A former student who systematically stole from and defrauded his visually impaired best friend in a “vile and atrocious breach of trust” has been spared jail.
Arron Bairstow, 24, from Malton, would regularly visit Robert Cooper to watch football on TV but was secretly taking his bank card to withdraw cash, York Crown Court heard.
Prosecutor Kelly Clark said Bairstow made various trips to a local convenience store and other locations to withdraw various amounts on 12 separate occasions between October and November last year. The fraud also included the purchase of goods on one occasion.
The total loss to the victim amounted to £1,830, but the psychological toll was profound, added Ms Clark.
Bairstow befriended Mr Cooper – who was “severely” visually impaired and had a carer – in 2021 and they regularly met up to watch football.
But on November 11, Mr Cooper, also from Malton, discovered that a large sum of money had gone missing from his bank account.
The victim, with the help of his assistant, informed police who launched an investigation which laid bare Bairstow’s shocking betrayal of his friend.
“On 12 separate occasion the defendant attended the victim’s address and took his bank card,” said Ms Clark.
Bairstow would “excuse himself” and go to the nearby McColl’s convenience store where he would withdraw money from the victim’s account from an external cash machine.
“He would then return to the victim’s address and replace the bank card,” added Ms Clark.
Bairstow, of Birch Avenue, handed himself in to police and owned up immediately.
“He was remorseful and said he was in a bad state due to alcohol and drug problems,” said the prosecuting barrister.
Bairstow was charged with 12 counts of fraud and the same number of thefts. He admitted all the offences and initially appeared for sentence in May when judge Sean Morris deferred sentence for six months to give him a chance to avoid jail by finding a job and paying back the full amount to Mr Cooper.
Bairstow appeared for sentence today when Ms Clark said had now paid back the full amount to the victim and had found a full-time job.
Mr Cooper, who was in court for the sentence, said he was “really angry” at his former best friend for routinely stealing from him, particularly as he had disabilities.
“I had previously voluntarily lent him money when he was in a difficult place and he was struggling to pay bills,” he added.
He said that Bairstow had “clearly taken advantage” of him and would make excuses to visit him, pretending to be concerned for his welfare, only to steal “vast amounts”.
He said it was clear that Bairstow had seen him as an “easy target” due to his visual impairment and had “no regard for my wellbeing or personal situation”.
He said he had now become “more reclusive” and had struggled to pay bills and his rent due to the thefts.
‘Disastrous wrong turn’
Defence barrister Eleanor Durdy said that Bairstow, who was educated to degree level, had never been in trouble before but found himself unemployed at the time of the offences after taking a “very disastrous wrong turn in his life”.
She said that Bairstow, who was about to become a father, had been clean of drugs since Christmas last year had reduced his alcohol intake.
Judge Mr Morris, the Recorder of York, described the thefts as “vile, nasty (and) an absolutely atrocious breach of trust”.
He said that Bairstow had “fleeced his best friend for drugs”.
He added, however, that Bairstow had acted out of character due to drugs and that he was “genuinely remorseful and felt shame”.
He said that because of Bairstow’s contrition, lack of previous convictions and the fact he had paid all the money back and found a job, he could suspend the inevitable prison sentence.
Bairstow was given a six-month jail sentence, but this was suspended for a year.
In addition to the money Bairstow had repaid, he was ordered to pay Mr Cooper £300 compensation “for the hurt you have caused”.