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NZ: Sex dentist's name stays suppressed (Canterbury)

Publish Date: 04 Feb 2012
Source: Fairfax NZ News
By: Charlie Gates

A Canterbury dentist found guilty of making a patient touch him sexually while she was sedated under his care has been granted permanent name suppression by the High Court.

But the dentist has given the High Court an assurance that he will tell patients of the convictions if he is asked.

The dentist was found guilty by the Dentists Disciplinary Tribunal last May of causing a patient to touch his penis while she was sedated in 2001.

The dentist was acquitted in 2002 after a court trial prompted by the 2001 incident.

The dentist has practised in Canterbury since the verdict.

The tribunal ruled last year that he should be suspended for nine months, undertake counselling and therapy, be censured, pay costs of $87,000, not undertake sedation for three years and always be chaperoned.

It ordered that name suppression be lifted.

Justice Denis Clifford upheld the tribunal's findings, but reversed the tribunal's name-suppression decision.

He wrote in his ruling that lifting the name suppression would compromise the name-suppression order still in place from the court trial in 2002.

"When I combine that factor with the consideration that these matters now date back some 10 years, that [the dentist] has in the meantime continued to practise without further complaints, and that he is willing to provide an undertaking to the tribunal that, if asked, he will acknowledge that he was the dentist concerned ... then I consider good reasons exist in this very unusual case to maintain the permanent suppression," he found.

The dentist's victim, now aged 34, said granting permanent name suppression was not fair to other Canterbury dentists, but she was pleased the court had upheld the tribunal's findings.

"In my opinion, he should not be allowed to practise again. I'm absolutely stoked he's been found guilty," she said.

"It's not about the money he has to pay, it's that he's been labelled guilty."

The dentist was acquitted of six counts of indecent assault against five female patients by Christchurch District Court in 2002, and the case was referred to the New Zealand Dental Council for further investigation.

The woman said the other patients involved had given her the strength to pursue the case over the past 10 years.

"It's been a long road, but I stuck at it for all the other women who went through it and their voices weren't heard," she said.

"It's definitely closure for me, but it was closure for me many years ago.

"Although he wasn't found guilty in court, I knew he was guilty."


Copyright © 2012 Fairfax New Zealand Limited

Stop Demand's comment

-  Dentists Disciplinary Tribunal Decision of 22 April 2010 (charges).
-  Dentists Disciplinary Tribunal Decision of 20 October 2010 (penalty).

The Dentists Disciplinary Tribunal, in ordering that name suppression be lifted, found that the "misconduct was serious and there is a very real interest in having this misconduct out in the open so that the public knows the identity of the practitioner". [para 44 of penalty decision]

Justice Denis Clifford's decision to reverse that ruling is very disappointing.  In effect, it means that this sex offender's right to continue practising dentistry with anonymity as to his predatory history towards female patients, supercedes the rights of the public (women in particular) to make informed decisions as to their choice of dentist.  This is especially concerning given that the conditions placed upon him (sedation, chaperoning, etc.) are for a limited period of three years.