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Scottish law firm collapse leaves thousands in legal limbo, sparking fears of major scandal

Clients of McClure Solicitors, a Scottish law firm that went bankrupt three years ago, are expressing concerns about being at the heart of what could become the next major legal scandal, similar to the Post Office debacle, as reported by The Times, The firm’s collapse has left approximately 100,000 British households entangled in complex and costly trusts that are challenging to dismantle.

A campaign group of about 200 former clients, many elderly, suspects they are victims of widespread fraud and are calling for a swift police investigation. There is a growing fear among these clients that they may not live to see justice served.

Mike Pilbeam, who leads the Victims of McClure Solicitors group, has urged Police Scotland’s chief constable, Jo Farrell, to take immediate action on the complaints. Pilbeam highlighted the urgency, stating:

“If it takes as long to resolve this as it did for the postmasters, most McClure clients will have passed away. I’m 76, and if it drags on, I will, bluntly, be dead.”

The campaign group filed formal complaints with Police Scotland late last year, but these are still under review. McClure Solicitors had set up thousands of family protection trusts, appointing trustees who theoretically still control properties across the UK. These trusts were intended to safeguard assets for families, mitigate inheritance taxes, and protect against care fees, bankruptcy, and divorce.

However, clients now face significant challenges in dismantling these trusts or even locating trustees. Some trustees are demanding fees for their removal. In his letter to Farrell, Pilbeam warned:

“If a criminal investigation does not proceed, the activities and collapse of McClure Solicitors will inevitably come under public scrutiny, and your organization will face serious questions.”

McClure Solicitors, established in Victorian times in Greenock, operated in Scotland and northern England, with its trust business spanning the UK. Concerns about the firm’s practices have been raised in the Scottish parliament by Stuart McMillan, the SNP Inverclyde MSP, and Labour MSP Michael Marra, who noted that clients were sold unnecessary services under the pretext of future care cost fears.

The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and the Law Society of Scotland are exploring the possibility of a group proceedings complaint.

Andrew J Robertson, former managing director of McClure, denied misleading clients. Police Scotland is currently assessing the received information to determine if criminal activity occurred. Jones Whyte, another legal firm, has taken over McClure’s case work.

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