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Advocate jailed after claiming false expenses

A lawyer has been jailed for two years after attempting to steal almost £50,000 from the public purse.

Advocate Mark Strachan submitted false travel expense claims to the Scottish Legal Aid Board (Slab) over a period of four years.

Solicitors are allowed to claim mileage and a travel allowance from the board if they travel more than 60 miles as part of their work.

Strachan came under suspicion of duplicate charging when senior accounts staff working for Slab checked his claims.

Police were alerted after 137 duplicates were uncovered and 204 cases of claiming for travel not undertaken was detected.

Prosecutors said during his trial at Edinburgh Sheriff Court that there were many occasions when Strachan had submitted long-distance travel claims when he had only travelled to Aberdeen from his home 28 miles away in the Aberdeenshire village of Insch.

Strachan was found guilty of fraud totalling £11,663.80 and attempted fraud totalling £37,882 between March 2006 and November 2010 following the trial last month.

The Crown Office has now begun confiscation proceedings against Strachan and the hearing is due to take place on May 9.

Lindsey Miller, Procurator Fiscal for Organised Crime & Counter Terrorism, said: "Mark Strachan set out to deliberately claim money to which he was not entitled, submitting over one hundred false applications for expenses.

"In doing so he stole or attempted to steal almost £50,000 from the public purse, a crime which we take extremely seriously, particularly in these times of recession.

"The criminal investigation was an excellent example of collaborative working, and the Crown was greatly assisted by the work of Police Scotland and Slab.

"Strachan now faces two years imprisonment, and the Crown has commenced confiscation proceedings to recover his illegal profits."

Lindsay Montgomery, chief executive of the Scottish Legal Aid Board, said the case had taken three years to bring to court.

She said: "The court decided Mr Strachan deliberately tried to defraud the taxpayer by attempting to be paid for journeys he did not make.

"The vast majority of solicitors and members of Faculty act with honesty and integrity.

"However, today's sentencing demonstrates the importance of Slab's efforts to prevent fraud or abuse of the legal aid fund, and the serious consequences for anyone attempting to do so.

"We will now consider what further action may be appropriate in this case."

Contextual targeting label: 
Travel

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