Doc­tor on as­sault charges

‘Sex­ual and other acts’ – 7 pa­tients

The Morning Bulletin - - NEWS - KERRI-ANNE MESNER [email protected]­news.com.au

A ROCK­HAMP­TON doc­tor is ac­cused of sex­u­ally as­sault­ing seven pa­tients over four years.

Dr Ela­mu­ru­gan Aru­mugam yes­ter­day pleaded not guilty in Rock­hamp­ton Dis­trict Court to sex­ual as­sault charges and al­ter­na­tive com­mon as­sault charges in re­la­tion to seven al­leged vic­tims and mul­ti­ple al­leged in­ci­dents.

Dr Aru­mugam was prac­tis­ing as a plas­tic sur­geon, with peo­ple see­ing him for treat­ment after surg­eries and skin can­cers or sunspots in Rock­hamp­ton dur­ing the pe­riod the al­leged of­fences oc­curred.

Crown prose­cu­tor Tif­fany Lawrence said Dr Aru­mugam’s con­duct in this case fell into three cat­e­gories: Touch­ing pa­tients’ breasts, touch­ing other ar­eas such as their bot­toms and putting his fin­gers in their mouths.

She ex­plained the rea­son there were al­ter­na­tive charges of com­mon as­sault was that there were dif­fer­ent el­e­ments to the two charges. Both re­quire there to be some ac­tion of force with­out con­sent and be un­law­ful. The dif­fer­ence is for sex­ual as­sault, it has to be an in­de­cent act.

Ms Lawrence said it was al­leged all but one act oc­curred in Dr Aru­mugam’s of­fice.

She said six of the seven women will claim he placed his fin­gers, while not wear­ing gloves, in­side their mouths with­out any warn­ing.

“Each of the com­plainants with the ex­cep­tion of (one) who is the first act in time, went to see the de­fen­dant about skin can­cers or sunspots,” Ms Lawrence said.

“They’ll tell you that the de­fen­dant didn’t re­ally speak dur­ing the course of the ex­am­i­na­tions.

“Six of the seven com­plainants will tell (the jury) how his fin­gers came to be in their mouths and that un­less they had an overt re­ac­tion to that ... so the pulling back of their head or in fact, on one oc­ca­sion, in fact bit­ing his fin­gers ... that they were not just left there fleet­ingly.

“That they would re­main there in their mouths while the de­fen­dant was ex­am­in­ing them, in­clud­ing other ar­eas not on their face.”

Ms Lawrence said three women al­lege dur­ing con­sul­ta­tions with Dr Aru­mugam he touched them on the breast.

She said one of the women claimed he touched the side of her breast after he slowly slipped the bra strap off her shoul­der.

Ms Lawrence said the fi­nal charge is in re­la­tion to an al­leged in­ci­dent on May 1, 2013, where a child was in the room with Dr Aru­mugam and a pa­tient.

She said it is al­leged Aru­mugam dis­tracted the pa­tient’s grand­son with his head­lamp

while he put his hand down her shirt, un­der her bra, grabbed her breast while mov­ing his fin­gers around and touched her nip­ple.

It was the sec­ond con­sul­ta­tion this woman had with Dr Aru­mugam and the third time he had al­legedly touched her breast.

An­other will claim Dr Aru­mugam had one hand on one of her breasts the whole time while tak­ing pho­to­graphs of her and mov­ing her around.

Other al­le­ga­tions in­clude Dr Aru­mugam touch­ing one pa­tient’s pu­bic bone dur­ing an ex­am­i­na­tion, and pulling an­other’s un­der­pants up into her but­tocks and cup­ping her bot­tom firmer than he had any other part of her body. She had been there for sunspot con­cerns un­der her eye and on her thigh.

“Sev­eral will tell you that there were other oc­ca­sions that they at­tended the doc­tor’s surgery with their hus­bands present and whilst their hus­bands were present, the same acts did not oc­cur while they were there and the ex­am­i­na­tion was dif­fer­ent,” Ms Lawrence said.

The court heard a Rock­hamp­ton gen­eral prac­ti­tioner is ex­pected to take the stand dur­ing the trial and give ev­i­dence about pa­tients she had re­ferred to Dr Aru­mugam and what they told her about what hap­pened dur­ing those con­sul­ta­tions.

Pres­i­dent of the Aus­tralian So­ci­ety of Plas­tic Sur­geons Dr James Savun­dra is to give ev­i­dence about the Aus­tralian stan­dards for ex­am­i­na­tions.

“As a so­ci­ety, we place our trust in doc­tors and our health is of­ten in their hands,” Ms Lawrence said.

“They are held in high re­gard as a pro­fes­sion.

“Dur­ing the course of our vis­its and treat­ments, we ex­pect them to act to con­duct them­selves pro­fes­sion­ally – par­tic­u­larly in the course of the phys­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tions.

“They may re­quire their pa­tients to un­dress to check ar­eas that are in­ti­mate. And when it comes to that sort of ex­am­i­na­tion, we ex­pect that there is a re­quire­ment that they only touch us where it is nec­es­sary and where there is a le­git­i­mate pur­pose for it to be done.”

The trial con­tin­ues on Mon­day.

‘‘ EACH OF THE COM­PLAINANTS WITH THE EX­CEP­TION OF (ONE) WHO IS THE FIRST ACT IN TIME, WENT TO SEE THE DE­FEN­DANT ABOUT SKIN CAN­CERS OR SUNSPOTS.

CROWN PROSE­CU­TOR TIF­FANY LAWRENCE

Photo: Kerri-Anne Mesner

ON­GO­ING TRIAL: Dr Ela­mu­ru­gan Aru­mugam is ac­cused of sex­u­ally as­sault­ing seven pa­tients be­tween 2009–2013. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

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