Struck-off solicitor disbarred over legal aid fraud

Jagger: Conviction entirely incompatible with being a barrister

A dual-qualified solicitor and barrister who was struck off after being convicted of conspiracy to defraud the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) has now been disbarred.

Neil Frew was a salaried partner at Bradford firm Chambers Solicitors, who in 2017 received a suspended prison sentence of two years plus 200 hours of unpaid work.

He was found to have conspired with co-defendants to defraud the LAA by “pretending to use the company, Legal Support Services (LSS), for interpreters’ services when they were being managed directly by Chambers Solicitors.

“This was done so Chambers could have the additional money that a company sourcing interpreters would be entitled to claim.”

In his sentencing remarks at Newcastle Crown Court, Judge Spragg said that, although the defendants tried to argue that LSS was involved in the booking of interpreters, that argument was rejected by the jury who “saw through what was, in reality, a dishonest scam” to make extra money.

The judge told Mr Frew: “You were in charge of the immigration department. You were involved in the billing processes. Indeed, your fingerprints were on some of the LSS invoices.

“The jury clearly formed the view that you knew exactly what was going on and were a willing participant to it.”

The judge said Mr Frew lied in police interviews and to the jury, but said there was no evidence that, as a salaried partner, he would benefit “in any way from what was going on”.

Mr Frew was called to the Bar in 2004 and requalified as a solicitor in 2008. He was struck off in 2017 and was disbarred following five findings of professional misconduct by a Bar disciplinary tribunal.

Sara Jagger, the Bar Standards Board’s director of professional conduct, said: “The public must be able to rely on the legal professions to act honestly when claiming money from the Legal Aid Agency.

“Mr Frew’s criminal conviction for defrauding the Legal Aid Agency is entirely incompatible with continued membership of the Bar. The tribunal’s decision that he should be disbarred rightly reflects this.”

The tribunal’s decision is currently open to appeal.

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