A SON who moved tens of thousands of pounds out of his elderly mother's account so she would be eligible for council support has been spared a prison sentence.

James Watts, of Lymington Road in Highcliffe, called Dorset County Council in July 2014 to see if funding was available so that mother Dorothy could be moved into a care home.

Asked to provide the details of the capital in her bank accounts, Watts said Mrs Watts had some £54,213.

As a result, he was told his mother was not eligible for support, and must pay the full amount for care. The threshold for council funding is £23,250.

In December of that year, Watts told the council his mother had fallen some way below the threshold.

A financial assessment was carried out on December 22. It was found that the amount Mrs Watts had in her three accounts had dropped by around £40,000 in just five months.

In March 2015, Mrs Watts moved into a care home and Watts was asked to account for the missing money. He was not able to account for £23,953 of the amount, and council officials took legal action against him.

Mrs Watts died in November 2015.

Watts appeared at Bournemouth Crown Court for sentence after admitting a single count of fraud by false representation involving a final figure of £20,000.

Nick Robinson, prosecuting, said the case concerns a "deliberate depletion of assets over a six-month period."

"[Mrs Watts] had in excess of £50,000 when [Watts] first called the local council enquiring about funding through the public purse for her care," Mr Robinson said.

"She was refused funding on the basis that her assets exceeded the required amount.

"The defendant then deliberately depleted her assets with a view to the point that she would then become eligible for assistance."

The prosecutor accepted Watts was "confronted with an extremely challenging and upsetting situation".

"His mother was very ill," Mr Robinson said.

Watts, now 66, admitted the charge against him on the basis that his mother had authorised the withdrawals. He felt unable to provide the level of care she needed, it was heard.

Mr Robinson said the money had been "dissipated" for the benefit of Mrs Watts' family.

Timothy Bradbury, mitigating, said the defendant was made redundant from his job at Beaulieu in May 2014 - two months before his first call to the council.

"He has no justification, no excuse," Mr Bradbury said.

"[He] was in an extremely difficult period of his life."

Watts, who was living alone at the time of the offence, suffers with depression, for which he is obtaining treatment, it was heard.

"He felt very much overborne by concern for his mother and her future," Mr Bradbury said.

"He had the awful experience any adult has when they see a parent falling into decline of just watching it happen."

Watts was sentenced to seven months in prison suspended for 12 months. He must also complete 80 hours of unpaid work in the next 12 months.

A hearing to discuss compensation and costs will take place next month.

A second charge of fraud was not proceeded with, and will lie on file.