by Gopalan on  September 7, 2008 at 10:09 AM Medico Legal News
 British Nurse Steals £5,000 from Patients, but Escapes Prison as She is Mentally Ill
Sister of Sugababes singer Amelle Berrabah and a nurse, Zakiya Berrabah, stole thousands of pounds from hospital patients, but escaped prison as judge found her mentally ill.

The 35-year-old woman took cash, bank cards and store cards and spent some £5,000 on clothes, shoes and other items.

She claimed that 'little men' in her head told her to do it. She was on medication for bipolar disorder and episodes of mania, a British court was told.

Berrabah was working as an agency nurse at the Royal Surrey County hospital in Guildford when she targeted patients and their visitors, as well as another nurse.

At Guildford Crown Court she admitted three counts of theft, and two of obtaining property by deception. She was given a three-year community order with a supervision requirement by the judge Friday.

During the hearing, Berrabeh claimed she was having a panic attack. She collapsed in the dock and begged for a glass of water, holding up the hearing by 10 minutes while she regained her composure.

Brian Stork, for the prosecution, told how she stole money and a House of Fraser store card from hospital patient Gillian Thompson before going shopping.

Then, in November 2006, she stole £100 and 83 U.S. dollars from Dianne Gore, whose husband was being treated at the hospital.

Later that day, she stole another House of Fraser store card from a colleague.

In her defence, Louise D'Arcy described how her client was mentally unstable at the time of the offences.

'It's not who it is she takes money from, it's the fantasy of spending it. She has told doctors about the 'little people in the box' talking in her head', she said.

Judge Peter Moss ruled out prison because of the defendant's state of mind but said he could 'hardly imagine more serious versions of stealing.'

'You were employed in a hospital and abused that position of trust. Not only did you steal from nurses, but also patients,' he said.

'In any other circumstances, you would be given an immediate custodial sentence. You are a lady who is suffering, aged 35 years, with a severe mental disorder - you have been treated as an in-patient who is diagnosed withe bi-polar disorder and you are very clearly unwell.

Her younger sister, Amelle, 24, - the newest member of the Sugababes - has also allegedly been found on the wrong side of the law.

In April 2007  the singer spent the night in a police station after being arrested for an assault on an 18-year-old on a dancefloor at Bar Med in Guildford, Surrey, Daily Mail reports.

She was also arrested in January this year on suspicion of smashing up a car in her home town of Aldershot but later released without charge.

Source: Medindia

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