Doctor involved in conspiracy to forge will is struck off

High Court told conditions attached to his registration when he was found guilty of professional misconduct were ignored

Dr James Peter Cassidy  at a  Medical Council hearing in 2016. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Dr James Peter Cassidy at a Medical Council hearing in 2016. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

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A doctor has been struck off the medical register by the High Court over failing to comply with conditions attached to his registration, including to complete an alcohol awareness programme.

Dr James Peter Cassidy, formerly with an address at Dublin Road, Dundalk, Co Louth, now believed to be residing in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, had had his registration suspended since March 2017 for reasons including patient safety concerns.

The president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, said “extraordinary leniency” was previously shown to Dr Cassidy by the Medical Council and its Fitness to Practice Committee (FTPC) but the doctor had not availed of opportunities provided to him.

Dr Cassidy graduated in medicine from Queens University, Belfast, in 1976.

In 2016, a FTPC found professional misconduct by him based on its findings he had in 2009, when filling in the form for registration to practice here, untruthfully answered No to questions concerning whether he had any convictions in a court of law or there was any reason why he should not be registered.

Dr Cassidy had admitted to the committee he was convicted at Newry Crown Court in relation to two forgery offences that, if committed here, would be triable on indictment.

The offences were that he conspired with others on a date unknown between December 1st 1994 and April 1st 2007 to use an instrument dated December 1994 purporting to be the will of Catherine Haughey which they knew or believed was false and with the intent to get others to accept that document as genuine.

He was also convicted of conspiring with others to use a purported agreement between Ms Haughey and Francis Tiernan for sale of a property, which was false, with the intention of inducing another to accept it as genuine.

The committee heard unchallenged evidence from Dr Cassidy he was under duress when he committed the forgery offences and of a history of alcohol abuse and it accepted he had remedied his behaviour in that regard.

Because of the mitigating factors, the FTPC recommended he be censured with conditions on his registration.

Dishonest answers

These required him to complete an alcohol awareness programme and a medical ethics programme, bring his CPD (Continuing Professional Development) obligations up to date and regularly meet with a nominated person to discuss his progress and compliance with the conditions.

In his May 2016 decision on the council’s application to attach those conditions, Mr Justice Kelly expressed concern about the serious findings against the doctor but, noting the court’s limited powers under the Medical Practitioners Act, agreed to impose the conditions sought.

In March 2017, the council asked the judge to suspend the doctor’s registration pending an inquiry into his alleged non compliance with the conditions. That inquiry, held in July 2018, upheld the allegations of non compliance.

In court this week, JP McDowell, solicitor for the council, said there had been little contact from Dr Cassidy since the March 2017 order, his conduct showed a significant lack of insight and the FTPC and council wanted his registration cancelled.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Kelly said, because of the 2016 dishonesty findings against the doctor, he believed the conditions were at the most lenient end of the scale. Whatever pressure the doctor was under at the time of the forgery offences, he also gave dishonest answers on the registration form in 2009, he said.

His misgivings had been borne out because Dr Cassidy has hardly complied at all with the conditions, the judge said.

This case concerned a doctor with a serious alcohol problem who had been ignoring his regulator and had been found not to have complied adequately or at all with the conditions, he said.

The FTPC was satisfied there has been “singular failure” by him to remediate his conduct and the court noted with “grave disquiet” he had not provided a truthful account of interactions with his mentor.

The FTPC considered there were no mitigating factors including he had not shown any insight or respect for the monitoring committee and the court and, in the circumstances, the “proportionate and appropriate” sanction was to cancel his registration, he said.

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