opportunity.