Jail for lottery scam ex-solicitor who stole £2m of client money

Norwich Crown Court: Lansdell pleaded guilty

A solicitor struck off for plundering £2m from his firm’s client accounts as well as trusts after falling victim to a lottery scam has been jailed for four years.

Hugh Lansdell, 74, pleaded guilty to one count of fraud by abuse of position at Norwich Crown Court.

In April 2015, when he was senior partner of Norwich-based Hansells, scammers led Mr Lansdell to believe that he had won a postcode lottery in Spain and that in order to release the £1.8m he had supposedly won, he would need to make ever increasing demands for payments.

After exhausting his and his wife’s money, over the space of nearly two years he made 72 transfers from 29 client accounts, as well as six payments from investment portfolios held by trusts in his control, and further payments made from personal bank accounts of clients where he had lasting power of attorney.

When concerns were first raised by the firm, Mr Lansdell lied and made numerous excuses about investing the clients’ money elsewhere, before finally admitting he was using the money for a lottery scheme.

He was made bankrupt in 2017 and struck off in 2019, with the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal hearing that the lost £2m was made good by his former partners in Hansells and their professional indemnity insurers.

Mr Lansdell told the tribunal that he genuinely believed he had won a substantial prize in a lottery, and “his intention was always to replace the sums which he had misappropriated once that prize was finally received”.

Also, at the time, he said he was suffering from a serious mental illness. A psychologist’s report said: “Mr Lansdell’s description of his mental condition during the most recent period of intense stress would seem to indicate that he became very absorbed and overly focused on the success of the company.

“He appears to have developed an overvalued belief in both the power of prayer and the guidance of God, which then informed his interpretation of unfolding events and his decision making. He describes praying frequently throughout the day, feeling the need to pray even when he left his desk for a period of time.

“Prayer seems to have developed a compulsive and reinforcing quality such that he was unable to function without the relief from anxiety that it afforded him.

“Unfortunately, it would seem that the overvalued belief in the guidance of God resulted in an inability to think rationally about the unfolding situation and led him to make some very serious errors of judgment.”

Emma Beazley, specialist prosecutor at the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “After falling victim to a scam himself, Hugh Lansdell exploited his significant position of trust as a senior partner to take an extraordinary amount of money from clients.”

She added that the CPS would pursue confiscation proceedings against Mr Lansdell.

Leave a Comment

By clicking Submit you consent to Legal Futures storing your personal data and confirm you have read our Privacy Policy and section 5 of our Terms & Conditions which deals with user-generated content. All comments will be moderated before posting.

Required fields are marked *
Email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Reshaping workplace culture in law firms

The legal industry is at a critical point as concerns about “toxic law firm culture” reach an all-time high. The profession often prioritises performance at the cost of their wellbeing.

Will solicitors finally be fans of transparency now?

Since the introduction of the SRA’s transparency rules in December 2018, I have been an advocate for law firms going further then the regulatory essentials.

A two-point plan to halve the size of the SRA

I have joked for many years that you could halve the size (and therefore cost) of the Solicitors Regulation Authority overnight by banning both client account and sole practitioners.

Loading animation