Having been convicted in August of stealing approximately £130,000 from her godmother, Lesley and Andrew Reeve returned to Middlesborough Crown Court for sentence on 20th September 2013.
It seems that Ms Reeve was granted a ‘power of attorney’ over 91 year Joan Killen’s affairs. This gave Ms Reeve the right to control Ms Killen’s financial affairs, including her bank account. With that power, however, comes the obligation to deal honestly and fairly with her money, and ensure that it is all spent properly on, in this case, Ms Killen.
The prosecution allegation, which the jury accepted, was that despite the fact that the Reeves would have, in due course, inherited Ms Killen’s property under her will, they decided to use her money for their own purposes. including “clear[ing] credit card debts and spen[ding] some of the cash on converting the garage of their home into a wet room and gym.”
The Judge described the offences as ‘selfish and greedy’ in the course of passing the sentence of 2½ years. We don’t have the sentencing remarks, but the Judge would have been working off the Sentencing Guidelines for Theft.
It is likely that the Judge would thought that Ms Reeves was in a ‘high’ degree of trust. This puts it in the top bracket for sentencing with a starting point of 3 years and a range of 2-6 years.
Given that there was a trial, this would appear to be towards the low end of the scale. This is probably because of the fact that she has not been in trouble before and the breach of trust is not as high as it could be (eg a solicitor stealing from her client would be treated more seriously). Putting it all together, it would seem that the sentence was about right.
Mr Reeves would appear to be in a different position as he did not hold a power of attorney. Is his sentence therefore too high? The Judge probably thought that this difference was a technical one, and they were both equally responsible.
This is probably fair enough given that it does seem to have been very much a joint effort. There will probably be an appeal against the sentence, but it would not surprise me if it didn’t go anywhere.
Additionally, there will be confiscation proceedings in relation to the money taken.
A question for law students (and others)
We don’t have the exact details, but it seems that when there was no question about her capacity, Ms Killen made a will naming the Reeves as beneficiaries. The Court could (and probably should) make a compensation order for the money recovered in Ms Killen’s favour, so any money confiscated by the Court would go back to Ms Killen.
Assuming therefore (as seems to be the case) that Ms Killen no longer has the capacity to make a will, when she dies will the money just go back to Mrs Reeves in any event? Is there anything that the Crown Court can do to stop that?
Whether or not you’re a lawyer, how do you think that court should handle this issue?