A MAN who was trusted to look after his elderly mother's money took £70,000 to spend on escorts and gambling, a court has heard.

Rupert Clarke was trusted as the power of attorney for his then 89-year-old mother Janet, from Hartley Wintney, who suffers with dementia.

But Winchester Crown Court was told today (April 1) that Clarke transferred "significant" amounts of money out of his mother's account on 61 different occasions.

Mr Franklin, prosecuting, told the court that it happened between January 12 and May 30, 2019.

An investigation was launched by Lloyds Bank, which froze the account, but Clarke “lied” about the money, claiming it was being sent to “female friends” who his mother knew, to help them with car and rent costs, when in fact the recipients were providing him with escort services.

Clarke told the investigator that the payments had stopped, but went on to spend a further £18,200 of his mother’s money on gambling websites in June 2019.

When interviewed, Clarke was “adamant” that the women were “extorting” money from him.

He pleaded not-guilty to the offence at a previous hearing, but was re-arraigned following the production of a psychological report, where he admitted to his guilt.

Mr Franklin labelled the crime an “abuse of power” over a “sustained period of time” and of particularly high culpability due to his mother’s age and mental incapacity.

On admitting guilt, Clark said he was “taken advantage of” by the escorts, who would come to his home to drink and smoke, and had access to his computer, and banking passwords.

In a letter read in court, Clarke said that “not a day goes why when I do not truly regret what has happened”, adding: “I love my mother very much and have looked after her since my dad died 12 years ago. I started drinking a lot, and I had no one to help me.

“I hope I will see my mum again, and get help for me to be a good son.”

Ms Hurley, defending, described her client as “vulnerable”.

She said the psychological report produced described Clarke as “forlorn and hopeless”, and a man who “has attempted to take his own life so many times”.

She said that lack of friendships or bonds had made him “reliant” on calling the emergency services for someone to speak to.

She added: “He should never have been made power of attorney and he has told me that he never wanted that kind of responsibility”.

Ms Hurley reiterated that Clarke was taken advantage of but that he “absolutely accepts that he invited the advantage to be taken and he is guilty.”

She said the “biggest punishment” for him has been not being able to see his mother during bail, who she said misses her son.

“I am not saying it is not a lot of money, but the estate is worth over a million pounds. It has not impacted her, she doesn’t even know about it,” said Ms Hurley.

“She doesn’t understand why she can’t see Rupert.

“There is no going behind how inexcusable his behaviour was, but him being in custody for the last years or months of her life will not resolve it.”

Recorder James Watson QC said it was a “gross abuse of trust” and noted that Clarke had “evaded and lied” during the bank’s questioning.

However, he also took into account the “recurrent depressive disorder” and “escalated alcohol consumption” reported, Clarke’s vulnerability, and the fact he had no previous convictions.

Recorder Watson handed Clarke a sentence of 22 months, suspended for 18 months. He also ordered the completion of 25 rehabilitation activity days and 150 hours of unpaid work.

He made no order for compensation because the amount taken could never realistically be repaid, but urged Clarke to make good on his promises to attempt to make amends and “rebuild any bridges that can be rebuilt with his family after this gross breach of trust and dishonesty.”