LAWFUEL – The Legal Newswire – A solicitor “embellished” claims for legal aid in child welfare cases with false details of sex abuse to fraudulently obtain nearly £2 million, The Scotsman can reveal.
In Scotland’s biggest-ever legal aid fraud, James Muir made false claims for public money in hundreds of child protection cases over seven years.
Mr Muir, who kept a low profile in the profession but was regarded as one of the country’s most dedicated and experienced specialist child welfare lawyers, committed suicide after the police began investigating.
Details of the case have been kept secret for two years while the Scottish Government’s civil recovery unit sought to reclaim the money from his estate.
Yesterday the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) announced that an agreement had been reached with Mr Muir’s family that will see £1.8 million paid back to the public fund.
Last night politicians demanded answers over how such abuse could go undetected for so long.
SLAB claimed the “tragic case” was a one-off and insisted it had improved procedures for checking legal aid claims.
Mr Muir’s wife Susan, believed to be a serving police officer, has sold the family’s luxury home in Bothwell, Lanarkshire, to help pay back the money.
Mr Muir, 45, who ran his practice from his home, worked mainly as a custodian, or “safeguarder”, for children and minors too young to manage their own affairs or represent themselves in court.
The Scotsman can reveal that from 1999 until 2005, he made false claims for legal aid in several hundred child welfare cases. At the outset, he was claiming an average of around £1,000 per case, but by the time he was caught, this had risen to £10,000. To justify the soaring claims, he “embellished” detailed application forms to the legal aid board with fabricated details of sex abuse. He even invented statements between social workers and police officers.