Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED February 18, 2003

A sentence of 12 years for various offences committed by a doctor on his patients over a period of time, which included indecent assault and administering a noxious substance, was too high. A sentence of eight years for this pattern of behaviour was appropriate.Appeal against sentence with leave of the single judge. On 2 August 2002 at Southwark Crown Court the defendant ('H') pleaded guilty to 15 counts of indecent assault on a male, five counts of taking indecent photographs of a child, five counts of possession of indecent photographs of a child and six counts of administering a noxious substance with intent. H was subsequently sentenced to a total of 12 years' imprisonment. H was a GP who indecently assaulted male patients, aged between 14 and 25, over a ten-year period. H rubbed their genitalia but none of them ejaculated nor touched H. Between 1983 and 1988 H administered sedatives to the victims and indecently assaulted them. H made videos of the victims and photographs, albeit old ones, were found in H's home. There was no evidence of any offences since 1988. The sentencing judge remarked that the offences were outrageous and despicable. Serious aggravating features included: (i) breach of trust; (ii) advantage was taken after sedatives had been administered; (iii) offences occurred over a long period of ten years; (iv) the indignity and humiliation of the victims, some of whom had suffered adverse psychiatric harm; and (v) some of the victims thought they were being videoed for genuine medical purposes, whilst some were unaware they had been filmed. The judge took into account H's guilty plea which saved the victims from having to give evidence, even though the video evidence clearly implicated him. H had committed no further offences for 14 years and apart from one minor indecency charge many years before, this was H's first court appearance. The judge commented that if H had not pleaded guilty a sentence of 15 years would have been appropriate. H appealed on the grounds that: (a) the starting point was too high, the sentence should have been significantly lower; (b) the nature of the offences were very much at the lower end of the category of indecent assault, H had not rubbed his body on the victims and no penetration or oral sex had taken place; and (c) the authorities suggested that only where there was a pattern or a vile campaign of serious sexual offending that a 15 year sentence would be appropriate (see Attorney-General's Reference (No.75 of 1998) sub nom R v JN 2000 1 CAR (S) 102 and R v Peter Donovan Green (2002) EWCA Crim 1501).HELD: (1) The judge faced a difficult sentencing exercise. This was an unusual case which involved the abuse of by a doctor of his medical position. (2) The starting point was too high. Weighing all the factors the appropriate sentence for this pattern of behaviour should have been a total of eight years' imprisonment.Appeal allowed.