Sunday 17 December 2017

'Woman ran out of surgery in tears', doctor's sexual assault trial told

Picture posed. Getty Images/iStockphoto
Picture posed. Getty Images/iStockphoto

A woman has told the trial of a doctor accused of sexually assaulting two patients that she ran out of his consultation room in tears and shouting that he had touched her.

The 37-year-old man from Waterford is alleged to have touched the women's breasts during chest examinations with a stethoscope.

He has pleaded not  guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to two counts of sexual assault at a GP clinic in Dublin on February 19 and 20, 2013. The court has heard the accused has worked as a locum doctor in Cork, Tipperary, Offaly and Waterford.

His trial has already heard a 23-year-old woman allege that, on his first day working as a locum in the Dublin clinic, he touched her breasts and nipples during an examination.

Today,  the second complainant testified that, during a chest examination the following day, she thought the accused may have been sexually aroused but she wasn’t certain.

Under cross examination by the man's defence barrister, the 50-year-old woman denied that she went to the doctor with an agenda or that she knew anything about the alleged sexual assault on another patient the previous day.

She said that while the doctor was using the stethoscope on the right hand side of her chest she felt a soft and repetitive movement over the nipple area of her left breast.

She believed he was stimulating this area from over her clothing with his left hand and said she could not believe what was happening.

"I thought, this is mad. My first instinct was to jump off that couch. I stopped myself. It was very very difficult. But I needed to be sure," she testified.

She said she put her hand down and found his hand cupped over her breast. At this point she jumped up off the couch and shouted, "get off me, don't touch me". She said she felt disgusted and violated and left the room in tears. In the waiting area she shouted that he had touched her sexually.

The accused followed her out of the surgery and denied that he'd done anything and told her she was making serious allegations and advised her to make a formal complaint.

Garda Paul Egan told the court that when the allegations were put to the accused he categorically denied sexually assaulting either patient, saying: "I would have treated my own mother, wife, sister in the same way."

He said he has never had any allegations made against him before, adding: “I would find it very upsetting to have one but to have two in two days, I don’t know what to say”.

The trial before Judge Catherine Murphy and a jury of five women and seven men will enter closing stages tomorrow.

The second complainant told Melanie Greally BL, prosecuting, that she went to the clinic with concerns she might have asthma or bronchitis. She said the doctor unzipped her hoodie top in a "tentative movement" and she felt this was very strange.

"I tried to recall if I could remember any other doctor doing this, whether this was normal practice," she said. She added that she felt it was strange that he didn't say anything. She said he pulled part of her top down and exposed the strap of her bra.

She said she was lying down on the surgery bed and felt something hard pressing against her elbow. She looked down and saw that his groin was pressed against her elbow.

"I felt that he might have been aroused but I couldn't be one hundred per cent certain," she said.

The witness said she moved her arm away and the examination continued. She said she felt the accused was "much closer" that any other doctor had been during past examinations but that she decided to give him the "benefit of the doubt".

"His face was extremely close to mine. I felt it was unusual," she said, adding she was feeling very uncomfortable.

She said at one point she turned her head and glared at the doctor and that he seemed surprised and moved back.

Two other male patients gave evidence that they were in the waiting room of the clinic when they saw the second complainant leaving the doctor's surgery. The two Cork men had been involved in a road traffic accident that morning.

Paul Long said the woman seemed very upset and angry. He said the doctor also seemed upset. Thomas Murphy said the woman was in “a bit of state” and was saying the doctor had touched her breasts.

He said he was the doctor’s next patient and said the accused was in a bad way and asked for a couple of minutes. He said he was happy with his treatment.

A witness who was working behind the reception at the time said that she saw the door of the surgery burst open and the patient came out and was crying and distraught.

She said she the doctor was relieved of his duties by lunchtime that day after the locum agency had been contacted.  She testified that she thought he seemed like a nice doctor and said that he had also examined her on the previous day.

She said she had been complaining of chest pains and heartburn and he had offered to check her out. She told Brendan Grehan SC, defending, that the doctor had not touched her in any inappropriate way. 

She said she didn’t hear about the allegation from the first woman until months later.

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