Edinburgh dental worker who embezzled £70,000 from elderly aunt is struck from GDC register
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An Edinburgh dental nurse who embezzled more than £70,000 from an elderly relative which was meant to pay for her care home fees has been struck off.
Kerry Sinclair persuaded family members to allow her take control of her aunt Jessie Sutherland’s financial affairs as the pensioner was battling dementia at the time. Sinclair, 41, arranged the sale of Ms Sutherland’s home to help pay for care home fees and ended up stealing thousands of pounds from her relative’s bank account.
The callous fraud was uncovered after the care home payments could not be met and local authority officials launched an investigation.
Sinclair, of Granton, Edinburgh, appeared at the Capital’s sheriff court last February and pleaded guilty to embezzling £71,425.63 from Ms Sutherland between 2017 and 2019. The dental worker escaped a jail sentence and was ordered to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work and was electronically tagged and told to stay within her home between 8pm and 7am for four months. Sinclair was also ordered to pay a compensation order of £300 per month for the next five years.
Sinclair worked at a local dental practice at the time and her case was referred to the General Dental Council (GDC) professional conduct committee. Following a recent hearing, Sinclair, also known as Kerry Smith, has now been banned from working in the dental profession.
In its written ruling, the GDC said: “Miss Smith was convicted of an offence involving deception and her actions were a fundamental breach of trust in the context of a caring relationship. The Committee found that Miss Smith had breached standards which require registrants to justify the trust placed in them by always acting honestly and fairly and to avoid bringing the reputation of the profession into disrepute.
“Her behaviour in relation to her conviction and her failure to immediately notify the GDC of the criminal proceedings against her have breached the fundamental tenets of honesty and integrity. Miss Smith has shown little insight into her behaviour, and her conduct was a serious departure from the standards expected of dental professionals. Given these reasons, the Committee concluded that Miss Smith’s behaviour was so egregious that it was fundamentally incompatible with being a dental professional.”
Sinclair failed to turn up to the disciplinary hearing and did not submit any evidence to it. Last year, Edinburgh Sheriff Court was told Mrs Sutherland was moved to a care home in June 2017 and was deemed to have “sufficient funds” to pay the required fees herself. But by May 2018, the court heard there were “no longer sufficient funds” to meet the OAP’s care costs and her home needed to be sold.
The sale of the property raised £155,000 but Sinclair, a mother-of three, contacted City of Edinburgh Council to say her aunt didn’t have the money to continue paying for her care. An Edinburgh City Council investigation subsequently found a shortfall of more than £75,000 in Mrs Sutherland’s finances. Mrs Sutherland died aged 72 in December 2021 after her care home fees were met by the local authority.
Lawyer Emma Martin, defending, said her client was “extremely ashamed” at stealing the cash and had used the funds to pay for living expenses and not for luxury items. Sheriff Wendy Sheehan noted Sinclair had undersold Mrs Sutherland’s home “for a quick sale” and had used some of the proceeds to pay for her own mother’s funeral.
The sheriff said Sinclair had “genuinely cared for her aunt” and acknowledged this was her first offence and she had “a glowing reference” from her employer.
Sheriff Sheehan added: “This is, as you will gather, a serious offence involving a great deal of money. It is not a victimless crime because the sum would have ultimately been paid to the care home. You have taken responsibility for this offence at the earliest possible opportunity. I am narrowly persuaded to consider a direct alternative to custody. Sinclair pleaded guilty to embezzling £71,425.63 between November 9 2017 and May 5 2019.