A SELF-EMPLOYED electrician who defrauded a vulnerable woman out of £14,000 from her partner’s will has been given a 26-week prison sentence suspended for a year.

Darren Barker, of Hallbridge Gardens, Bolton, pleaded guilty to two charges of fraud and theft at Bolton Magistrates Court yesterday.

The court heard how Barker had befriended Jean Horrocks between June, 2016 and February, 2017 before convincing her to part with the money to start a new business venture.

After she handed over £12,000 to help buy a camper van for the new business, Barker also persuaded her to fork out another £2,000 which he said was for ‘insurance’.

As well as being made to pay back the full £14,000 to his victim, the 38-year-old was ordered to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work and pay £85 in costs.

Magistrate Joyce Armistead said: “You targeted a vulnerable victim and lied to her throughout the time you knew her. This was a serious breach of her trust.

“I am giving you credit for pleading guilty at your first attempt and therefore give you a suspended prison sentence.

“Keeping you out of custody will also allow you to stay in employment and therefore have the chance to pay back everything that you owe.”

The court heard how Barker and Ms Horrocks had become friends after she had employed him to undertake work at her home.

This then led to the couple agreeing to finance a camper van business together, with both parties putting in £12,000 each to buy the vehicle. However, after Ms Horrocks had paid her half, Barker later persuaded her to pay him another £2.000 for what he said were for ‘insurance purposes.’

The defence explained that Barker did go ahead and purchase a camper van from eBay, but that he had never seen it in person.

Once the camper van arrived in a terrible condition and was almost unroadworthy, he panicked.

This led him with a large hole to fill and so he mentally ‘ran away’, according to the defence.

After that he became increasingly distant with Ms Horrocks to the point where he would not even answer her calls any more.

Barker accepted culpability for his actions stating that he ‘wanted to face reality’ so that Ms Horrocks was not left ‘high and dry.’

A statement read out in court from Ms Horrocks said that she felt ‘hurt’ by Barker’s actions.

The statement read: “I now do not believe that he ever wanted to go into business with me.

“I entrusted him but I feel hurt as in the end he was just a conman.That money was left for me from my partner in his will so I feel really bad.”

Barker was ordered to pay back a minimum of £200 per month until the full compensation had been repaid to Ms Horrocks.