An Edinburgh-based advocate has been found guilty of defrauding the Scottish Legal Aid Board of almost £12,000, after a ten-day trial at the Edinburgh Sheriff Court, reports the BBC.
Mark Strachan, who is 55, was told by the sheriff in charge of his trial that he should face up to the prospect of a custodial sentence, after a jury found him guilty of falsely obtaining travel allowances and mileage expenses from the Scottish Legal Aid Board during a period from March 2006 to November 2010.
Mr Strachan was found guilty of falsely claiming £11,663. The court heard that he often charged the Board the maximum amount for travel expenses, but charged them for each client, even if he only made one journey to see several clients.
The court also heard that instead of making the journey back to his home, for which he claimed the mileage allowance, he frequently stayed with his wife in their property near Aberdeen.
Mr Strachan’s guilt was compounded as he denied staying with his wife on the occasions cited by the prosecution.
Although Mr Strachan has no previous convictions, the sheriff told him that he had been found guilty of a serious and significant fraud, and warned him that his position as an advocate meant he was in a ‘special position’ of trust that he had abused.
“The court has to consider not only the scale and nature of the crime, but also the issue of a breach of trust, because as an advocate you are in a special position,” the sheriff told Mr Strachan.
The court will sentence him on 14 March, after receiving reports.
Speaking before granting Mr Strachan bail, the sheriff told him to prepare himself for the possibility of a prison sentence.
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