Trial begins: doctor accused of sexually assaulting patients
A ROCKHAMPTON doctor is accused of sexually assaulting seven patients over four years.
Dr Elamurugan Arumugam today 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 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.