14 May 2021
A former psychiatrist who sexually assaulted a female patient has been disqualified by a tribunal from applying for registration for five years.
In November 2015, the Medical Board of Australia (the Board) took immediate action after receiving a notification alleging that Dr Prabakar Rajan Thomas had sexually assaulted a female patient during a consultation earlier that month. The Board put conditions on Dr Thomas’s registration that he have a chaperone present when treating female patients.
Following advice from the Victoria Police that Dr Thomas had been charged with several offences, the Board took further immediate action in June 2017 and suspended Dr Thomas’s registration. He surrendered his registration in November 2018.
On 29 March 2019, Dr Thomas was, after pleading guilty, convicted of one charge of sexual assault and sentenced to two years’ jail.
The Board referred him to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) for professional misconduct and alleged there was contextual ‘grooming’ conduct leading up to the assault which included touching the patient’s body inappropriately and disclosing to her that he had an affair with a patient.
Dr Thomas, who was a registered medical practitioner practising as a psychiatrist when the conduct occurred, was not registered when the tribunal heard the matter on 1 March 2021.
The tribunal found that while Dr Thomas admitted to the conduct that was subject to the sexual assault charge, he neither admitted or denied the contextual matters and claimed that he could not recall the events due to health reasons.
The tribunal considered that general deterrence was important, rather than specific deterrence, noting Dr Thomas’s age, health and that he had declared his intention not to return to practice.
It noted that Dr Thomas pleaded guilty at a late stage in the criminal proceedings and that it was difficult for him to show genuine remorse in circumstances in which he could not recall events.
Dr Thomas’s misconduct was so serious that the tribunal considered a disqualification period of five years appropriate. He was also reprimanded.
The tribunal published its decision on the AustLII website on 17 March 2021.