Cork dentist who sexually assaulted nurse avoids jail

Tue, Jun 19, 2012, 01:00

A 60-YEAR-OLD dentist was given a 15-month suspended sentence for sexually assaulting a 19-year-old dental nurse just days after she began work at his surgery in Cork almost six years ago.

John Tait, a father of three, of Glen House, Upper Rochestown, Cork, had been found guilty last May at Cork Circuit Criminal Court of sexually assaulting the woman at his surgery at St Patrick’s Terrace, Douglas, on December 20th, 2006.

Yesterday Judge Raymond Fullam imposed a 15-month sentence on Tait, but he suspended it on condition of good behaviour.

At the sentencing hearing a summary of the case was given by investigating garda Sgt Derek Mulcahy, and a victim impact statement was given by the woman.

Sgt Mulcahy said the woman was alone in the surgery with Tait on the third day of her new job when he offered to carry out an examination of her teeth as she complained of headaches. He asked her to remove her bra so he could check her sternum and teeth alignment.

She removed her bra in a bathroom and returned to the surgery, wearing a vest and tunic which Tait then asked her if he could unzip which he did, only for it to fall around her waist. Tait then lifted her vest without her permission, exposing her breasts for about a minute.

The woman said in her victim impact statement that she had been shocked and horrified. She had been excited and enthusiastic at starting her new job, and Tait had promised to help further her career. Instead he had abused his position as her employer.

“I was mortified and shocked that he exposed my breasts and was staring at them. Mr Tait was my boss and was in control.

“ I didn’t know what to do . . . It was humiliating . . . I was afraid to return to work and scared for what would happen next. I resigned from my job.”

The court heard character evidence for Tait. Defence counsel Tim O’Leary said it had been devastating for Tait professionally as, since conviction, he had ceased practising as a dentist. It had a devastating effect on him socially in Cork and on his family.

He said the assault was on the lower end of the scale of sexual assault, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years, and he asked Judge Fullam to impose a suspended sentence.

Judge Fullam noted that Tait had not offered an apology to the victim.

Following a brief consultation with his lawyers, Tait took to the stand. “I apologise unreservedly for any and all upset I caused her,” he said, adding in reply to a question from Mr O’Leary that he fully accepted he was the cause of her upset.

Judge Fullam noted that the trial jury had clearly believed Tait’s actions in lifting her vest were done for “sexual gratification” and it amounted to an invasion of the victim’s privacy by a person in a position of trust.

Among the mitigating factors in Tait’s favour was the fact that the offence was at the lesser end of the scale, being voyeuristic rather than involving touching or violence. It was also in his favour that he had no previous convictions and was unlikely to reoffend.

Among the aggravating factors was the fact that this was “an exploitation by a middle-aged man of an innocent 19-year-old girl, by a medical practitioner of a vulnerable patient and by an employer of an employee”, said Judge Fullam, before imposing the suspended sentence.

Earlier prosecution barrister Michael Collins told the court that the law only required the name of a person convicted of a sexual offence to be placed on the sex offenders’ register if they received a custodial sentence.