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Pressure on Scottish Legal Aid Board to stop public funds plunder as media reveals QC under Police investigation in alleged £60,000 legal aid fraud

12 Jul

SLAB_logoScottish Legal Aid Board called in Police over allegations of legal aid irregularities in advocate’s travel expense claims. AS THE PRESSURE MOUNTS on the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) to halt a collective string of abuse of legal aid funds by members of Scotland’s legal profession after the media revealed several recent scandals where solicitors had been let off the hook by SLAB, Lothian & Borders Police have now been called in to investigate allegations of fraud spanning nearly FIVE YEARS concerning some £60,000 in legal aid travel expense claims made by a well known advocate, Mark Strachan QC.

Strachan QC (52) is no stranger to publicity. He hit the headlines in 2006 when he was charged with allegedly flashing at a 13 year old boy in the McArthur Glen designer outlet in Livingston, West Lothian. The Crown Office dropped the proceedings against Mr Strachan, who is attached to the same stable as Donald Findlay QC, after it was claimed “new evidence” emerged in the case.

BBC News reported Strachan recently represented Ranald Matheson (69) of Muir of Ord who was jailed for four years for indecency offences against six young girls. During the case, Defence counsel Mark Strachan said Matheson denied any wrongdoing and that his client “had diagnosed with prostate cancer after surviving two previous bouts of cancer.”. However I’m sure most people’s thoughts were with the victims, not the convicted abuser.

The Daily Record reports :

Lawyer in 60K legal aid fraud quiz Daily Record 11 July 2011Lawyer in £60,000 Legal Aid fraud quiz

Cops probe travel claims Daily Record Date 11/07/2011 By David Taylor

A LEADING criminal lawyer is being probed by police over an alleged Legal Aid fraud. Advocate Mark Strachan, 52, is alleged to have swindled more than £60,000 in travel expense claims from the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB).

It is claimed he visited a number of clients in the Aberdeen area in the same day – but then claimed he made several trips to the city to cash in on extra petrol money. The fraud is alleged to have been going on for the past four or five years. And Strachan, of Linlithgow, West Lothian, is accused of making regular false claims. Last month, SLAB officials called in Lothian and Borders Police to probe the situation.

Strachan, who specialises in criminal trials and carries out work at the Court of Criminal Appeal, made £91,600 from legal aid work last year, £79,800 in 2008-9 and £102,700 the year before that.

A legal source said last night: “Strachan clearly thought he was above the law and didn’t have to adhere to the same rules as everyone else. He has apparently been making the claims for years which the Scottish Legal Aid Board believe to have been fraudulent. They have passed the information on to the police.”

Having studied and practised law as a solicitor in Aberdeen, Strachan became an advocate in 2004.

A spokesman for the Faculty of Advocates said: “It would be inappropriate to comment at this time.”

A Lothian and Borders police spokesman said: “An investigation is taking place.”

No one from SLAB was available for comment.

The Daily Record report of an earlier incident involving Mr Strachan :

Lawyer accused of flashing at boy, 13 -  Daily Record April 13 2006LAWYER ‘FLASHED’ AT BOY OF 13 IN OUTLET CENTRE

Married advocate could face jail over toilet allegations

Apr 13 2006 By Derek Alexander

A SENIOR lawyer has been accused of exposing himself to a 13-year-old boy in a shopping centre toilet.Married advocate Mark Strachan, 47, appeared in court this week charged with committing an indecent act. He could face a jail sentence if convicted.

It is understood Strachan is still working in the courts despite the sex allegation. His lawyer, Iain Smith, said last night: “My client denies the charge against him.”Police were called to the McArthur Glen designer outlet in Livingston, West Lothian after the alleged incident in a public toilet on the afternoon of February 13.

Strachan appeared at Linlithgow Sheriff Court on Tuesday, charged with lewd, indecent and libidinous behaviour. He made no plea or declaration and was freed on bail.A legal source said: “He will be very aware of how serious the charges are and the consequences of being found guilty.”

Strachan earned £11,500 from the taxpayer for Legal Aid work last year, but is understood to make significantly more from private clients.He studied law at Aberdeen University in the 1970s before completing his legal diploma. After working as a solicitor in Aberdeen, he became an advocate in 2004.

Strachan’s entry on the website of his professional body, the Faculty of Advocates, says he works in the appeal court, in criminal trials, and in employment and industrial relations cases.The advocate owns a modern flat in Linlithgow, West Lothian, overlooking a loch, after buying the property for £135,000 in 2003. He also has a home in Old Leslie, near Insch, Aberdeenshire.

The legal profession has faced a number of scandals in recent months.In February, Glasgow-based solicitor Angela Baillie admitted smuggling £1600 worth of heroin and valium to a client inside Barlinnie Prison.The 32-year-old solicitor handed a cigarette packet stuffed with drugs to the prisoner in an interview room. Baillie is now understood to be in a drug rehab centre in England.She will be sentenced next week. Prosecutors are also trying to recover a total of £52,000 from her, claiming she made the cash from crime.

Last year, a senior Glasgow prosecutor and a prostitute were charged with public indecency after allegedly indulging in a sex act in the city centre. Procurator fiscal Stuart MacFarlane, 37, and Joanne Crane, 27, were arrested after the alleged incident in Bothwell Street, Glasgow in November.MacFarlane is also said to have resisted arrest.A legal insider said last night: “It’s been a very embarrassing year for us. There seems to be one scandal after another at the moment.”

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