Barrister's career crashes as he is jailed over buy-to-let theft

The career of a high-flying criminal barrister lies in tatters after he was jailed for three years for taking more than £70,000 from his own chambers to try and stave off the collapse of his buy-to-let business.

David Friesner, 46, admitted taking £72,500 from 9 St John Street Chambers in Manchester after his finances spiralled out of control in early 2008, Leeds Crown Court heard.

Friesner had a property business of almost 20 houses valued at around £7.5m in 2008, with just under £4m of mortgages, when the credit crunch began.

He had also borrowed up to £1m in unsecured loans to finance the refurbishment of properties.

As he drowned in debt, Friesner was unable to sell his properties. He became desperate, taking out crippling bridging loans, some charging 2% a week, and borrowed from friends and family.

At this point, the judge heard, he convinced the chambers’ finance director to forward him a series of 12 payments, telling her they were loans. But Friesner, who was deputy head of the chambers, had no authority to demand the cash and no prospect of paying it back.

Jailing Friesner, who had earlier admitted taking the cash, Mr Justice Singh said: “You, perhaps more than anyone else, ought to have known what you were doing was both dishonest and unlawful.

“You have brought dishonour upon an honourable profession and shame upon yourself and your family.”

John Beggs QC, defending, said his client had an exceptional 20-year career and had been heading towards becoming a QC and even a judge. He was now faced with never being able to practise at the bar again.

He asked: “How much more punishment is really required?”

But the judge said many people had been affected by the financial downturn without resorting to criminal activities. He ordered Friesner – who once drove luxury cars including an Aston Martin – to repay £1 to his Chamber, as he had no assets.

Friesner had continued to represent clients in court between his guilty plea to the theft charges and the sentencing hearing.

The matter was raised in Parliament when Lib Dem MP Greg Mullholland denounced the “ridiculous loophole” which allowed a barrister to continue representing a client as he waited to be jailed.