A CARE home manager stole £1,000 from three “highly-vulnerable” residents because she was addicted to bingo, Gloucester Crown Court heard yesterday, Friday.

Rachel Stokes, aged 48, of St George's Road, Dursley, was jailed for eight months by a judge who described her offences as “the most shocking breach of trust”.

She pleaded guilty to defrauding three residents - two women and a man - whose care she was in charge of at a Gloucestershire residential home.

Julian Kesner, prosecuting, said Stokes stole a total of £1,000 from their funds over the course of a year.

"She was general manager of a company which had a contract with Gloucestershire County Council to provide for the needs of residents with significant learning difficulties," he said.

"Each one of those residents has money which they are unable to look after themselves. Their carers, including the defendant, had their cashpoint cards and PIN numbers. If they required money the staff would make withdrawals for the residents.

"The procedure was that once a withdrawal was made it should be recorded so there is a proper audit trail. It should be in the petty cash log or something they call a personal audit trail.

"Gloucestershire County Council undertook an audit and noticed a number of discrepancies. It was noted that withdrawals of petty cash had been made but not recorded.

"On other occasions a smaller amount was recorded from that which was actually withdrawn.

"The defendant was arrested, and came clean during the course of the interview.

"She said she was addicted to gambling and would take the residents' bank cards to take money out in order to play bingo.

"She said she would withdraw £100 to £200 at a time, every two to four weeks."

Mark Smith, defending, said: "She is well aware of the shocking breach of trust."

Judge Jamie Tabor QC said: "That's what it is. I happen to know just how vulnerable these victims were."

Mr Smith said: "She is shocked by her own defaultation, her own conduct in this case, given the amount of time - personal time as well as paid time - that she put into the care of the people whose trust she breached.

"She could not be harder on herself about what she has actually done. She has had a blameless career, working very hard. She simply cannot believe she committed these offences.

"She is at the lowest possible level anyone can ever be in their lives."

Jailing Stokes, the judge said: "You are a lady in your late forties of previous good character. When you were arrested you came clean pretty early on.

"Those are all factors which I take very much into account. But you were the general manager of a care home and that care home looked after some of the most vulnerable people in society.

"Some cannot even speak or articulate their concerns.

"You chose to steal from them. If this had been a one-off one could possibly overlook the fact. But over a period of a year you stole from them regularly, apparently to fund a gambling habit that you had. I know from the pre-sentence report that you also got through £11,000 that you had been awarded by way of a PPI claim.

"This was a most shocking breach of trust. I think you know that. I am afraid the only sanction I can impose is one of imprisonment."