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Cardiologist is struck off for sexually assaulting young male armed forces recruits

BMJ 2018; 362 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k3406 (Published 03 August 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;362:k3406
  1. Clare Dyer
  1. The BMJ

A senior consultant cardiologist and former colonel in the British Army has been struck off the UK medical register for sexually assaulting young male service recruits who consulted him for cardiovascular examinations.

Neil Ineson, 62, carried out the assaults at Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey, where he was director of medicine. He also served as an assessor for the General Medical Council for many years.

Ineson, who is currently in prison serving a four year sentence for 11 counts of sexual assault involving seven young RAF airmen and Household Cavalry soldiers,1 did not attend the tribunal hearing and was not represented.

Although he was convicted and imprisoned in April last year, his trial was not publicised in the media for fear of prejudicing a second sexual assault trial he faced last January. When that ended in acquittal, his case became public knowledge.

The Guildford Crown Court jury that convicted him heard that his male patients, who were all being evaluated for potential cardiovascular problems, were generally naked during his examinations. Ineson would take patients’ femoral pulse, giving him an excuse to explore the groin area, the court heard.

After a patient alleged in 2014 that he had been sexually assaulted by Ineson, police carried out an extensive investigation. Seven men made allegations of sexual assault during examinations between 2008 and 2014. “A number of patients either withheld their concerns or were reluctant to make any complaint at the time given Dr Ineson’s status and rank,” said Marianne O’Kane, chairing the medical tribunal panel.

Ineson still maintains that the jury erred in convicting him in April 2017, but medical practitioners’ tribunals are obliged to take any criminal conviction as proof of guilt and are not allowed to re-examine the facts. By maintaining his innocence, O’Kane said, Ineson showed a lack of remorse that indicated a high risk of repetition.

“The only mitigating factors evident in this case are that Dr Ineson was well respected by his peers and had no previous convictions,” added O’Kane. Against this she set a litany of aggravating factors, including the fact that Ineson is now on the sexual offender register.

The patients were vulnerable because of cardiac health concerns, and one was aged just 16 when Ineson assaulted him, said O’Kane. “Some patients continued to address him as ‘Colonel’ or ‘Sir’ despite his working in a civilian environment, indicating the esteem in which he was held and magnifying the exploitation.

“All offences occurred in a clinical setting, where Dr Ineson relied upon his esteemed reputation and senior military rank to exploit and violate his victims. His conduct has clearly brought the medical profession into disrepute . . . the gross breaches of trust and the risk of repetition are fundamentally incompatible with continued registration.”

Ineson’s erasure from the register will take effect after 28 days unless he appeals.

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