Doctor cleared of molesting nurse in operating theatre

An anaesthetist accused of touching a nurse's buttocks three times in an operating theatre was acquitted of all charges on Wednesday.

District Judge Toh Yung Cheong found inconsistencies between the woman's testimony in court, her police statements and a memo she had submitted to the hospital of the incident that occurred on April 5 last year.

He said her evidence, which had to be "unusually convincing" for the court to convict Dr Senaka Liyanage, 37, "was not sufficient to prove the prosecution's case beyond a reasonable doubt".

The 26-year-old former nurse testified that he had approached her from the right and outraged her modesty twice between 9.30am and 10.30am at Changi General Hospital (CGH) on April 5 last year.

The Singaporean woman also said this was a "messy period" because they were preparing for a hip operation. He then tapped her on the buttocks again at about 2pm during the surgery.

But in her memo to the hospital management on the same day, she said Dr Liyanage first touched her at noon and then twice again before 2pm. Her police statement recorded 10 days after the incident was also along these lines.

During the six-day trial, senior anaesthetist Leong Wai Leong and other doctors testified that they did not witness anything unusual occurring.

These included Dr David Chua, the surgeon the nurse said she was talking to when Dr Liyanage walked past and allegedly molested her on one occasion.

The victim, who cannot be identified because it was a molestation case, resigned from the hospital in late August last year and is now a sales executive.

Dr Liyanage, who graduated from the University of Colombo in his native Sri Lanka, was part of a team of doctors carrying out the seven-hour operation.

He is still employed by the hospital but has been deployed to clinical research, which is a non-patient-care role.

After the acquittal on Wednesday, his lawyer, Mr S. Selvaraj, told The Straits Times that his client was very grateful to the court for the verdict.

"My client was initially stressed and upset by the very bad accusation, which he said unfairly implicated him. He told me, 'I did no wrong'," said Mr Selvaraj.

"He is now relieved it's over."

Immediately after his acquittal, Dr Liyanage called his wife to tell her the good news.

She has stood by him and is waiting for him in Australia with their children aged two and five.

Mr Selvaraj said his client may quit his current research job at CGH to join his family.

"He has a job waiting for him there as an anaesthetist," he said.

khush@sph.com.sg

brynasim@sph.com.sg