A council electrician who preyed on elderly and vulnerable people in a way which “violated their privacy and security” avoided being sent to prison when he appeared for sentencing at Lerwick Sheriff Court on Wednesday.
Instead Stewart Robertson, 45, was sentenced to two years’ probation and 300 hours of community service. He will also have to pay compensation of almost £1,000 to his victims within four weeks and will be subject to a restriction of liberty order for three weeks.
Robertson, of Willial, Levenwick, had previously appeared in court on 15 charges of dishonesty. The court heard that Robertson had stolen a total of £990 from the houses of older people and those in sheltered housing in Lerwick, Aith and Dunrossness between 12th February and 4th May. He also attempted to steal from houses in Lerwick, Walls and Aith in the same period.
Robertson had gained entry during the daytime, arriving at the houses he had targeted wearing his yellow fluorescent working jacket and on some occasions with his SIC van. He also had photographic ID of himself, although many of the householders did not ask for it.
At the properties of his victims, who ranged in age from 61 to 93, some with learning disabilities, he said he had come to check the heating system and electrical appliances. In some houses Robertson went through every room, taking about 30 minutes. He stole amounts of money ranging from £170 to £420 secreted in handbags and bedside cabinets – in one case stealing from a woman as she lay in bed awaiting the district nurse.
In some properties he was followed around by the householder, and in these cases he left after carrying out “cursory checks” for around 10 minutes.
At one scheme of sheltered houses the warden became suspicious when Robertson said he had come to check the smoke alarms, and she phoned SIC. It emerged Robertson was off sick and no checks had been scheduled.
In Aith two householders noticed Robertson had a sheet of paper with names and addresses on it.
He was detained on 4th May after various complaints to the police. When interviewed on tape he “steadfastly denied” he had committed the offences. Then he gradually admitted some of them.
Procurator fiscal Duncan MacKenzie said it was hard to convey the impact of the offences on the elderly and infirm who could no longer enjoy the feeling of security inside their homes.
Defence solicitor Tommy Allan said the offences were “bizarre” as Robertson, who has no previous convictions, had made no attempt to disguise himself.
Sheriff Graeme Napier said that was because he thought the victims would not notice the thefts.
Mr Allan said Robertson had been off work with a skin complaint and depression “on a regular basis”. His life was spiralling out of control and the consequence of the offences was that he would lose his job. Robertson, who is currently suspended, does not expect to get his job back.
He also said that Robertson was so ashamed he could not look at himself in the mirror and could not face the community. He had drafted letters of apology to his victims and intended to make restitution.
The sheriff said Robertson’s offences were an “enormous breach of trust” which had had a “dreadful impact” on the victims. People rely on SIC employees to be trustworthy, he said, and he would have been justified in sending Robertson to prison.