Doctor seeks legal aid for medical inquiry

 

A doctor who spent 17 months in custody before a jury cleared him of sexually assaulting two female patients has asked the High Court for a declaration he is entitled to legal representation at a Medical Council hearing into allegations of professional misconduct made against him.

Dr Aftab Ahmed, with an address at Parnell Street, Dublin, said he has no money to pay lawyers, is living on social welfare and needs legal representation at the council's inquiry because he has difficulty understanding the proceedings.

Dr Ahmed was acquitted in January 1999 by a jury in the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court of sexually assaulting two women at the Mater Hospital, Dublin.

Following his acquittal, Dr Ahmed renewed his application for temporary registration in Ireland. However, he had received a reply nine months later from the Medical Council that it was to hold an inquiry, he said.

In March 2000, he brought High Court proceedings against the council. In October 2001, the court ruled it would be unfair for the Medical Council to begin a hearing to decide if Dr Ahmed was guilty of assaults of which he had already been acquitted by a criminal court jury. The inquiry was limited by the High Court to the question of whether Dr Ahmed might have been guilty of inappropriate behaviour.

Yesterday, Mr Feichin McDonagh SC, for Dr Ahmed, said his client applied to the courts and sought to prohibit the inquiry. The Supreme Court indicated the inquiry could continue but could not report pending the outcome of High Court proceedings.

The Medical Council believed it was precluded under the terms of the Medical Practitioners' Act, 1978, from providing legal assistance and could not provide legal assistance or funds.

The question for the High Court is whether the council is precluded under the Act from providing assistance, Mr McDonagh said.

The hearing continues today.