A former Armagh doctor who stood trial on sexual allegations involving multiple female patients, remains suspended two years after he was acquitted of all charges.
Dr. Tony Chee (53), of Danesfort, Moira, was charged after a number of women made complaints from his time working as a GP in Armagh between 2009 and 2011.
Each contended they were sexually assaulted while the doctor carried out intimate examinations.
Matters first reached Armagh Magistrates’ Court in 2014, alleging eight charges against Dr. Chee, but when this was published, more women came forward.
By the time of transferring to Newry Crown Court in 2016, Dr. Chee faced 26 charges, involving 19 complainants.
He denied all allegations, maintaining this position throughout.
Defence lawyers successfully applied to split the cases, with the first trial covering the seven complainants who reported allegations directly to police.
Reporting restrictions were imposed at this stage to ensure fairness in the second trial.
In May, 2018, after a 16-day trial at Newry Crown Court, Dr. Chee was cleared on all counts, with the jury deliberating for just over an hour.
The remaining charges relating to complaints made after publication of the first matters and following a public appeal by police, were heard at a separate trial in February, 2020.
As the case opened, no evidence was offered in respect of one complainant.
After a 20-day trial, Dr. Chee was found not guilty on seven counts, but the jury was unable to reach verdicts on the remaining allegations.
The prosecution applied for a retrial, but defence lawyers mounted a challenge asserting abuse of process.
The matter was heard by the now Mr. Justice McFarland in Belfast Crown Court.
He referred to the seriousness of such allegations against a medical practitioner, involving complaints of sexual assaults carried out during medical examinations.
The judge acknowledged the delay in the case with instances of alleged inappropriate examinations first reported to police in 2011.
It was November, 2013, when Dr. Chee was interviewed, and August, 2014 when he was charged.
He was interviewed for the second set of allegations in May, 2015, and all charges were conjoined.
Judge McFarland found: “No evidence of any specific prejudice or unfairness arising from the delay [but] it is a relevant factor … delay is not insignificant.”
It was noted Dr. Chee “remembers little, if anything, about the alleged incidents … some evidence from his clinical notes is available, although of limited value”.
In both trials, the prosecution contended the examinations, were at least in part, for obtaining sexual gratification.
Expert medical evidence found Dr. Chee’s examination procedures outdated, with “no privacy curtain at one surgery, and examinations carried out without a chaperone …. there was a deficiency in note-taking”.
On May 19, 2020, after in-depth consideration, Judge McFarland halted proceedings and ruled: “The defendant could not receive a fair trial by virtue of the relevance of the two sets of earlier acquittals, and it would be unfair to try him for a third time, by virtue of the nature of the case against him and the decisions made by the earlier juries.”
Over two years have since passed, and Dr. Chee remains suspended from practice.
On enquiry, the General Medical Council (GMC) confirmed the Interim Suspension Order remains in place, and was last renewed on July 22, 2022.
A spokesperson confirmed: “Dr. Tony Chee has been interim suspended pending the conclusion of a General Medical Council investigation into the allegations against him.
“At the end of an investigation, a decision is made as to whether a case is referred to the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) for a full hearing.
“We are not able to confirm if a hearing at the MPTS has been listed until it has been published on their website. This is usually a month or so in advance.”
Meanwhile, the MPTS advised Interim Suspensions Orders are imposed while the GMC investigates concerns.
On completion, they may refer a case to the MPTS for a full substantive hearing.
In respect of Dr. Chee, an MPTS spokesperson added: “At this time, a hearing has not been listed.”