A family law solicitor convicted of tax fraud after wrongfully claiming £37,000 in income tax repayments abused her position of trust, HM Revenue and Customs has said, after she was given a suspended prison sentence at Manchester Crown Court on Friday.

Dianna Gerald, also known as Dianna Lee, 49, of Astwood Road, Worcester, is listed as a company director of Family Law Consultants Limited, trading as Simply Solicitors in Cheltenham and Worcester.

HMRC said Gerald falsified information on her 2009 and 2010 income tax returns to overclaim tax repayments.

She inflated expenses, including staff costs and refunds relating to clients’ divorce fees, as well as fabricating invoices, letters and an employment contract to support the claims.

HMRC said it discovered that the figures shown on her business records did not match those declared on her tax returns.

Gerald was found guilty of four counts of fraud by false representation in July following a 12-day trial at Manchester Crown Court.

She was sentenced to 21 months in prison, suspended for 18 months, and 200 hours of unpaid work. She was also given an 18-month supervision order and ordered to pay £10,000 costs over two years.

According to HMRC’s announcement, HH Judge Martin Steiger QC said upon sentencing: ‘She had gone to great lengths to defraud the revenue – including the generation of bogus documents – and in doing so had attacked the character and reputation of her fellow partners and employees.

'In my judgement her behaviour was disgraceful and she is wholly unsuitable to be a solicitor.’

Stuart Taylor, assistant director of HMRC’s fraud investigation service, said Gerald ‘abused her position of trust as a solicitor to defraud the taxpaying public’.

Last month the Solicitors Regulation Authority said it had intervened into the practice of Dianna Lee - also known as Dianna Gerald, Donna Gerald, Diana Gerhold and Diane Glackin - who worked at Simply Solicitors (Family Law Consultants), in Cheltenham and Worcester. 

HMRC’s announcement states that companies with similar names are not linked to its investigation.