Major charities sue disgraced former solicitor over legacy gift

Guide Dogs, Yorkshire Cancer Research, the British Heart Foundation and the National Trust allege funds stolen by Linda Box include money left to them in a legacy

Linda Box (Photograph: West Yorkshire Police)
Linda Box (Photograph: West Yorkshire Police)

Four charities are suing a disgraced former solicitor, arguing that they lost out on a legacy gift from a will of which she was the co-executor. 

Linda Mary Box was jailed for seven years in 2017 after stealing money from the client account of the firm where she worked, with a further eight years to be added to her sentence if she failed to repay £2.5m of the stolen money. 

She now faces legal claims from Guide Dogs, Yorkshire Cancer Research, the British Heart Foundation and National Trust, which allege that the funds Box stole included money they were left in a bequest by Ernest Scholefield.

It is not clear how much the charities stand to gain from the claims. 

Julian Sanderson Gill, co-executor of the will, who worked with Box at the law firm Dixon Coles and Gill, is also being sued by the charities. There is no suggestion that he was aware of or had any part in Box’s criminal activity. 

The charities are arguing that Gill, along with the law firm and its insurance company, HDI Global Specialty, are liable for the lost funds. 

All three parties deny any liability. 

According to court documents, released following a hearing at Leeds Crown Court last month, Box committed the fraud through a process known as “teeming and lading", where money was transferred between the firm's client account ledgers. 

The insurers argue that this worked “in much the same way as a Ponzi scheme operates”, in that the money stolen from some of the victims is then replenished by money stolen from later victims – and so ultimately, the insurers argue, the charities did not lose out. 

The insurance company also argues that it had already paid out the amount for which it is liable under the policy the law firm had taken out, and so should not have to pay back any more funding.

A separate claim has been brought by the Bishop of Leeds on behalf of various Church of England organisations and charities who assert they have also suffered significant loss as a result of Box’s criminal activities. 

The High Court will rule on both claims at a hearing in September. 

The National Trust, British Heart Foundation and Guide Dogs declined to comment while the legal action is ongoing. Yorkshire Cancer Research did not respond to requests for comment.

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