McClure Solicitors under police investigation for alleged fraud

A former Greenock-based law firm is facing a police probe over allegations of fraudulent activity involving family protection trusts. McClure Solicitors, which collapsed in 2021, had tens of thousands of clients across Britain who paid thousands of pounds to set up trusts for their assets. However, some of these trusts were found to be faulty, invalid, or even illegal, leaving many clients in a legal nightmare.

  • The rise and fall of McClure Solicitors

McClure Solicitors was founded in 1853 in Greenock and specialised in wills, trusts, and estate planning. The firm claimed to be one of the leading experts in family protection trusts, which are used to manage assets such as property or money. Some people set up trusts in the hope that they would protect their home from being sold to pay for care home fees, although trusts are not meant to be used for that purpose.

The firm expanded its operations to the north of England and had offices in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, and London. It also partnered with several charities, such as Maggie’s, Age UK, and Alzheimer’s Society, to offer free will writing services and promote its trusts.

However, in 2021, the firm went into administration, citing cash flow problems and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Another firm, Jones Whyte, took over its files and contacted former clients to review their trusts. Many clients were shocked to discover that their trusts were either defective, incomplete, or unlawful, and that they had to pay additional fees to fix them or close them.

The legal and financial consequences for former clients

Many former clients of McClure Solicitors have reported serious legal and financial consequences as a result of their trusts. Some examples are:

McClure Solicitors

  • Jan Brunton, 70, from Newcastle, paid £3,000 to set up a trust with McClure in early 2020, putting £10,000 and her £180,000 home into it. She was approached by a McClure advisor at Maggie’s cancer charity, where she was receiving treatment for ovarian cancer. She said she felt “used” and that she did not know what a trust was. She later found out that McClure was still named as a trustee on her house, meaning that she did not legally own it and could not sell it. She was quoted £1,500 by Jones Whyte to resolve the issue, but she did not pay it and is seeking advice from another law firm.
  • Paul Pygott, from Barnsley, said his mother, Ivy Pygott, was left with thousands of pounds worth of care home fees after Leeds City Council accused her McClure trust of being a “sham”. He said his parents were told that everything that went into the trust would be ring-fenced against care home fees. However, in October 2020, the council said they would not pay any of the care home fees and demanded £12,000 in arrears. Mr Pygott said he had to sell his mother’s house to pay the bill and that he felt “cheated” by McClure.
  • Agnes Henery, 83, and her daughter, Agnes Dupeire, from Greenock, paid more than £3,000 to put Agnes’ house in a trust with McClure in 2019. They said they did not know that this meant Agnes would no longer legally own the home. When McClure went bust, they realised what they had signed up to and paid another solicitor £2,000 to close the trust. They said they had nothing to show for their money and that they were back where they started, just £5,500 worse off.

The police investigation and the calls for an inquiry

Police Scotland confirmed that it was assessing correspondence and information in relation to McClure Solicitors and that inquiries were ongoing. A spokesperson said: “We are aware of the concerns raised by former clients of McClure Solicitors and are currently assessing the information provided to us.”

A former director of McClure Solicitors, Andrew Robertson, denied that any clients were misled or that there was any criminality or fraud involved. He said: “McClure was an ethical business that always acted in the best interests of its clients. The trusts we set up were legally valid and compliant with the law. The allegations of fraud are completely unfounded and we will cooperate fully with the police investigation.”

However, some former clients and politicians have called for an inquiry into the collapse of the firm and the regulation of the legal sector. Stuart McMillan, the MSP for Greenock and Inverclyde, said: “There should be an inquiry into what happened at McClure Solicitors and why so many clients were left in a legal limbo. The priority should be to help the former clients who have been affected by this situation and to ensure that they are not further exploited by other law firms.”

Annette Riding, a spokesperson for the McClure Action Group, which represents more than 200 former clients, said: “We want justice for the thousands of people who have been ripped off by McClure Solicitors. We want our money back and we want our legal documents to be sorted out. We also want the authorities to take action against the firm and its directors for their fraudulent behaviour.”

The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, which is the first point of call for people to complain about solicitors, said it was aware of the issues raised by former clients of McClure Solicitors and that it was looking into the complaints. Its chief executive, Neil Stevenson, said: “We understand the frustration and distress that many former clients of McClure Solicitors are feeling and we are doing our best to help them. We encourage anyone who has a concern about their trust or any other legal service provided by McClure Solicitors to contact us as soon as possible.”

By Ishan Crawford

Prior to the position, Ishan was senior vice president, strategy & development for Cumbernauld-media Company since April 2013. He joined the Company in 2004 and has served in several corporate developments, business development and strategic planning roles for three chief executives. During that time, he helped transform the Company from a traditional U.S. media conglomerate into a global digital subscription service, unified by the journalism and brand of Cumbernauld-media.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts