Harrigan in happier, award-winning times.
An award-winning solicitor has been jailed for three years for stealing almost £30,000 from an elderly woman.
Julie Harrigan was enjoying a meteoric rise as a senior solicitor at Collas Crill in Jersey. She was awarded the Jersey Law Society's Junior Lawyer of the Year in 2016, and the offshore firm promoted her to Head of Wills and Estates.
The star lawyer was appointed by the court to manage the financial affairs of a 76 year-old woman who was residing in a care home. But from October 2015 to September 2017 Harrigan took a light-fingered approach to the pensioner's account by making 46 transactions into her own personal account, totally almost £30k, it was reported by the Bailiwick Express.
Harrigan was also instructed to move £18,000 from a deceased person's estate to an animal shelter charity, but she transferred the money into the pensioner's account instead.
The lawyer was rumbled when the Jersey tax department noticed suspicious activity in relation to the transactions. Collas Crill launched an investigation and dismissed Harrigan in January 2018.
Harrigan went back to her native home of Ireland. Police in Jersey started a criminal investigation and requested that Harrigan return to Jersey in March 2020, to face charges of fraud. However, Harrigan failed to do so at the time, and was only able to come back to Jersey in September this year, due to the pandemic. She was arrested and stood trial at court.
Harrigan “jeopardised a future career for dishonest conduct seemingly motivated by greed" Matthew Maletroit for the prosecution told the court. The "breach of trust" was "at the top of the spectrum in terms of seriousness," said Maletroit.
Defence lawyer Rebecca Morley-Kirk said Harrigan's "personal life was falling apart" and she had become isolated from her family. Harrigan was also under considerable strain at Collas Crill - working as if she was a partner, despite only being a senior associate, the court heard.
Harrigan had failed to return to Jersey in March last year as she had "panicked because she was not yet ready to face the music," said Morley-Kirk.
Harrigan was remorseful and wanted to make amends, said her defence lawyer, and was willing to pay back the money she had stolen by cashing in personal contributions from her pension.
The court said it was "at a loss to understand" why Harrigan had offended in this way, as she had been earning £60,000 a year, and there had been no need for her to take the extra money. The court believed that Harrigan's remorse was genuine, but said there was "no reason or excuse" to justify her behaviour.
The court sentenced Harrigan to three years in prison and ordered that she repay Collas Crill £28,250 in compensation.
A spokeswoman for Collas Crill told RollOnFriday, "As soon as the firm became aware of the situation, we notified all the relevant authorities and took all necessary internal steps to protect our clients, including a comprehensive internal review."
"We ensured that the affected client did not suffer any financial loss," said the spokeswoman. "We also made sure that all charities received the money that was bequeathed to them. Ms Harrigan's misconduct was linked with her role as Curator, a role appointed by the Royal Court."
Thoughts on your firm? Take the survey below.