Success Stories

Client acquitted of £600k fraud at half-time

By Robert Morton  |  19.04.2023

Sonn Macmillan Walker successfully represented the defendant in a case involving 5 counts of alleged fraud by abuse of position, totalling £600,000.

The defendant was accused of making a significant number of unauthorised transfers from her mother’s bank accounts between 2011 and 2016. This money was then spent on holidays, properties, credit card bills and vehicles. The defendant had access to the accounts to assist with her mother’s financial affairs, and the prosecution alleged that she had abused this position of responsibility.

The defendant admitted that she had made the transfers but stated that she had been given the authority to make such transfers, because it had been agreed that she would take money representing her inheritance early. The defendant alleged that her mother had suffered some form of cognitive impairment that had caused her to forget this arrangement.

The prosecution was marked by lengthy delays, and 7 years would elapse before the case came to trial. During this period, defence inquiries attempted to ascertain the true state of the complainant’s memory, however a thorough cognitive assessment was not completed until early 2022 when it had become apparent that the complainant was suffering from severe issues with memory. This assessment revealed that the complainant was conclusively suffering from dementia by early 2022, but debate remained as to the state of her memory when she made witness statements in 2016 and 2018, denying that she had authorised the transfers.

The diagnosis of dementia meant that the complainant would be unable to give evidence at trial. As a result, the prosecution applied successfully to read the complainant’s witness statements at trial, in the face of defence concerns as to their reliability as hearsay evidence.

At trial, cross-examination demonstrated significant inconsistencies in the witness statements. Expert evidence was heard to the effect that these inconsistencies led to a conclusion that, at a minimum, there was an undeniable possibility that there was significant cognitive impairment at the time that the complainant made her witness statements denying that she had authorised the transfers.

At the close of the prosecution case, the defence made a submission (under s125 Criminal Justice Act 2003) that the judge should stop the case because the evidence contained in the witness statements relied upon by the prosecution was so unconvincing that any conviction by a jury would be unsafe.

The judge considered the inconsistencies of the statements, and the evidence put forward by the defence, and having particular regard to the inability of the defence to cross-examine the complainant, made a terminatory ruling. The prosecution declined to appeal, and the judge directed not-guilty verdicts from the jury on each of the five counts. This concluded a seven-year ordeal for the defendant, as well as a highly punitive restraint order over the defendant’s assets.

David Sonn assisted by Robert Morton had conduct of the case, which was reported in local and national press:

Oxford trial of accountant accused of stealing £600k from mum | Oxford Mail

Accountant accused of stealing mum’s £600k fortune to fund luxury holidays

Judge directs not guilty verdicts in £600k ‘mum fraud’ trial | Oxford Mail

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