Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Advocate Mark Strachan guilty of legal aid fraud

An Edinburgh advocate has been found guilty of defrauding the Scottish Legal Aid Board of £11,663 and attempting to defraud it of another £37,882.

Mark Strachan, 55, was found guilty by majority verdict after a 10-day trial at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

Strachan had denied falsely claiming travel allowances and mileage fees on 341 instances between March 2006 and November 2010.

Sentence was deferred until 14 March for reports and Strachan was bailed.

Mileage allowance

The court heard that Strachan had homes in Aberdeenshire, West Lothian and Edinburgh.

When he was in Aberdeen on business, he would sometimes see a number of people on the same day.

He then charged the board the full fee of £100 travel allowance and £108.80 mileage for a 272-mile return journey to the central belt, at 40p a mile, for each person he saw.

He was entitled to claim only one travel and mileage allowance.

The Crown held that Strachan was not making the return journey to Linlithgow or Edinburgh every trip, as he claimed, but was staying with his wife, Elaine, at their home in Old Leslie, 30 miles from Aberdeen. This was denied by Strachan and her.

Strachan's defence counsel, Brian McConnachie QC, had told the jury his client was no longer practising as an advocate, but was studying for a degree in oil and gas law at Aberdeen University.

'Significant fraud'

Fiscal Depute, Keith O'Mahony, told Sheriff Kenneth Maciver that Strachan had no previous convictions.

He added that the Faculty of Advocates' financial section had repaid £4,509, but nothing more had been received by the board since September 2011.

The Crown, he said, was seeking a confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The sheriff told Strachan it had been a serious and significant fraud.

He added: "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 warned Strachan: "You must prepare yourself for the possibility the court may require custody."

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