High Court suspends doctor who is awaiting sentence for distributing and possessing child abuse imagery
10th November 2022
The High Court has suspended a doctor who has “shown callous disregard for his patients” after he pleaded guilty last month to distributing and possessing child abuse imagery and is now awaiting sentencing.
The court also ordered the Templeogue-based doctor to assist his former patients to access their medical files after it was told he left them in “limbo” by refusing to help then access test results and patient records.
Dr Ronan Keogan’s suspension can be reported after the Sunday Independent brought a successful court challenge to lift the in camera rule which normally applies in interim disciplinary cases that the Medical Council brings to court.
President of the High Court David Barniville said “serious public safety concerns” raised by the case meant it was appropriate for the proceedings to be held in public.
Eoghan O’Sullivan, barrister for the Medical Council, said Dr Keogan had shown “callous disregard towards his patients” who had put their trust and confidence in him by refusing in recent weeks to help them get access to their patient files and recent test results to allow continuity of care.
Dr Keogan pleaded guilty in November to possessing and distributing child pornography and is awaiting sentencing on January 20 where he could face a prison term of up to 14 years.
Dr Keogan ran the busy Cypress Clinic in south Dublin until August when it shut after his staff resigned.
The court was told the Medical Council was first alerted to concerns about Dr Keogan in May 2017 after gardaí informed the regulator that the doctor was under investigation for three potential offences under the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act.
The council was told an adult woman had complained to gardaí that Dr Keogan had sent images to her phone and on social media of what he said was a 15 year old girl and expressed a desire to have sex with her.
A doctor in Cypress Clinic then made a complaint about Dr Keogan’s conduct.
The Medical Council brought proceedings in June 2017 that were in camera seeking a High Court order suspending Dr Keogan from practising, but he resisted. The doctor signed an affidavit denying the allegations of possessing child abuse imagery.
The then President of the High Court Peter Kelly accepted undertakings from the doctor that he would only treat adult patients until the matter was resolved.
A protocol was but in place whereby Dr Keogan did not treat any children at the Cypress Clinic and his colleagues were informed of this so they could treat child patients. Dr Keogan was charged with offences in 2020 and he pleaded guilty on November 8, 2022 to possession and distribution of child pornography on the morning his trial was due to begin.
Last Wednesday, Michael Staines solicitors came off record for the doctor in the medical council proceedings.
Mr O’Sullivan said Dr Keogan had informed the Medical Council that he was suffering from stress, had financial difficulties and wished to have no part in the High Court proceedings brought by the council.
Mr O’Sullivan said the council had received a number of complaints from patients unable to access the patient files or recent test results from the Cypress Clinic. Dr Keogan initially said he was trying to hire new staff. He supplied passwords to his clinic’s systems to the Medical Council but said he could nothing else to help the possible “thousands” of patients who might seek access to their files. Among the complainants seeking access to her file was a woman who had been a patient with the clinic for over 30 years.
Dr Keogan had told the council he longer wished to be on the medical register but the council said his removal was not possible while it was investigating complaints against him. When informed by the Medical Council that the Sunday Independent wished to report on his case Dr Keogan said he believed the contact from the council by hand delivered mail amounted to “harassment”.
Judge Barniville rejected this and said the council was acting on court order to inform the doctor of the application so he could object to the application from the newspaper if he wished.
Mr O’Sullivan said the Medical Council was under “under a lot of pressure” from former patients of Keogan’s who were seeking access to their files and “every day counts” considering the doctor’s impending sentencing hearing.
Judge Barniville said he accepted the case was of the upmost seriousness and that the offences that Dr Keogan had pleaded guilty to were “of a most heinous nature” and all the more serious given he is a doctor.
He ordered that Dr Keogan be suspended from working as a doctor and said it was likely he will be struck off once his case comes before the council’s fitness to practise committee. He noted that the doctor had sworn affidavits for the High Court protesting his innocence of charges he later pleaded guilty to.
He granted the Medical Council orders compelling the doctor to make arrangements to facilitate the transfer of medical records of patients who have sought their files. He must also write to any patients treated in the last 12 months advising them of his clinic’s closure and asking if they require their medical records. He is also to assist the HSE in transferring records of his public patients.
The judge granted the council permission to write to the gardaí, the HSE, the Data Protection Commission and the UK general medical council to inform them of the orders. He also awarded the costs of the proceedings against Dr Keogan.