A SEX-change lawyer who took advantage of an elderly client to embezzle nearly (pounds) 100,000 was jailed for three years yesterday.

The sentence was the second jail term to be imposed on Alexandra MacRae, formerly known as Stephen Rae, for abusing the trust of her clients while practising as a solicitor.

MacRae, 60, who was struck off four years ago, was once a rugby prop forward and stood four times as a parliamentary candidate for the SNP - thrice as a man and once as a woman.

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When she was sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment at Dundee Sheriff Court in August 1998, MacRae, of Abbey Walk, St Andrews, became the first biological male in the UK to be jailed alongside women.

The former lawyer and director of administration with Western Isles Islands Council, who had a sex change operation in 1984, was sent to a special female unit at Craiginches prison in Aberdeen after she admitted embezzling (pounds) 16,634 while practising as a solicitor in Dundee.

MacRae, who was once married to a Ghanaian woman he had met working as a student doing voluntary service in Africa, had earlier disappeared for three months and considered suicide because she could not cope with her guilt over the fraud.

Yesterday, at the High Court in Edinburgh, MacRae admitted embezzling (pounds) 99,900 from the estate of an elderly woman between July 1990 and March 1997 while she was acting with a power of attorney when the client was in a nursing home. Robert McCreadie, advocate-depute, told the court MacRae had acted as a solicitor for George and Sarah Hume, a childless couple, now both dead.

In June 1989, Mr Hume had to go into Bangour Hospital, West Lothian, and Mrs Hume also had to be taken into care because she could not cope with living alone.

She signed a power of attorney in favour of MacRae, giving the lawyer authority to deal with her financial affairs.

Mrs Hume died in February 1993. In the terms of her will, MacRae was appointed executrix.

Meantime, Mrs Hume's sister had died, leaving a large number of shareholdings valued at almost (pounds) 153,000. Shares were sold and the money transferred into bank and building society accounts held by the lawyer.

Mr McCreadie said the sale of the shares was carried out through the use of the power of attorney granted to MacRae by Mrs Hume.

''The sale also involved an assignation of shares by Mrs Hume to the accused which purported to be granted by Mrs Hume for no consideration to her niece, Alexandra Macrae. The accused is not the niece of Mrs Hume.''

The advocate-depute said matters came to light after Mr Hume died in 1993 without leaving a will.

His grand-nephew became increasingly concerned about MacRae's management of the estate.

The Law Society began an investigation into the estates of Mr and Mrs Hume and the embezzlement came to light.

Charles Boag-Thomson, QC, defence counsel, said that the offence was a regrettable breach of trust on MacRae's part.

''In embarking upon legal practice as a sole practitioner, she accepts that she lacked the financial acumen to carry on such a practice and found herself in financial difficulties,'' he said. ''She found herself increasingly in debt.''

MacRae's previous conviction had followed a similar pattern - namely her inability to run a legal practice on her own and to retain proper financial control over the operation.

Mr Boag-Thomson added: ''She has effectively lost everything as a result of her behaviour. She was declared bankrupt in 1998, she has lost her practising certificate and will never practise again as a solicitor.''

The defence counsel produced a number of references which commended MacRae's good work with ethnic minorities, both in England and in Dundee.

Referring to her last prison sentence, Mr Boag-Thomson added: ''In the personal circumstances of Miss MacRae, that proved to be a somewhat traumatic experience for her.

''Given her background, any prison sentence could be a very difficult time for her.''

Lord Carloway told MacRae that solicitors were in a unique position as a profession to which members of the public entrusted large sums of money, notably for the ingathering and distribution of estates of people who had died.

''Where embezzlement on this scale has occurred,'' he said, ''a sentence of imprisonment is almost inevitable.''