A SOLICITOR from Harpenden was jailed for three years and nine months on Friday, August 31, for stealing a third of a million pounds of clients' money.

Myles McNulty, 37, of Granby Avenue, bought expensive cars and paid off the loans and credit cards he used to fund his lifestyle with his clients' cash Luton Crown Court was told.

Prosecution counsel Isabel Delamere said the total theft amounted to £367,333.55 and involved 64 client accounts at the Luton firm of Giffen, Couch and Archer where McNulty worked as a £29,000-a-year salaried solicitor, specializing in personal injury.

He joined the firm in 1994 and from March 1995 stole money from clients' accounts. He was caught only in April this year when an inspection was carried out.

Over the six years he stole money by telling clients they had been awarded less money than was the case and then pocketed the difference.

In one instance a man received £5,000, when he should have been given £10,000.

McNulty would also make double claims to the Legal Services Commission for expenses.

This, said Miss Delamere, could include doctors' bills.

He then pocketed the money. He also moved money between accounts to cover his tracks.

The court heard that in June 1999 he "brazenly stole a seal from the front desk at Luton County Court". He used this seal to officially close files.

McNulty, a married father of two, admitted 13 charges of theft and two of falsifying documents. He asked for 58 offences 53 of theft and five of falsifying documents to be taken into consideration.

He told the police he "did not do drugs, drink or women", but said he had bought expensive cars, including a TVR.

He also built up credit cards and hire purchase debts.

Counsel for the defence Patrick Gibbs said McNulty was "sorry".

He said: "All the money has gone. His assets are subject to civil proceedings and bankruptcy will follow."

He said McNulty began pilfering on a small scale when his wife gave up work to bring up their first child and the thefts "escalated out of control".

The money was used to pay off credit cards, loans and hire purchases, he said.

Since being sacked by the solicitor's firm he had been working as a van driver.

Judge Findlay Baker QC told him: "This was a massive breach of your employers' trust and an abuse of your role as a solicitor and officer of the court."