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Sexual Assault doctor

Doctor Jailed for Sexually Assaulting Sleeping Patients – The Law, Defences and Penalties for Sexual Assault

An Iranian-born doctor has been convicted of sexually assaulting his patients while they slept.

Ali Khorami will spend close to 4 years behind bars after a jury found him guilty of a number of sexual offences against five women, aged between 16 and 29.

He joins a long list of doctors who have acted inappropriately with patients, although Khorami’s actions are far more serious than most.

One of the incidents involved him drugging a victim by spiking her drink before indecently assaulting her.

Khorami came to Australia in 2011 before becoming a citizen in 2017 and lived with his wife and daughters.

What happened?

The offending occurred in 2018 while Khorami was tasked with supervising overnight studies at Glebe’s Woolcock Institute of Medical Research.

The young women had been referred to the Glebe clinic for sleep problems which required overnight monitoring.

CCTV footage depicted the 50-year-old exposing his genitals while his victims slept. Crown prosecutor Roger Kimbell described the video as “confronting”.

The Iranian born doctor would place his hands on the patients’ groin areas, put his penis on their hands or feet, and masturbate in close proximity to the unconscious victims.

He would tell some of the women to remove their bras because they could become entangled in the sensor wiring.

One of most shocking offences involved Khorami drugging a young woman by spiking her orange juice with temazepam. He told the 20-year-old victim that her blood pressure was low and she needed to drink the beverage to remedy this.

She woke the next day feeling abnormally tired. As a result she spoke to clinicians and told them she had no recollection of the night before.

A urine test was conducted which showed traces of a substances that she did not recall taking. Following this she reported the matter to Police who commenced an investigation which resulted in indecent assault charges being laid.  

Tampering with CCTV cameras

At trial, the jury heard and saw that there were numerous gaps in the CCTV footage. These coincided with Khorami entering the rooms of the patients.

In his interview with Police Khorami claimed that he was required to frequently visit the rooms of the victims while they slept to monitor their blood pressure. His explanation for the missing footage was that wires would become loose and disconnected.

However, Kimbell suggested a more sinister reason for the missing footage:

“(Ali Khorami) also talks about wires becoming loose and disconnected…The Crown says he is doing this to explain why footage isn’t recorded, because he disconnects it.”

Specifically referring to the victim who had been drugged, the court heard evidence that the footage and research data was stopped three times for 6 minutes, 15 minutes and 30 minutes respectively.

However, public defender Tony Evers told the jury that the CCTV footage was not of sufficient quality to be reliable.

“Many of the things the Crown says you can see on the footage, you can’t…The equipment used at the clinic failed regularly and required adjusting…Technical problems weren’t an occasional thing, they were a more than daily thing,” he said.

Doctor claims victims gave consent

Despite CCTV recordings showing Khorami exposing himself, he maintained his innocence during his trial at Downing Centre District Court.

The Iranian-trained doctor suggested that he was performing alternative tantric treatments using his genitals and insisted he had the consent of the women. The women all denied this.

When Police interviewed Khorami in October 2018, he denied drugging the 20 year-old. He further blamed the young woman for the missing CCTV footage, suggesting that she had asked him to switch off the camera. Again, the victim denied this.

Notably, Police officers from Sydney asked Dr Khorami about masturbating in a patient’s room. In response, Khorami said, “I didn’t hurt the patient…Masturbation is not illegal.”

He also told police that another woman was not unconscious at the time of his offending, “so maybe she was OK with this”.

Sentencing for sexual assault

But a jury found him guilty of 22 of the 25 charges against him. Because the offences occutred in 2018, Khorami was charged with indecent assault offences as opposed to sexual touching charges.

In sentencing the 50-year-old, Judge Leonie Flannery described a gross breach of trust on the part of Khorami. The sexual assault offences occurred when the women were particularly vulnerable, “being asleep or isolated in their room”.

Judge Flannery found it “troubling” that the doctor maintained his actions were legitimate medical practice.

The head sentence imposed was six years imprisonment. He will be eligible for parole after serving three years and nine months.

Khorami appeared by AVL dressed in prison greens – a sharp contrast to the suits he had worn during his trial. He remained stoic as the sentence was delivered.

Traumatised victims

The Court had previously heard from his victims, one of whom suffered a mental breakdown due to the offences. Appearing by audio-visual link, she had a powerful message:

“I felt like my world was imploding … I became demotivated, depressed and suicidal…No woman deserves to go through what you put us through … for some time I lost everything…I choose no longer to hold bitterness or anger in my heart.”

Sexual Assault charges in NSW

The definition of sexual assault is engaging in sexual intercourse with another person without their consent. It is contained in Section 61I of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).

Sexual assault allegations are far more common today than at any time in the past. Community attitudes have changed shifted, in large part due to the #metoo movement. Unsurprisingly, this has made fighting such allegations more difficult than ever before.

One of the most common defences to sexual assault charges is to argue that the alleged victim consented to the sexual intercourse.

However, it is not always possible to run this defence. Certain situations – such as when the alleged victim was too intoxicated to provide consent – would preclude this defence. If an Accused held an honest and reasonable belief that the alleged victim was consenting, then they can be found ‘not guilty’ of the offence.

Another common defence is identification. If the Crown cannot establish that the Accused was the offender, then the offence cannot be proved. Often experts can be used such as DNA, fingerprint, CCTV and intoxication experts to cast doubt on identification. This is a defence that was recently used with success. Click here to read further.

A less common defence is automatism. This is where the offending was involuntary and often involves sleep disorders. This defence often relies on expert evidence from a sleep doctor.

The maximum penalty for sexual assault 14 years Imprisonment. There is also a Standard Non-Parole Period which is 7 years imprisonment.

Charged with sexual assault?

Sexual assault charges are extremely serious. The stigma that comes with them is likely to follow a person for the rest of their life. That is why it is important to obtain advice from a specialist sexual assault lawyer who has successfully defended hundreds of these charges. Call Astor Legal on (02) 7804 2823. Or, you can email info@astorlegal.com.au.

For more information you can contact our Sydney, Liverpool or Parramatta Criminal Lawyers. We can arrange a conference for you with a Law Society Accredited Specialist in sexual assault offences.

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