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Department in solicitor fraud case move

MLAs are told about civil proceedings connected to investigation into Belfast lawyer

By David Gordon

A Stormont department is involved in legal action to recoup money involved in a fraud investigation within the legal profession, MLAs have been informed.

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey has told the Assembly that civil proceedings linked to a probe into Belfast solicitor George Brangam were initiated on behalf of his Department and other NHS bodies.

Mr Brangam was a senior partner in law firm Brangam, Bagnall and Co, which specialised in work for health service organisations.

The Law Society, which regulates solicitors, closed the practice down last year after obtaining a court order freezing the lawyer's assets.

Papers lodged in the High Court by the Society alleged that he had been " guilty of dishonesty in connection with his practice".

A PSNI probe into the case was also launched.

A police spokesman yesterday said this inquiry is still ongoing.

Meanwhile, a number of health trusts have launched civil proceedings against the solicitor.

The Health Minister referred to the case in answer to a written Stormont question from DUP MLA Michelle McIlveen about legal fraud cases in the NHS.

Mr McGimpsey told the Assembly: "There has been one case of suspected fraud involving the senior partner in Brangam and Bagnall solicitors which provided legal services to a number of HSS Trusts and one HSS Board.

"Following a forensic investigation, a firm of solicitors acting on behalf of the Department and the HPSS has initiated civil proceedings to recoup the losses through the insurance protection scheme in respect of the legal profession.

"This action is currently ongoing."

Mr Brangam's firm represented a string of NHS trusts and boards over many years in medical negligence and other compensation cases.

The ongoing civil proceedings are expected to seek money via the practice's professional indemnity insurance arrangements. The Law Society publicly stated earlier this year that the case is unlikely to involve any " substantial claim" upon its Compensation Fund.

Mr Brangam's list of past clients includes a well-known Ulster charity, the Northern Ireland Hospice.

The solicitor conducted a controversial investigation into its director Tom Hill in 2000 at the request of the organisation's ruling council.

A bitter and damaging split among Hospice members opened up over Mr Hill's suspension and subsequent sacking.

Mr Hill was eventually awarded £85,000 after an independent panel concluded that he had been unfairly dismissed.

He returned as the charity's chief executive but later resigned following further internal acrimony and a review commissioned by the Department of Health.

Belfast Telegraph


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