Family fight to change justice system after £30,000 ‘theft’ from aunt with dementia

THE furious family of a Largs pensioner who had £30,000 ‘stolen’ from her bank wants to see new laws to speed up criminal cases where alleged victims have dementia.

Fergus Leckie, 63, and his wife, Moira, 61, have written to Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon calling on him to intervene in their campaign to overhaul the court process to allow prosecutions to take priority.

Fergus’ aunt, 85, who suffers from vascular dementia and still lives in the city, has been ruled ‘likely’ unfit to provide reliable evidence against the alleged thief after a series of hold-ups delayed the ‘case. come to trial.

It took a five-month police investigation before a local woman was even charged, but the case was later dropped due to what was seen as the fragile OAP’s deteriorating health over another 18 months of delay.

The couple say they were frustrated by the “lack of justice”.

Moira said: “In May 2018 the missing money was discovered, quite by chance after my husband’s aunt asked her about his bank statement.

“He noticed a check transaction for £700 along with several Cashline withdrawals.

“He asked if she had written a check for £700 but she couldn’t remember having done so.”

Fergus had permission from his aunt and son to use the card to buy his aunt’s groceries and pay handymen for any work on her house – but did not know who carried out the mysterious transactions.

Police were called and officers discovered that more than £30,000 had been withdrawn from the pensioner’s account after a period of months.

A woman from Largs was later charged with theft and a trial date was set at Kilmarnock Sheriff’s Court for January 2020, but this was later delayed.

The court date was later changed five more times, leading the family to file a formal complaint in January 2021. They were later shocked to learn that the case was dropped.

The family discovered that the tax office had written to their aunt’s GP in November 2019 as they wanted to use their aunt’s original police statement as evidence.

Moira continued: “The GP replied that her aunt ‘probably’ did not have the capacity to make the statement in May 2018

“There doesn’t appear to have been any other medical people consulted, for example a dementia expert, rather than a GP who rarely saw our aunt.

“This decision was made by a GP retrospectively 18 months after the police statement.

“This decision put an end to the whole case. The tax authorities said that they could not prove that the money had been taken without authorization because only our aunt could declare it, and since they could not use the declaration of police, they didn’t have enough information to proceed.

“There is no justice in what happened. The person who appeared in court had my aunt’s trust and because of failings elsewhere, she simply will not be tried.”

The family are now demanding changes to the court system where cases involving memory impairment or dementia are given priority.

Moira said: “We have tried everything – we have written to Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Minister for Justice about the situation.

“We are very upset and angry about what happened and we don’t want to see another family go through the same thing.

“One of the things that I can’t understand is – as the tax prosecutor says – that they have to be able to prove that the money was taken without permission and that because of the capacity issue, that not possible.

“But if someone doesn’t have the capacity to make a statement to the police, how can they have the capacity to authorize the withdrawal of money from their account?

“We fear this is the tip of the iceberg with cases like this. By expediting similar proceedings in the future, we hope that something like our situation will never happen again.”