A BROTHER and sister who stole more than £25,000 from their dementia-stricken mother have avoided prison.

Alistair and Janine Gibbs used 79-year-old Betty Gibbs’s bank card to make 229 withdrawals, a judge was told, leaving her with just £140.50 and taxpayers to pick up her care home bill.

The siblings were given suspended sentences at Oxford Crown Court on Friday after admitting one count of theft.

Withdrawals began in August 2011 when Mrs Gibbs was at The Meadows nursing home, Didcot, Michael Roques, prosecuting, told Judge Ian Pringle He said Janine Gibbs, 40, of King Walk, Didcot, told police she started withdrawing money with her mother’s permission, which she spent on her family and paying off debts.

But he said mother-of-nine Mrs Gibbs went into the home because her short-term memory had deteriorated to the point where she could no longer make decisions for herself.

Despite her “vulnerable” position, Alistair Gibbs, 39, of Bowness Avenue, Didcot, also began using her bank card in June 2012, he said.

The theft was discovered in July 2013 when a nursing home worker opened one of Mrs Gibbs' bank statements.

By the time they were arrested, Janine Gibbs had stolen £10,385.82 and her brother £15,900.32.

They even continued to help themselves to their mother’s monthly pension after her savings were gone, leaving her with £140.50 when they were caught.

He added that because no-one notified Oxfordshire County Council of her pension or savings, it had to pay all her care.

Steve Molloy, defending mother-of-one Janine Gibbs, said she had originally intended to pay the money back.

He said: “Her mother was allowing her to use the card initially, and then she got into the habit of dipping into the account with the intention of making repayments.

“It essentially became a habit and she realised in her heart of hearts that this money would not be repaid.”

He said his client, who works at a travel money exchange, was deeply ashamed with how she had treated her mother.

Daniel Wright, defending Alistair Gibbs, said the father-of-two was shocked when he was shown by police how much had been taken and had started paying it back.

Judge Pringle told them they had betrayed the trust of their mother and he hoped they would remember that for the rest of their lives.

He sentenced Janine Gibbs to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years, with 80 hours of unpaid work and six months of supervision.

Her brother received 16 months in prison, suspended for two years, with 240 hours of unpaid work and six months of supervision.

Mr Roques said a confiscation hearing would be held to try to recover some of the stolen money.