Police investigate Wangaratta GP for alleged sex offences

Acting superintendent Joy Arbuthnot and RACGP representative Dr Lara Roeske address the media. Picture: Kylie Esler
Acting superintendent Joy Arbuthnot and RACGP representative Dr Lara Roeske address the media. Picture: Kylie Esler

1.30PM: Police investigating a Wangaratta GP for alleged sexual assault and allegedly taking intimate photos of female patients during appointments have identified 19 victims so far.

The Ely Street Clinic GP, who has been suspended and will appear before court in September, has worked in the region for about 40 years.

Acting Superintendent Joy Arbuthnot said there could be further women affected who were yet to be identified.

“Today is the start of our investigation in that sense we’re contacting the victims we know,” she said.

“They range anywhere from (ages) 17 to 60 and they all reside within the Wangaratta area.

“In the next four days we intend to make contact with all of those victims and beyond that we expect there will be other people who may come forward and we would encourage them to contact Crime Stoppers or Wangaratta Police.

“It will be a very difficult time for people, it’s not every day that the police contact you and advise you … you are potentially the victim of a sexual assault.”

The Ely Street Clinic

The Ely Street Clinic

Acting Superintendent Arbuthnot could not say how many images were discovered by police when they analysed camera and computer equipment seized on November 30.

“I’m not sure how far back this will go and that is a matter we’ll need to step through,” she said.

“We’ve decided to be proactive with our media because we realise this was going to be a long and sensitive investigation.

“We have worked cooperatively with the health regulator and a number of agencies right from the start to make sure we had all the information, services and structures in place to support people who will either come forward or who are already known as victims.”

Acting Superintendent Arbuthnot asked women to report any unusual appointments at the clinic, and said the patient who reported her experience on October 10, in which the GP allegedly did not use gloves for a female health test and she observed camera equipment in the room, was crucial to the case.

“She’s been very brave and she obviously knew something was unusual, and so she came to us in a sense of inquiry and making that inquiry has led us to where we are today,” she said.

“This will impact all of the community, not only the victims but the broader community and how they view their general practitioners, I’d like to say that this relates to one person and not other practitioners within Wangaratta, and in the main most practitioners are doing the right thing.

“The other point I’d like to make is the Ely Street Clinic are in essence not part of this, they’re people that are working and they’re making their livelihood, they were not aware as far as we’re concerned and certainly not participating in this type of offending.

“We’ve worked with them cooperatively to make sure we try and minimise the impact to that clinic.”

The clinic remains open, but was closed as news broke of the allegations.

“We acknowledge that a medical practitioner from the Ely Street Clinic was charged with an offence,” a statement from the clinic read.

“We do not have the complete details of this alleged offence and we are not in a position to discuss any aspects of this.

“We also shall not be doing so until the whole matter is resolved. 

“We are co-operating fully with Victoria Police.

“We would appreciate that you respect our privacy in this delicate situation.”

The sexual assault team at Centre Against Violence are available to offer support in relation to this matter and can be contacted on (03) 5722 2203.

9AM: A Wangaratta GP has been suspended while police investigate alleged sexual assaults.

On October 10, 2017 a woman attended the Ely Street practice for a female health test and the examination was allegedly conducted without the use of surgical gloves.

While in the room, she also noticed what appeared to be camera equipment.

The following day she reported the matter to police and an investigation commenced.

Police subsequently notified a number of other agencies, including the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.

Advice was also then obtained in relation to the non-use of surgical gloves and it was determined that an offence may have occurred in relation to that aspect.

On 30 November, 2017 warrants were executed at the 68-year-old man’s work and residential address and camera and computer equipment was seized.

He was suspended on this date from practising.

This equipment subsequently underwent forensic analysis and a number of inappropriate images of female patients were allegedly located.

After cross checking the date and time stamp on the images with the GP’s appointment records at the clinic, further alleged victims have been identified.

The man was subsequently interviewed by police in January.

Yesterday he was charged with sexual assault and capture intimate image, and bailed with conditions to appear at Wangaratta Magistrates’ Court on September 10.

The investigation remains ongoing.

Local detectives, with assistance from investigators from the Sexual Crimes Squad, will be contacting those identified women during a four day period between today (12 June) and 15 June.

All alleged victims are female and reside in the Wangaratta area.

There is no evidence to suggest any other doctor or staff member at the clinic is involved in this matter.

At this time police are not aware of any of the images taken by the GP being shared further.

Acting Superintendent Joy Arbuthnot said she understood this news is likely to be very distressing for the women.

“I don’t think anyone wants to be in a position where they receive a notification from police that they have been a victim of a sexual assault,” she said.

“I understand this will be incredibly difficult for our victims to hear and we are working with a range of other agencies to ensure the right support services are in place and they are given as much information as possible about the process from here.

“Wangaratta is a small community and we have someone who has been working in a position of trust for many years, involved in this matter.

“It is likely that there are other victims who, again, may be unaware the offence has occurred.

“I’d encourage anyone who attended this clinic and believes there was anything unusual about their interaction with their GP, to contact Crime Stoppers.

“I also want to reassure the local community that a thorough investigation is being conducted into this matter and that all reports of sexual assault are taken seriously.

“We understand how concerning this will be for the broader community of Wangaratta and we ask that people don’t share misinformation and instead look at what we are publishing on our official channels in terms of the investigation but also the options that are available to them in regarding to health matters.”

Anyone with any information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000

More information in relation to sexual assault and support services is available here: