NOT GUILTY: Dr Elamurugan Arumugam has been found not guilty on all five remaing charges of sexual assault.
NOT GUILTY: Dr Elamurugan Arumugam has been found not guilty on all five remaing charges of sexual assault.

Dr Aru trial: Jury returns not guilty verdicts

A ROCKHAMPTON plastic surgeon has had his name cleared this afternoon after the jury deliberating charges related to allegations of sexual assault by patients found the doctor not guilty of the remaining five charges.

Dr Elamurugan Arumugam had pleaded not guilty in Rockhampton District Court to five charges of sexual assault in relation to allegations from three female patients.

The patients’ allegations involved the inappropriate touching of their breasts. This misconduct was said to have started in 2012 at Dr Arumugam’s practice.

The jury also heard evidence from the GP who referred two of the complainants to Dr Arumugam, the officer in charge of the investigation and a former president of Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Dr Arumugam himself was also cross examined on the stand last Friday.

The jury, after deliberating for only about two hours, returned verdicts of not guilty on all five charges.

This was the third trial Dr Arumugam has been through, after pleading not guilty on December 7, 2018, to 32 charges of sexual and common assault in relation to allegations from seven female patients, with seven dropped mid-trial during the first trial.

He was found not guilty of 17 charges following a 10-day trial.

During the trial, the court heard patients’ allegations ranged from inappropriate touching of their breasts by Dr Arumugam - known as Dr Aru by colleagues and patients - to sticking his fingers in their mouths during consultations.

Most of the not guilty verdicts were in relation to the fingers in the mouth allegations made by five of the seven women.

Crown prosecutor Tiffany Lawrence had the remaining eight charges withdrawn and handed up five fresh charges - all for sexual assault and involving the three alleged victims.

Judge Michael Burnett had ordered Dr Arumugam to stand trial on the new charges in the May sittings when Judge Ian Dearden would be sitting in Rockhampton District Court. This trial was thrown out after only two days.

During the first trial, the jury heard from former president of Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons Dr James Savundra, who is based in Perth.

Dr Savundra was pointed to evidence by Ms Lawrence previously given by each alleged victim about parts of examinations conducted by Dr Arumugam where he either put his fingers in their mouths while not wearing gloves or placed his hand under their bra.

He explained a doctor may put their fingers in a patient’s mouth to examine the thickness of a skin cancer, but they would always do so with gloves on.

He said he would inform patients if he required to feel inside their mouth before doing so, would wear gloves and the fingers would only be inside their mouths for five to 10 seconds.

He said a skin cancer check of a breast started with a visual only examination, with the patient not wearing a bra, and then, if required, a palpation examination using both hands for specific areas of concern.

Dr Arumugam was practising as a plastic surgeon, with people seeing him for treatment after surgeries and skin cancers or sunspots in Rockhampton during the period the alleged offences occurred over a four-year period in his office.

Dr Arumugam said the most prominent areas where skin cancers are found in local patients were the lips, face and hands due to Central Queensland being the skin capital of the world as a result of UV ray intensity and it being settled by mostly fair-skinned Caucasian people.

“I specialise in early cancers,” he told the jury in December.

Dr Arumugam explained those early cancers include actinic cheilitis which is caused by serious sun damage to the lip.

“Most patients are unaware they are suffering from actinic cheilitis,” he said. “The transition is very subtle from actinic cheilitis to carcinoma.”

Dr Arumugam explained the reason why he focuses on this area is because actinic cheilitis can be treated by laser, avoiding deforming the patient’s lips needing to be cut to remove cancer.

He was not allowed to practice medicine while awaiting the outcome of all allegations and charges.