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Legal Aid Applicant Sentenced for Fraud


Friday, Jun 23, 2017

A man who falsified his financial details in applications for legal aid has been jailed after pleading guilty to fraud.

Robert Bruce was sentenced to three months imprisonment at Peterhead Sheriff Court on 31 May.

Enquiries made by the Scottish Legal Aid Board’s applicant investigations team following a financial verification check led to the successful prosecution and conviction.

In each of his four applications for legal aid Mr Bruce had claimed that he had no capital or savings.

Legal aid legislation sets financial eligibility tests for summary and solemn cases that include a threshold of £1,716 for the amount of disposable capital someone can have.

If someone’s capital exceeds this limit they may still be eligible if it can be shown that it would cause undue hardship to expect the applicant to pay for their own legal costs.

However, had Mr Bruce declared his true capital position, then legal assistance would not have been granted for any of his criminal cases.

Mr Bruce was granted solemn criminal legal aid in April 2012 for a charge of a misuse of drugs and claimed he had no capital or savings. Checks by our investigations team revealed he held funds in three undeclared bank accounts amounting to £3,422. 98.

He was granted ABWOR in April 2012 for breach of bail and claimed he had no capital or savings. Checks by SLAB staff revealed he held funds in three undeclared bank accounts amounting to £2,803.68.

The financial test for ABWOR has an upper capital limit of £1,716.

In the third case, Mr Bruce was granted ABWOR in June 2012 for a road traffic offence and claimed he had no capital or savings. Our checks revealed he held funds in three undeclared bank accounts amounting to £3,088.64.

Finally, Mr Bruce was granted solemn criminal legal aid in April 2013 for a charge in relation to firearms and claimed he had no capital or savings. Our checks revealed he held funds in three undeclared bank accounts amounting to £6,868.05.

The total cost of the legal aid paid to solicitors representing Mr Bruce in the four cases was £5,892.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Legal Aid Board said: “Unfortunately, there will be a small number of people who will attempt to defraud or abuse the legal aid system.

“In the most serious cases, we report people to the Procurator Fiscal. In other cases, we will withdraw legal aid and recover amounts paid.”

In 2015-16, SLAB made six reports to the Procurator Fiscal where applicants did not declare properties they owned or money they had in bank accounts.

In such cases, in addition to repaying the cost of their legal aid, the outcomes could include convictions for fraud or warnings or fines.

SLAB also investigates possible fraud or abuse of legal aid by lawyers.


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