A top Cumbrian lawyer has admitted stealing more than £700,000 from two vulnerable clients.

Marcus Nickson, 66, had been due to face a four week crown court trial today but at the last minute entered guilty pleas to two theft allegations.

A medical negligence specialist, specialising in complex and high-value cases, he formerly worked for the now defunct KJ Commons & Co law firm in Carlisle and Workington.

Nickson stole the money from damages settlements which had been awarded by courts to his two victims because they had suffered brain injuries as the result of medical negligence, Preston Crown Court was told.

One was a girl, left with a "catastrophic" brain injury after medics bungled her birth; the other was a west Cumbrian man who became disabled and dependent on professional carers after a doctor failed to spot that he had suffered a stroke.

In court, Nickson spoke only to confirm his name and enter his guilty pleas.

Prosecutor Arthur Gibson accepted the two pleas, pointing out that he would apply for the three fraud allegations which Nickson also faced to lie on file.

The charges admitted by Nickson, of Blencogo, near Wigton, that during 2010 he stole £104,000 from the girl's £3.5m damages payout; and that between March, 2006, and March, 2013, he stole £606,000 from the man's £3m damages settlement.

The law strictly forbids lawyers from raiding the damages of clients unless they have the court's permission.

Nickson had so such permission.

The lawyer, who was recently struck off over problems with his practice, will be sentenced on December 17.

Commenting on the fraud allegations that he will ask the judge to lie on file, Mr Gibson said: "The defendant accepts that in order to pursue the thefts there was an element of false accounting; they are part and parcel of the thefts, so the crown don't seek a trial on those counts."

Nickson was granted bail until he is sentenced. After the case, he declined to comment.

The girl whose damages Nickson raided has since died.