A MAN drained the near £31,000 savings of his sister, who has learning difficulties, to meet gambling and loan shark debts, a court heard.

Paul Dixon was supposed to oversee the financial incomings and outgoings, plus correspondence for his sister, who has a low IQ and lives in supported accommodation after suffering two strokes.

But Durham Crown Court was told he used her debit card to make regular withdrawals for his own benefit from her Post Office account.

Peter Sabiston, prosecuting, said at one stage Dixon closed that account and transferred it to his own NatWest bank account, so her £373 fortnightly income was paid straight to him.

When the last cash was taken a bank statement was sent to her, in June 2017, in which she was effectively told she was virtually penniless.

One of her care team told the court, in a victim statement, that she recalled the confused reaction of Dixon’s sister when it was explained to her, was to say: “So, I’ve got no money.”

After matters were reported to police, Dixon attended for an arranged interview in December 2017, in which he accepted taking the money.

Dixon explained he took over responsibility of his sister’s finances with the agreement of her, social services and the home.

He would pay her bills and provide her with cash but conceded he would “borrow” money for his gambling, taking £100 at a time, but one withdrawal was £900, although he said he intended to pay it back.

Mr Sabiston said in a further interview Dixon said he took money to repay a loan shark after losing his job as a car valeter and offered to pay back £56 a month.

Dixon, 56, of Tenth Street, Blackhall Colliery, attended the court, sitting in Newcastle, and admitted a charge of theft of £30,994, between December 2016 and September 2017.

The court was told he has ten convictions for 31 offences, one for theft from an employer, in 1991, but the most recent dates back at least 15 years.

Paul Cleasby, mitigating, referred to a pre-sentence Probation Service report prepared for the court.

Mr Cleasby said: “He’s a man with difficulties of his own, but some of which are of his own making.”

Judge James Adkin said: “This was a mean offence and a breach of trust.

“But he’s not a man with a long criminal record and he doesn’t represent a risk.

“The case is not quite in the bracket where it demands an immediate custodial sentence.”

He passed a 16-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, with a six-month 7pm to 7am home curfew.

Dixon must also attend 20 probation supervised rehabilitation activity days.

Asked about compensation, Mr Cleasby said Dixon was not a man of great means but would be able to meet a £100-per-month payment.

Judge Adkin ordered him to pay £5,000 at the rate of £100 each month from June 1.