Trusted GP and dad found guilty of voyeurism after taking thousands of secret pictures of female patients
A trusted GP who had a haul of 19,000 images of female patients on his home computer has been convicted of voyeurism offences.
Dr Thair Altaii used two mobile phones to capture covert images of female patients during consultations and examinations at his surgery in Sunderland and stored the videos and pictures on his laptop.
Altaii, of White Rocks Grove, Whitburn, denied three offences of voyeurism between 2008 and 2014, in relation to two female patients, and has been tried by a jury at Newcastle Crown Court.
The 55-year-old claimed the images were captured for his own assessment and training purposes.
But after just an hour's deliberation, jurors rejected his explanation and found him guilty of all three charges.
The medic, who was suspended when the allegations against him came to light, now faces disciplinary proceedings by the General Medical Council - and a possible prison sentence.
After the verdict, his barrister Jamie Hill QC told the court: "I anticipate the starting point is a custodial sentence."
Mr Hill said GMC proceedings for gross misconduct against the married dad, who has never been in trouble before, had been delayed to await the outcome of the trial.
He added: "Dr Altaii has been aware of the likely outcome, should he be convicted by the jury, for some considerable time. He has been on bail, without condition, for the best part of four years."
Mr Hill said Altaii is "realistic" about the likely sentence he will receive but asked for his bail to continue until the sentence hearing next month.
Judge Edward Bindloss said Altaii could remain on bail and ordered a pre-sentence report be prepared before the next hearing.
The judge warned him: "The fact I am adjourning your case, ordering a report and granting you bail is no indication of the likely outcome. All options remain open, including an immediate custodial sentence."
During the trial, jurors watched video clips of a woman who was being recorded while confiding in the GP about her medical problems and being examined on the legs after removing her tights.
They also saw a collection of some of the secret pictures taken on Altaii's two mobile phones during consultations in his room at the practice.
Prosecutor Louise Reevell told the court the police became involved when a patient noticed two mobile phones, propped up in different places during anappointment.
Miss Reevell said: "One of the defendant's patients contacted the police in August 2014.
"She contacted the police with concerns following an appointment with the defendant, during which she had noticed two mobile telephones, propped up in a consultation room.
"One was propped up on the defendant's desk, pointing towards the patient's chair. The second propped up on a shelf overlooking the examination table in the same room."
The court heard the doctor was arrested as a result of the patient's concerns and his Dell laptop, along with other equipment, was seized.
Miss Reevell added: "The items seized were examined by the police and a forensic investigator.
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"They found in excess of 19,000 images of women, some clothed, others were in various states of undress and the images were apparently taken in the surgery environment.
"They also recovered video clips of patients being examined."
The court the doctor had 223 images and also video clips of one woman patient. She was spoken to by detectives about their find and viewed what had been found.
She told police she had not consented to any footage being taken of her during appointments and added: "I would have refused if asked."
The woman, who had noticed the mobile phones during an appointment and alerted the police, featured in 116 of the images.
She also viewed the pictures that have been found of her and said she had not given permission for any of them to be taken.
The woman told police she had noticed a propped up phone, which she thought may be an iPhone, on the doctors desk during an appointment but had initially thought it may have been left in that position after he had been tidying.
She said it was when she saw the second phone, which she thought may be a Blackberry, overlooking the examination area, he concern grew.
In a statement to police she said: "I started to feel uncomfortable and wanted to leave, having seen two mobile phones in unusual standing positions facing different examination areas of the room.
"What was said afterwards was blurred. I was uncomfortable and didn't know what was going on.
"I couldn't say 100% if they were recording but common sense told me they shouldn't be there."
When first interviewed by detectives, Altaii denied recording any patients at all.
In a later police interview, Altaii gave a prepared statement through his solicitor and accepted recording nine medical consultations without permission of the patients or making them aware.
He accepted he had "made an error of judgement" but had made the recordings for self assessment of his consultation skills and examination technique.
When Ataii was inteviewed again and shown some of the still images recovered by the police, he said they may have been produced automatically when he paused the video recordings he had taken for training reasons.
The doctor said he was unable to provide any paperwork relating to studies he had told police he had been involved in.
He denied any of the images or videos were taken for sexual gratification.