Revealed: solicitor masterminded massive legal aid fraud

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The Independent Online

A flamboyant lawyer best known for representing murderer Tracie Andrews has served a jail sentence for masterminding a multi-million Legal Aid fraud, it can be revealed today.

A flamboyant lawyer best known for representing murderer Tracie Andrews has served a jail sentence for masterminding a multi-million Legal Aid fraud, it can be revealed today.

Solicitor Timothy Robinson, now 60, was convicted of conspiring to systematically defraud the Legal Aid system of huge sums of cash over a period of almost six years.

As well as being sentenced to seven years in jail, he was ordered to pay more than £1 million in compensation and costs.

Robinson, who lived in the exclusive village of Badgeworth, near Cheltenham, was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud at Bristol Crown Court in January 2001 following an eight-month trial.

He was released on parole in July after serving half his sentence.

Tracie Andrews was jailed for life for the murder of her fiance Lee Harvey in 1996. She claimed he was killed by a stranger in a road rage attack and even made tearful public appeals for help in tracing the killer.

A further 21 former employees at his Gloucestershire-based practice either pleaded guilty or were found guilty of the conspiracy in a total of five trials. Just five were acquitted and charges against two lie on the file.

The investigation into Robinson's, one of the largest of its kind, began more than 10 years ago in April 1993 and is thought to have cost several million pounds.

The Serious Fraud Office and three police forces took more than 3,000 witness statements and seized 21 tonnes of documents from the firm's offices as they investigated the scam.

The conspiracy involved employees at the firm, once regarded as one of the largest criminal defence practices in the country, claiming Legal Aid for millions of pounds' worth of work they did not do.

Details of the fraud could only be reported for the first time today after reporting restrictions, which had been put in place to avoid prejudicing future court proceedings, were lifted by a judge.

This happened after the charges against the remaining defendant, Archibald Ross, were ordered to lie on the file after medical evidence showed that the trial was unlikely ever to go ahead.

It is not known exactly how much was defrauded from the Legal Aid Board, but estimates suggest it could have been as much as half the £17 million claimed by Robinson's during the period investigated.