Edinburgh charity worker who stole £15k from disabled man unable to speak and woman with MS escapes jail sentence

A charity worker who stole thousands of pounds from two severely disabled clients has escaped a jail sentence.

Wednesday, 9th October 2019, 5:12 pm
Updated Wednesday, 9th October 2019, 5:13 pm
Julia Sibbald.

Julie Sibbald was looking after a man who is unable to speak when she took more than £12,000 from his bank account over a near two-year period.

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Charity worker stole £16,000 from disabled man unable to speak and woman with MS

Sibbald’s scam was only uncovered after another charity worker spotted unexplained withdrawals from the wheelchair-bound woman’s bank account.

The 52-year-old crook was working with charity Free Space when she swindled the cash from the vulnerable adults who both lived in a supported accommodation unit in Edinburgh.

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Free Space is a registered charity that provides services and support for disabled people in and around the Edinburgh area.

Sibbald is the widow of slain pub landlord Billy Sibbald, 48, who is believed to have been killed in a gangland feud 17 years ago.

The ex-sauna boss disappeared after telling his wife he was going to meet business associates in October 2002.

The dad-of-three’s naked body was discovered in undergrowth by the A1 near Musselburgh three months later with stab wounds.

Offences were 'Particularly Bad'

Dishonest Sibbald, from Joppa, admitted her guilt to stealing the cash from her two disabled clients when she appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court last month.

She returned for sentencing on Wednesday, and Sheriff Alison Stirling said the offences were “particularly bad” as Sibbald had been in “a position of trust”.

The sheriff added: “Normally this sort of offence would attract a custodial sentence but as you are a first offender and you have kept out of trouble for so long I am persuaded to impose an alternative to custody.”

Sibbald escaped a jail sentence and was instead ordered to carry out 250 hours of unpaid work in the community.

She was also placed on a six-month restriction of liberty order where she has to stay within her home address between 8pm and 6am until December 23. She will then only have to adhere to the order on Friday and Saturdays from that date.

Previously prosecutor Ross Carvel told the court Sibbald was employed by the registered charity and her duties included helping clients with everyday tasks such as shopping.

Mr Carvel said the first victim was described as “effectively incapacitated” as he is unable to speak due to the effects of an illness and also suffers from epilepsy.

The fiscal said: “The panel [Sibbald] would have access not only to the cards but also to the PIN numbers.

“The panel was a designated key worker for (the man). There were 42 transactions made by the panel amounting to a total of £12,400.

“These were generally £250-£350 withdrawals made when she was doing legitimate work and then withdraw that cash at the same time.”

The fiscal added Sibbald was also the key worker for the second victim and was caught when another charity worker “had cause to examine the incoming mail”.

Mr Carvel said: “The worker noticed a number of sizeable withdrawals made. There were 11 transactions involving £3,640.”

Police were then contacted after an accountant had been employed to go through both victim’s bank accounts.

Yesterday defence agent Julia McPartlin said her client had suffered from “traumatic circumstances” due to her husband’s death and had begun racking up debt from around that time.

The brief added: “She appreciates the seriousness of the matter and has brought a bag along with her today. She knows if she avoids custody she will be very lucky.”

Sibbald pleaded guilty to using a bank card belonging to a man, now aged 62, and stealing a quantity of money from an ATM machine at Sainsbury’s, Westfield Road, Edinburgh, between January 18, 2016 and December 29, 2017.

She also admitted to using a debit card belonging to a woman, now aged 51, and stealing a quantity of money from an ATM machine at the same location between November 6, 2017 and February 10 last year.