Wednesday 20 September 2017

Dentist avoids jail for sex assault of girl (19)

Georgina O'Halloran

A YOUNG woman was "shocked and mortified" when she was sexually assaulted by a dentist at his practice.

Dr John Tait (60) avoided jail yesterday when he was given a 15-month suspended prison sentence for sexually assaulting the then 19 -year-old woman at his surgery in 2006.

Tait asked the woman to remove her bra during the assault. He then unzipped her tunic, lifted her vest up to her neck and held it there, exposing her breasts for a period of less than a minute.

In a victim-impact statement the woman told the court she was "shocked and horrified".

"I was mortifed and shocked that he exposed my breasts and was staring at them... I didn't know what to do," she said, adding that she felt "very vulnerable" after the assault.

"I found it difficult to know what was normal practice and I began to mistrust myself in decision-making. My self-confidence was damaged for a long time after it all," she said.

Apology

A jury at Cork Circuit Criminal Court had found Tait guilty by majority verdict of sexually assaulting the woman. The father of three had denied the sexual assault.

At the sentencing hearing yesterday, Tait entered the witness box and told the victim that he "absolutely accepted" the verdict of the jury.

"I went to apologise unreservedly for any and all upset to her," he added.

Tait has since ceased practising as a dentist.

Counsel for Tait, Tim O'Leary, said his client's life had been devastated, "professionally, financially and reputationally". He said the trial and conviction had received a lot of media attention and that the effect on Tait's family had been "devastating".

Judge Ray Fullam said the jury had been satisfied that the removal of the bra, the unzipping of the tunic and the lifting of the vest were done for the purpose of sexual gratification.

He said the accused contrived to expose the patient's body from the waist up, which was an invasion of her personal privacy. Among aggravating factors was the fact that the assault was "an exploitation by a middle-aged man of an innocent 19-year-old".

The judge said the assault did not involve touching and was not accompanied by force, violence or physical injury.

Tait, of Glen House, Upper Rochestown, Cork, has no previous convictions. The judge said it was a single offence and did not warrant a custodial sentence.

He said the appropriate sentence was one year and three months, suspended on condition that the defendant enter a bond of good behaviour.

Speaking outside the court, the victim said she was happy with the outcome and encouraged anybody in a similar situation to go to the gardai.

She added: "You get amazing support and understanding from the guards."

Irish Independent

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