The ‘Legal Cheek’ website covered the story of Bryan McNaught, a former barrister, who was struck off (disbarred) after picking up a couple of convictions for fraud.
The first set of offences were committed between 2003 and 2009 (approximately) between Mr McNaught and his wife. It seems that there were 15 charges (to which Mr McNaught pleaded guilty) that all related to applications for loans, mortgages and credit cards where he lied about his income and job.
The total value of that fraud was just over £1 million. On the sentencing guidelines (p24) this would indicated that there would be a starting point for the sentence of about 4 years (before a plea of guilty). The actual sentence was 3 years, which is about right.
Whilst he was still in prison for that he pleaded guilty to further charges involving “defrauding their teenage children out of £60,000 of inheritance“. It’s not entirely clear what happened, but it seems that Mr McNaught’s father in law was terminally ill and was persuaded to leave money to their children, which they then took to cover their debts.
Although the value of the money was less, the appropriate sentencing guidelines are those for theft in breach of trust (p11). This would give a starting point after a trial of about three years. Both Mr McNaught and his wife pleaded guilty.
They both got 15 months. This is partly because both children were taken away from their parents. It is probably slightly lower for Mr McNaught due to the fact that he was currently serving a sentence for a similar offence and this did not add much more to that original offending (the whole sentencing regime is very complicated, so it’s difficult to know exactly the impact of a 15 month sentence in terms of how much Mr McNaught would actually serve, without having more facts).
It seems that all the money from the fraud was dissipated as when there were confiscation proceedings, they were only required to pay back £305.
This is all old news. It was reported today because the Bar Standards Board (the body that regulates barristers) finally got round to disbarring Mr McNaught. Mr McNaught had completed the BVC (Bar Vocational Course – now the BPTC) which is the vocational training required to become a barrister. Before being a ‘fully fledged barrister’ (someone who is able to practice as a barrister and call themselves one in their day to day lives) someone would have to complete a 12 month ‘pupillage’ – effectively an apprenticeship.
Due to the fact that there are many more people coming through the training to be a barrister than there are pupillages available, there are plenty of people in the position of Mr McNaught who are caught in a slightly grey area with a mass of rules as to when they can and can’t call themselves a ‘barrister’. This doesn’t appear to have arisen in this case – Mr McNaught was telling straight lies rather than any bending of the rules.