‘Friend’ who conned the vulnerable

Court News.
Court News.

A Biggleswade fraudster who exploited people going through emotional family issues in court has been jailed for three years.

Martin Williamson advertised his services as a ‘McKenzie friend’ - someone who can give advice and support for legal proceedings, and duped 15 people who believed he would help them.

They paid over money immediately, as often the issues involved were urgent, but they found Williamson, of Winston Crescent, Biggleswade, lied about work he should have done, and then became uncontactable.

Judge Stuart Bridge said: “This was callous and calculated fraud, targeting people who were vulnerable. The impact on them has been profound.”

Judge Bridge said all the cases involved issues over children in family court hearings. The victims parted with £5,104, but had received nothing of value in return.

Sentencing 36-year-old Williamson at Luton Crown Court on Wednesday he said: “When people discovered they had been duped, they found any attempt to get a refund was futile. They were also traumatised when they realised their claims had not been advanced one jot.”

He said people thought court hearings had been fixed, only to discover the court had no record of such an arrangement.

The Judge referred to two of the impact statements made by some of the victims.

One was a grandparent who had custody of a grandson with special needs. The arrangement was being challenged by the boy’s father.

The grandparent said they spent days and nights crying and worrying about the litigation, and initially had confidence in what Williamson was telling them. But they said he became ‘downright rude, patronising and bolshy’.

They discovered that a court hearing had not been listed and drove 90 miles to confront Williamson only to discover he had been arrested.

The second case was a father who was told his ex-wife was going to take their three children to live in America. He turned to Williamson as he was unable to afford full legal representation.

“Intitially he was very convincing, but I was desperately anxious and he took advantage of that vulnerability. His con eventually unravelled but only after he had added considerable stress to our situation,” the father’s statement read.

“He repeatedly gave us false assurances and then dropped out of contact altogether and we were left in complete confusion.”

Williamson pleaded guilty to 15 charges of fraud by false representation and was jailed for three years.

He also admitted a £3,517 benefit fraud, by failing to declare a change of circumstances and a £133 ebay fraud when he took payment for a laptop and failed to deliver the goods. He was given concurrent sentences for those offences.