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UK’s longest criminal trial finds Scottish Husband and Wife guilty

The longest trial in UK criminal history has concluded, after a husband and wife have been found guilty of fraud.

Edwin and Lorraine McLaren, who live in the Quarriers Village in Renfrewshire, were found guilty of committing property fraud. The property fraud was believed to have totalled around £1.6million. Edwin, 52, was described as the ‘brains’ behind the operation, and was convicted of 29 charges, will Lorraine was convicted of two.

’Unprecedented’ amount of evidence produced by the Crown Prosecutors

The trial, which took place at the High Court in Glasgow, began in September 2015, and the court heard evidence for a staggering 320 days.

The cost of the trial has been placed at around £7.5million, with over £2.4million of that money being legal aid that was used to pay for the defence lawyers.

The Scottish Legal Aid Board’s spokesperson said that the Crown prosecutors took more than a year to present the case due to the ‘unprecedented’ amount of evidence that was presented.

The trial, which ran for the last 20 months, has seen the jury reduce from 15, which is the normal number of jurors for a Scottish criminal trial, to 12, which is the lowest number of jurors a Scottish criminal trial can operate on.

The trial was postponed for three weeks while a juror got married, others took holidays and some took time off sick.

The trial also saw the first time in Scotland that evidence was given from the house of a witness who was not well enough to be in attendance at court. The house was set up as a court, and all the legal requirements for the witness to give evidence were provided.

The judge, Lord Stewart, used a computer slideshow to sum up the case for the jury, an unusual way to do so in a criminal trial.

Lord Stewart officially retired in December 2016 on his 70th birthday, but due to provisions under the Judicial Pensions and Retirement act 1993, he was able to continue hearing the case to its conclusion.

Sentencing for the McLarens has been delayed until next month while their background reports are prepared. Edwin was remanded in custody after the hearing, while Lorraine, who was convicted of less charges than her husband, was released on bail.

Lorraine’s 75-year-old uncle Arthur Horsey was found not guilty of involvement in any of the scams.

The frauds were first exposed after a woman in Fife claimed that after she sold her house in Cowdenbeath, she did not receive the full amount that she was promised for making the sale.

48 properties were investigated by the police in an enquiry that took two years. The inquiry investigated a property fraud scheme which saw the property’s owners have their titled deeds transferred without their knowledge. The trial saw twenty-nine cases of the property fraud scheme which took place throughout Scotland.

The schemes were said to have happened over a 4 year period, from April 2008 to November 2012.

Police described the case as ‘one of the largest, most complicated property fraud investigations ever carried out in Scotland.’

The case was a massive drain on police resources, and it saw over 200 officers working on it. The officers spent time putting together the pieces of the case, covering the crimes which included mortgage fraud, money laundering and property fraud.

Edwin McLaren ran the whole operation, targeting people who he knew were vulnerable and under financial pressure. He would often take adverts out in papers for two companies, Homesale Solutions and Property Solutions.

He would often operate under a false name, lying to victims about his intentions. He would tell victims that he was able to help them sort out their financial difficulties, and would do so by offering them leaseback agreements and loans.

He made the victims believe that they were merely releasing equity of their property, but in fact he was making them sign paperwork which meant that they were transferring full ownership of their homes.

Police working on the case said that his victims often were left with no idea that they had signed their homes away until they spoke to the police officers.

The victims never signed the property away to Mr McLaren, instead he made sure that it was transferred to his family members or his friends. He raised mortgages against the properties which had been signed over.

The witnesses who were questioned said that not only were they under significant financial pressure when targeted by Mr McLaren, but some of them were unwell, or had been bereaved. One case saw McLaren go to the Beatson Cancer Centre in Glasgow in order to have one of his victims sign a document for him.

The property owner said that he was so weakened because of his illness that he had no idea what document he was signing at the time. It transpired later on that he was signing over him and his wife’s home to McLaren.

McLaren used fake names to deceive all of his clients, and one witness claimed that he thought McLaren was the best thing to have happened to him.

Mrs McLaren said that her husband ran this side of the business, and her only involvement was signing documents when she was asked to.

The lawyers who were involved in helping the McLarens make these transactions were saved prosecution by acting as witnesses in the trial.

Edwin McLaren lived a luxury life in Quarriers Village. His home was worth over £700,000, he owned a yellow Bentley, and often holidayed in Dubai. These assets have now been restrained under the proceeds of crime act

He worked as a financial adviser, which allowed him to gather the knowledge which helped him put the scheme together.

McLaren has shown no remorse for his crimes, saying that he was only offering help to people who were getting no help from anyone else. He described himself as their ‘friend and saviour’

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