Saturday 18 November 2017

Former GAA team doctor found guilty of professional misconduct in forging will

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Liz Farsaci

A former GAA team doctor facing allegations relating to a conviction concerning the forging of an elderly publican’s will was today found guilty of professional misconduct at a disciplinary inquiry at the Medical Council in Dublin.

Dr. James Cassidy, who works as a GP in Dundalk, Co. Louth, faced allegations relating to a conviction in Northern Ireland.

Specifically, in June 2014, at the Crown Court in Newry, Dr. Cassidy was convicted of conspiring with others to attempt to falsify the will of Catherine Haughey, and a property sale agreement.

South Armagh publican Ms. Haughey, who was a widow and childless, died in 2004 at the age of 81. Concerns about her will were raised shortly after her death.

Dr. Cassidy, who was a former doctor for the Tyrone GAA team, declined to make a comment to the media after the disciplinary inquiry concluded today.

Sanctions will be determined at a later date.

Dr. Cassidy, who has four grown daughters with his wife, today told the inquiry of the extreme shame and embarrassment his actions have brought to his family.

‘My children and wife have had to undergo considerable embarrassment in their own lives as a result of my actions,’ Dr. Cassidy said.

When asked how he felt about his participation in the matters relating to his conviction in the North, Dr. Cassidy replied: ‘I can only say shame, first of all to my family, [and] to my profession.’

‘It’s not very nice at this stage in your life to accept that you did something hugely irresponsible,’ continued Dr. Cassidy, who will be turning 64 next week.

The inquiry heard that the matters relating to the forged will took place in 2004. An investigation was conducted into the matters between 2004 and 2010. Dr. Cassidy was then convicted four years later, in 2014.

He pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy in connection with the €1.9 million will, and received a two-year suspended sentence.

He told the inquiry that in relation to the matters in 2004, he felt under extreme duress and threat. He further explained that a man, who was yesterday referred to as ‘Mr. A’ and who was a patient and acquaintance of his, made threats against himself and his family, and that the threats were made within geo-political context of the area.

Dr. Cassidy, whose children were in school at the time, said that the threat was real and that any father would have put concerns for his family above concerns for himself.

‘I was trapped in this situation,’ he said. ‘I made what was undoubtedly the wrong choice but that’s the reason why I did that.’

He said you can look back and think about what you could have done differently but in a situation like that, you can’t think clearly because you just focus on the threat to your family.

He said he believed that Mr. A ‘was not a liberty’ at the present time.

Dr. Cassidy told the inquiry that in May 2009, he applied for registration to the Medical Council of Ireland (in the Republic).

However, he admitted that he failed to tell the Medical Council about a previous conviction in Northern Ireland, which related to a road traffic matter.

Dr. Cassidy told the inquiry that in 2004 and before that, he did have a problem with alcohol. ‘I drank too much and too regular,’ said Dr. Cassidy, who said he now has the problem under control, and has had no lapses.

Dr. Cassidy said he has operated a private sole practice as a GP for a number of years, and that the vast majority of the patients who visit him are established, regular patients, who have stuck with him throughout all the publicity surrounding his convictions in the North.

He pointed out that there have never been any clinical complaints against him.

He hopes to continue to practice, and asked that he not be suspended from the medical register.

Dr. Cassidy's contrite words at the inquiry were in sharp contrast to his actions outside the Medical Council during a break. While being photographed by members of the media, Dr. Cassidy confronted The Star photographer Paul Nicholls angrily and made a grab for his camera.

Mr. Nicholls said he told Dr. Cassidy to not touch him, and then rang the guards. Members of the gardai arrived at the Medical Council and took statements from witnesses.

Gardai have confirmed they are investigating an incident where a man in his early fifties was injured at the offices of the Medical Council at Kingram Place, Dublin 2.

The alleged incident took place at approximately 12.30pm yesterday.

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