A taxi driver who stole €75,000 from the bank account of an elderly customer with dementia has been jailed for two years.

Trevor Walsh, 53, used Pamela O'Brien's bank card and forged her signature on bank documents to steal the money.

Mrs O'Brien had used the taxi driver to take her to the shops and later run errands for her, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard.

The court was told that the 83-year-old victim has dementia and is now in a nursing home.

The thefts came to light when two friends of Mrs O'Brien helped her to look at her bank statements and noticed a number of unusual transactions.

Walsh, of Rochdale, Honey Park, Kill Avenue, Dún Laoghaire, went with Mrs O'Brien to PTSB  bank to set up a second bank account. 

He then forged documents to authorise the transfer of monies from her old EBS account to this new one.

He used the account to pay a number of utility bills and used Mrs O'Brien's bank cards to make cash withdrawals of up to €500.

Walsh also forged a letter to direct the bank not to send bank statements to Mrs O'Brien's home. Judge Pauline Codd said this showed a level of deviousness and calculation.

Walsh admitted five sample counts, from a total of 21 charges that span a 21 month period up to September 2015. 

The charges include theft of €500 at the PTSB on Georges Street, Dublin, theft of €733 at the Credit Union in Ballybrack, Dublin, and stealing €160 at Sallynoggin Post Office, Dublin.

Detective Garda Richard Redden told the court that the total amount taken in the 21 months was €75,000.

Judge Codd said the elderly and vulnerable had to protected. Walsh knew Mrs O'Brien relied on him and his crimes were a significant breach of trust, she said.

She suspended the last year of a three-year prison term on condition that Walsh attend alcohol addiction programmes under The Probation Service.

Dt Gda Redden told the court that on 9 September 2015 he went to the EBS in Dalkey and met Mrs O'Brien.

He said she was confused and distressed and he learned she was suffering from the early symptoms of dementia.

Walsh was identified on CCTV withdrawing the cash from her account. Det Gda Redden told the court that Walsh was a taxi driver who Mrs O'Brien had used to take her to the shops and elsewhere.

She had first availed of his service by simply calling the local taxi firm and later began ringing him directly.

Later again, he began running errands for her and these included using her bank card to buy groceries.

When arrested, Walsh admitted the thefts and said he had a drinking problem. He said he had used the bank account to make small day-to-day purchases and was shocked at the total amount taken.

Kieran Kelly BL, defending, said his client is a married father whose wife and children were in court to support him. He said he is a working man with no previous convictions and he asked the court to give him an opportunity to pay the money back.

Walsh brought €4,000 to court to give to the victim, who was not present. Counsel said his client has significant health problems and has been unable to work of late because of stress about this sentencing hanging over him.

Judge Codd asked counsel what was the point in adjourning it to give him time to make more payments if Walsh was unable to work.

She noted that Walsh was previously a man of good character and testimonials described him as a kind, caring person and a trustworthy employee.

Judge Codd said his relationship with the victim had no doubt started out positively with him assisting her. She said he later fell into temptation while battling with alcoholism and noted he is now sorry for his actions.

Det Gda Redden told the court that there has been no recompense from the banks involved to the victim. Walsh and members of his family sobbed in court as the jail term was handed down.