A Northern Ireland solicitor has been charged in connection with a £100,000 fraud in which a 94-year-old woman was allegedly cheated out of her home by her son and daughter-in-law, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
Co Down solicitor Ann Ervine allegedly falsely claimed to have witnessed pensioner Annie Martin sign over her Saintfield home to her son George Ignatius Martin and daughter-in-law Mary Martin.
Ervine (51), of Alpine Road Newtownards, has been charged with forgery and using false Land Registry forms with intent.
She will stand trial alongside husband and wife George Ignatius Martin and Mary Martin, both of Downpatrick Street, Saintfield, who have both been charged with obtaining property by deception, forgery and using false land registry forms with intent.
At Downpatrick Magistrate’s Court yesterday Ervine’s legal team argued th stand trial for the charges, claiming there is no evidence to suggest that she signed the land registry forms intending to prejudice the victim Annie Martin.
“There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest there is intent. Even if there was recklessness that is not enough. There has to be clear intention, if someone submitting a document and if that document may not be correct, they still have to have intent that they know it will result in a prejudice or inducement to someone else to do something,” her barrister told the court.
He added that the charges relate to forms of documents solicitors deal with every day and said: “What would happen if every solicitor was investigated in relation to something like this?”
District Judge Mervyn Bates said he was satisfied there was a case to answer and returned Ervine for Crown Court trial.
“I have looked very carefully at the statements of evidence in this case. It gives me no pleasure to say I return you for trial.”
Standing in the dock, a smartly dressed Ervine made no comment when the charges against her were read. She was released on her own bail of £500 to return for trial at a later date.
Earlier George and Mary Martin made no comment when the charges against them were read to the court.
The court heard that in 1997 Mary Martin’s name was added to Land Registry documents for Annie Martin’s land, which she owned with her son.
The court was then told that in 2002 the property was then transferred from the three names to the names of George and Mary Martin.
It is the prosecution case that this was done without Annie Martin’s consent.
George Ignatius Martin and Mary Martin were each released on their own bail of £1,000 to return for trial at a later date.