Cleaner who stole from elderly spared jail

Cleaner, Claire Stevens arrives at Taunton Crown Court.
Image caption Claire Stevens helped herself to thousands of pounds worth of items from her clients' homes

A cleaner who stole from elderly and vulnerable people she worked for over a 12 year period has been spared jail.

Claire Stevens, 49, took money, jewellery and other household items from 19 clients, which amounted to £28,300 in value.

A judge at Taunton Crown Court handed Stevens, from Whitstone Rise, Shepton Mallet, a suspended jail sentence.

She was also given a supervision order for 18 months and ordered to do 60 hours of unpaid community work.

The self-employed cleaner pleaded guilty to four offences of theft and asked for 15 other offences to be taken into consideration.

As the sentence was read, three of her victims shouted "shame on you Claire" and "travesty of justice" from the public gallery.

'Impulsive thefts'

The court heard she was stealing from her customers across the mid-Somerset area from May 2000 to June 2012.

Items included ornaments, apostle spoons, works of art, gift cards, cigarettes, tobacco, crockery, bed linen, wine and whisky.

Some of the items were said to have sentimental value to their owners and could not be replaced, while other items included toilet roll and cleaning products which she then took back days later.

The court heard the total value of the items stolen amounted to £28,300, although Stevens disputed this figure.

David Bowen, prosecuting, said: "The defendant was a cleaner for everyone, and a carer for a few of them. In some cases the victims were vulnerable, in one case, an elderly lady living on her own."

Mr Bowen said the victims had given statements expressing their upset at the breach of trust.

Stevens had been of previous good character, but had a "tragic" background and a number of psychological issues, the court was told.

Rebecca Bradberry, defending, said she could not explain why her client had stolen the items and said they were "impulsive thefts".

Sentencing Stevens to 40 weeks in custody suspended for two years Recorder Peter Towler said: "These are serious matters and the court always takes it seriously when there is a significant breach of trust.

"You repeatedly broke that trust."

But the judge said that in making his decision to suspend the sentence, he had taken into consideration Stevens' background, and that in some cases she had apologised to her victims face to face.

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