THE trial of a fake bookmaker ended dramatically when the defendant changed his plea partway through the prosecution case.

Royston James Spearman had been claiming that he was not responsible for a scam in which gamblers parted with money in the belief that it would be placed on horse and greyhound racing on their behalf.

But on day four of the trial, which was expected to last for a fortnight, he admitted that he was the man behind a string of alias and fake bookmaker firms and that he took the money to spend on himself and not to place bets.

Spearman, 53, of Moat Way, Brayton, pleaded guilty to 17 charges of fraud by false representation and was jailed for three and a half years. He had represented himself during the trial at York Crown Court.

Unbeknown to the jury, he had had legal representation, but a week before the trial was due to start his barrister asked to step down from the case because disagreements between him and Spearman over the way the defence would conduct its case meant that he could not continue to represent him.

Barristers have a duty to carry out the instructions of their clients, but they also have a duty to uphold their professional code of conduct, must abide by general practice directions on how cases can be conducted as laid down by senior judges and cannot mislead a court.

Spearman made more than £100,000 from the bookmaker scam and cheated more than a dozen gamblers by using his knowledge of horse-racing and gambling to convince his victims that he was genuine, York Crown Court heard.

Having got their money, he then came up with a long string of excuses as to why he couldn’t refund it when his victims, believing they had won on the horses, asked for it back.

Several of the victims gave evidence before Spearman changed his plea. Edward Minghella told the jury that word spread through the internet that one of Spearman’s “bookmaking firms” was dodgy and he urged others caught in the scam to go to police.