A divorced couple have been jailed after they stole almost £500,000 from their severely brain damaged daughter's £2.6 million compensation fund, to finance their “greed and indulgence”.
Judge Jacqueline Davies told Doncaster Crown Court that the pair bought more than a dozen top-of-the-range cars, including luxury BMWs and Mercedes, as well as spending thousands of pounds on jewellery, ornaments, and cosmetic surgery.
The mother, 44-year-old Cathy Watson of Holly Mews, Grimsby, bought a Mini Cooper with her daughter’s money, which she had re-sprayed and reupholstered pink, and finished with the personalised number plate: “X66 MUM”.
She also spent £12,000 on cosmetic surgery and started a business called Cathy's Wedding Bliss which “failed miserably,” according to the judge.
50-year-old Robert Hills of Heron Gate, Scunthorpe, who adopted Samantha Svendsen when he married Ms Watson, told police "We just spent and spent and spent."
The compensation was awarded to their 29-year-old daughter who suffers from cerebral palsy and needs round-the-clock care after suffering brain damage due to medical negligence at her birth.
Judge Davies said: ”There are many parents who have to look after disabled children.
“The majority do so without the sums of money that were awarded to your daughter to help with her care. They do so out of love.”
The initial medical negligence pay-out included a direct payment of £270,000 to Watson for expenses she had already incurred, as well as a £4,000-a-month income for the family.
The rest of the money, the Judge said, was supposed to be invested to provide a secure income for Miss Svendsen for the rest of her life.
The Judge added that for about five years the couple, who divorced in 2004 after 14 years of marriage, were spending about £117,000 a year.
The judge said that partly as a result of her parents' actions, Miss Svendsen's fund was now extremely depleted and only £150,000 remained.
Judge Davies said the total amount of money stolen by the pair from their daughter was just over £450,000.
She was particularly scathing of the £31,000 in cash Watson took out of a bank account when she “knew the game was up”.
Ms Watson was sentenced five and a half years in prison, and her ex-husband for three years and four months.