Advocate jailed for £50,000 expenses scam

Mark Strachan at court in Edinburgh yesterday.  Picture: Lesley Donald
Mark Strachan at court in Edinburgh yesterday. Picture: Lesley Donald
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n ADVOCATE was yesterday jailed for two years after attempting to steal almost £50,000 from the public purse.

AMark 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 the SLAB checked his claims.

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

Prosecutors said during his trial at Edinburgh Sheriff Court there were many occasions when he had submitted claims for long-distance travel when he had in fact only travelled to Aberdeen from his village home in Insch, Aberdeenshire – a journey of just 28 miles.

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.

Lindsey Miller, procurator fiscal for organised crime and counter-terrorism, said: “Mark Strachan set out to deliberately claim money to which he was not entitled, submitting over a hundred false applications for expenses.

“He now faces two years imprisonment, and the Crown has commenced confiscation proceedings to recover his illegal profits.”

Lindsay Montgomery, CBE, 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.”

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