Solicitor stole £269k from his aunt


A solicitor who swindled more than £269,000 from his own aunt after being put in charge of her finances was today told he could face jail.

William Walls was the sole partner in McQuittys law firm in Cupar when he was given power of attorney over his elderly aunt, Mary Brown’s, bank accounts.

But with his business in financial peril Walls began plundering her bank accounts to keep the firm - which specialised in property and estate agency - afloat for a period of almost nine years.

Walls’ scheme was rumbled following a Law Society probe into his business and questions raised by his family about withdrawals from Mrs Brown’s accounts.

Dundee Sheriff Court heard that in some instances Walls had been found to simply walk into a TSB branch in Cupar to withdraw cash from her accounts before walking the money 100 yards down the street to his own RBS branch to deposit it.

It is expected that Walls - who gave up his practice in 2013 after being suspended by the Law Society - will formally be thrown out of the profession at a hearing later this year.

Fiscal depute Joanne Smith told the court: “The accused had power of attorney for his late aunt Mary Brown.

“He was at the time a practising solicitor.

“He felt he was an appropriate person to take on the roles.

“Mrs Brown went into a care home in 2005 and from December 12, 2004 on he had full access to her three TSB bank accounts.

“During the period libelled he withdrew from these three accounts a total of £269,150.

“These were cash withdrawals from a Cupar branch.

“The accused’s own RBS branch was within walking distance.

“He would withdraw cash from Mrs Brown’s account and then there would be credits in to his bank account.

“The Law Society became involved in his business and it was found it was failing and the accused admitted using the money to keep matters afloat.

“He admitted responsibility to family members.”

Walls (62) of St Andrews, pleaded guilty on indictment to a charge of embezzlement committed between December 7, 2004 and October 10, 2013.

Defence solicitor Simon Collins said: “There are pending Law Society matters calling in the next month.

“He is no longer practising as a solicitor.

“He is now working as a driver in the golf industry.

“He has co-operated as much as possible and has sold property to make sure the money is repaid.

“He has not practised as a solicitor for years now and has no desire to do so again.

“He was in a position that he was not equipped to deal with and was trying to keep the firm afloat rather than supplementing his lifestyle.

“It wasn’t for personal gain.”

Sheriff Alastair Brown deferred sentence until November for social work background reports and released Walls on bail meantime.

He said: “I recognise, I think, just how tragic this is from your point of view.

“It is not the way, I’m sure, you would have chosen to end your legal career.

“On the other hand you will recognise that I have to take the view that you were appointed as attorney on the basis of that status as a solicitor and you don’t need me to recite what’s been said many times about the need for good faith and probity in a Scottish solicitor.

“On any view I do have to consider the possibility of custody.”