A 63-year-old resident of sheltered housing in Skipton has been given a suspended prison sentence for stealing a handbag from her elderly neighbour.

Patricia Emmott took the bag as her 91-year-old neighbour was being attended to by ambulance staff during the early hours of June 29, Skipton magistrates heard.

But one of the paramedics saw Emmott had hidden the bag under her nightclothes and challenged her.

The police were called and following a search, the bag was found hidden in a wardrobe in Emmott’s flat.

Prosecuting, Hilary Reece said Emmott had originally denied theft, but changed her plea on the basis she had only lied because she panicked.

She claimed she had only taken the bag for safe keeping, but magistrates, following a Newton hearing to establish the facts, refused to accept this found her guilty of intent.

In mitigation, Keith Blackwell said Emmott, who had only recently moved into the Greatwood Close complex, was a woman of previous good character and was full of remorse and devastated about what she had done.

He said: “The saddest thing, apart from what happened to this 91-year-old lady, is that this woman who gets to 63 having never been before a court, ends up with a conviction for theft.”

Magistrates said it had been a very nasty incident and only a custodial sentence would be appropriate.

She was sentenced to four months, suspended for a year. She will be fitted with an electronic tag and given a three month curfew to operate from 7pm to 7am every day, except Wednesdays.

Magistrates also imposed a prohibited activity order banning her from approaching any other residents of the Greatwood complex, entering the property of any of the residents and in addition, a separate restraining order stopping her from contacting her victim in any way, including electronically.

Emmott will also have to pay £150 compensation to the victim and £150 costs.