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The New Zealand Medical Journal

 Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association, 17-December-2004, Vol 117 No 1207

Professional Discipline – Indecent Assault Conviction
Charge:
The CAC charged that Dr Karunasekera had been convicted by the District Court in Invercargill of three offences of indecent assault under Section 135(1)(a) of the Crimes Act 1961, each being an offence punishable by imprisonment for a term of three months or longer. The CAC charged that the circumstances of the offences reflected adversely on Dr Karunasekera’s fitness to practise medicine.

Background:
Dr Karunasekera arrived in New Zealand with his wife and two young children in February 2002 on a work visa. During his time at Grey Hospital, Dr Karunasekera was involved in a conflict with a senior consultant who was critical of his work although the matter was dealt with by the hospital administration.
Towards the end of 2002 Dr Karunasekera and his family went on holiday to Queenstown over the New Year period and it was at this time that the offending took place. There were three separate incidents that were the subject of the charges. The first two incidents occurred in two different shops. In each of those shops, Dr Karunasekera pulled a shop assistant’s hands down to the penile region of his trousers. In the third incident Dr Karunasekera ran his fingers against the shop assistant’s breasts and held her breasts for a period of approximately two seconds.
Dr Karunasekera pleaded guilty to the charges and was convicted and sentenced as follows:
  • 12 months supervision; and
  • Referral for assessment at the Adult STOP Programme and, if found suitable, to undertake the programme as directed and to the satisfaction of his probation officer; and
  • Referral for Department of Corrections psychological assessment and treatment as directed by and to the satisfaction of his probation officer; and
  • Payment of reparation (emotional harm) of $500.00 to each of the three complainants.
There was no dispute that Dr Karunasekera had been convicted of an offence that is punishable by imprisonment of a term of three months or longer.
Similarly, there was no dispute that the circumstances of the offences reflected adversely on Dr Karunasekera’s fitness to practise medicine.

Finding:
The Tribunal found that Dr Karunasekera had been convicted of offences punishable by a term of imprisonment of three months or longer and that the circumstances of the offending reflected adversely on his fitness to practise.

Penalty:
The Tribunal ordered that Dr Karunasekera be censured; pay 15% of the costs and expenses of the prosecution and hearing costs of the inquiry. The costs were at the lower end of the scale as Dr Karunasekera accepted the charge and showed co-operation and commitment to his rehabilitation.
The Tribunal recommended to the Medical Council that should Dr Karunasekera wish to re-register, that re-registration should not occur until he has completed the STOP programme. The Tribunal further recommended that prior to re-registration Dr Karunasekera undertake the Sexual Misconduct Assessment Test (SMAT). The Tribunal considered registration and conditions of practice which might be imposed following the SMAT should address matters such as practising within a team or with a chaperone and issues of supervision.
It further ordered publication of the decisions of the Tribunal in the New Zealand Medical Journal.

The full decisions relating to the case can be found on the Tribunal web site at www.mpdt.org.nz Reference No: 04/121C.
     
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