A Kenilworth man is campaigning for a change in the law after his late mother, who suffered from dementia, was swindled out of her life savings by her best friend.
Nick Lewis, a management consultant, wrote to Kenilworth and Southam MP Jeremy Wright after the finances of his mother, Barbara, ended up being controlled by her friend Margaret Rigby through power of attorney, enabling a person’s wealth to be controlled by someone else during a period of ill health.
Rigby, from Kent, who was friends with Mrs Lewis for 40 years, abused this power for her and her family’s financial gain.
She was granted power of attorney in 2003, and moved Mrs Lewis down to a care home in Kent, 200 miles away from Mr Lewis, her only son.
During this time, Rigby used Mrs Lewis’s money to purchase lavish gifts including a trip to America, tickets to a Take That concert, two cars and a caravan.
Upon Mrs Lewis’s death in 2011, her life savings had fallen from £242,000 to £96,000 as a result of Rigby’s spending.
While my vulnerable mum was suffering from dementia in a nursing home, these three individuals were 200 miles away withdrawing cash from her bank account.Nick Lewis
Rigby was still spending Mrs Lewis’s money after her death and on the day of her funeral.
Mr Lewis underwent a 12-year battle to bring his mother’s friend to justice after the extent of Rigby’s spending was revealed when Mrs Lewis’s last will and testament was read out.
Appearing before Canterbury Crown Court, Rigby, 80, received a two-year sentence suspended for 18 months after being found guilty of fraud. The judge commented that had Rigby been younger and fitter, he would have sent her straight to prison.
In addition to Rigby’s sentence, her daughter Jayne Macdonald was found guilty for two counts of acquiring criminal property, and Jayne’s husband Allan was guilty of one count of the same offence.
He said: “While my vulnerable mum was suffering from dementia in a nursing home, these three individuals were 200 miles away withdrawing cash from her bank account, paying off credit card bills and using her debit card to spend her money on everything from cars and holidays to supermarket shopping and home improvements, and even university fees for their granddaughter.
“This was never about money, and I do not stand to financially benefit from this. It’s been extremely stressful and time-consuming as well as costing a lot of money in legal fees, and I’ve had to take time out of my career to fight this case.”
As a result of his ordeal, Mr Lewis wrote to Mr Wright, who is also the Attorney General for England and Wales, campaigning for a change in the law.
Mr Wright has spoken to Justice Minister Caroline Dinage with a view to uphold Mr Lewis’s wishes to change the law.
Mr Lewis proposes that laws governing the writing of last will and testaments, where ‘executors’ make sure the person’s wishes are adhered to, should also be applied to someone getting power of attorney over another person’s finances.
He added: “I don’t think the sentences represent a true punishment or deterrent but perhaps the law changes I’ve proposed can ensure other people in the future can avoid such a painful experience.”