Gudrun Young successfully acts for Intensive Care Consultant accused of sexual assault
Gudrun successfully represented Dr X, a Consultant in Intensive Care at his trial for the sexual assault of two different female patients under his care. The Consultant, who had worked as a doctor for over 30 years without being the subject of any previous complaint, had been suspended from working for nearly 4 years as a result of the allegations. A complainant with significant mental health problems reported that she had been “groped” on the breast by a Consultant in January 2018, although she was unable to name or identify her alleged attacker and the investigation foundered. In March 2018, a different patient accused Dr X of “groping” her breast during an examination and, because he was one of the doctors who had seen the first complainant on the day in question, he found himself arrested in relation to both women. The first complainant subsequently picked him out at an identification procedure.
Were it not for the second complainant’s complaint, the doctor would never have been identified or charged in relation to the first and it was the second complainant who gave credence and support to the initial allegation. The police clearly assumed that it was too much of a coincidence for two different women to separately accuse him, and did nothing to investigate the doctor’s defence, which was that in relation to the first complaint he was engaged in a busy clinic at a different location at the relevant time, and in relation to the second that he had carried out a clinically indicated and perfectly proper breast examination, as documented in his notes.
At trial the second complainant admitted that she had indeed complained of breast pain, making a breast examination clinically mandatory, and demonstrated a textbook examination of the breast which she had experienced as a “grope” only because she had never had such an examination before. That count was dismissed by the judge on a submission of no case to answer at the close of the prosecution case. The jury subsequently acquitted the doctor of the remaining counts on the indictment.
The case stands as an interesting example of the errors that can be brought about because of the “prosecutor’s fallacy” in which two seemingly independent allegations are assumed to be true because, supposedly, “lightening doesn’t strike twice”. It is also yet another reminder of the inherent dangers of identification evidence. More worryingly, it is part of an increasing trend in dedicated and hardworking doctors with untarnished reputations being charged with sexual offences in relation to the examination of patients, when the overwhelming likelihood was that they were performing proper clinical examinations. That is not to say that there are not cases where doctors have exploited their position of trust to sexually exploit vulnerable patients in their care but, absent good evidence to the contrary, doctors deserve to be given the benefit of the doubt in relation to such allegations.