AN Adelaide psychiatrist who sexually abused three of his vulnerable patients has been banned for life, after a lengthy investigation by police and the state’s medical board.
BEAST ON THE COUCH
By Nigel Hunt
November 17, 2017
Dr Julian Kent pleaded guilty to professional misconduct over the shocking abuse, which happened over a 12-year period and inflicted further psychological damage to his victims. In one of the worst cases of misconduct uncovered in the profession in Adelaide, the SA Health Practitioners Tribunal permanently disqualified Dr Kent from applying for registration after hearing graphic evidence of his sexual liaisons with three women.
The tribunal heard he had relationships with the patients over a 12-year period from 2000-12. Two of the victims were regularly abused in his Byron St, Glenelg, consulting rooms while the third was abused at her home, at his home, in his car and in public places.
Astonishingly, the women were charged for each consultation with Dr Kent during which they were abused.
The Advertiser can also reveal Dr Kent, of Hove, is in the process of negotiating out-of-court settlements with his victims. It is understood they will receive several hundred thousand dollars to settle their claims.
While Dr Kent faced action by medical authorities, he avoided criminal prosecution despite a lengthy investigation by Sturt CIB detectives.
Sources said while detectives investigated one specific incident — which included obtaining a positive DNA match from an anal swab from one victim — following lengthy discussions with prosecutors no charges were laid.
A victim impact statement from one victim that was read by her barrister Liesel Chapman, SC, in a tribunal hearing reveals the devastating impact Dr Kent’s abuse has had on her.
“As an individual, finding I was mentally unwell I was scared, so scared that I sought help from a psychiatrist,’’ it stated.
“That is not an easy thing to do. I had cultivated a life on doing the right thing. I was a wife, a mother, a (professional) with a social life. I felt that I had earned a place in the world.
“I gave myself up to a doctor’s care hoping that he would do his very best for me. And in my desperate hour of need, he promised to do that. Little did I know that I was a sitting duck.
“Over the 10 years he ploughed me with addictive drugs, told me that we had a special relationship, told me that no hospital in Adelaide wanted to treat me, leaving me totally at his mercy and helplessly co-dependent, phoning him constantly asking what I could and couldn’t do.
“Having Dissociative Identity Disorder is akin to being in a constant state of autohypnosis. As a psychiatrist, instead of using his privileged position of power to change this, he deliberately cultivated a dependency which enabled him to abuse me.’’ In her statement, the woman says she cannot “articulate the harm done to me’’ by Dr Kent’s actions and it had affected “every aspect of my life’’.
“I’m addicted to benzodiazepines. I’ve lost my family, my job, my independence, and my sense of safety, my freedom, and my ability to be an active member of the society,’’ she states.
“I’ve lost my confidence, which led me to resign from my job. I’ve lost my income, my professional standing … of which I was proud. I’ve lost my self-respect, all my former friends and colleagues. My family are distant and ashamed. I am totally isolated.
“Meanwhile, he continued to practise and repeat the abuse on to others. Any possibility of my emancipation from the horrors of my childhood were obliterated by Kent’s deliberate and manipulative exploitative abuse of me.
“His relentless sexual abuse of me over 10 years means that any possibility of recovery is incredibly remote. Despite my very best efforts and commitment to recovery, I have found his violation of my trust contaminates every therapeutic relationship. I have tried so many times with so many different psychiatrists and yet despite being willing to engage, I find I simply cannot trust.
“Because of my diagnosis, I was deemed to be an unreliable witness so therefore I was denied access to the criminal justice system even though there was indictable evidence. Anyone else would have had a chance of conviction.’’ Sources said Dr Kent’s sexual exploitation of his patients only stopped when one of them reported his conduct to the Medical Board. Dr Kent voluntarily surrendered his registration as a psychiatrist when the Medical Board began its investigation in January 2012.
The SAHPT last month accepted Dr Kent’s guilty pleas in connection with the three patients.
The tribunal found Dr Kent had behaved in a way that constitutes professional misconduct and ordered that he be permanently disqualified from applying for registration as a medical practitioner and permanently prohibited from providing any health services that use his skills and knowledge gained as a medical practitioner.
He was also reprimanded and ordered to pay costs of $25,000. While the three victims cannot speak to The Advertiser for legal reasons, the best friend of one victim — Susan — said Dr Kent’s “predatory behaviour had taken a terrific toll on her mental health’’.
The friend, who asked only to be identified as Jenny, said “Susan’’ had told her of her relationship with Dr Kent 18 months ago.
“Susan was not only abused, but she has been re-abused because she was not getting any treatment for her conditions,’’ Jenny said.
“I found it just outrageous this person could do this because not only was he abusing her, but at the same time he was denying her getting help so it was a double whammy. She has told me it was a constant thing, over years and years.’’ Jenny said Susan had told her a criminal prosecution against Dr Kent was difficult because of her status as a witness. “She was let known if you have a mental health issue to try and take something through the courts, you start on the back foot.
“The chances of being believed or being able to prove anything are very low and the trauma of going through that and then losing as well, is way more than anyone who has this sort of mental health issue can take a risk to do.’’ Jenny said she believed Dr Kent had attempted to conceal his offending from his colleagues and the public by “surrendering his registration quietly and closing his practice’’.
“He has never apologised to her. I think he is only sorry he got caught,’’ she said.
“No amount of money would have made this all right. The reason you take money from people like this is if you believe they have no conscience, this is the only thing you can do that will cost them.
“Is the proposed settlement reasonable? It is a ridiculously low settlement given the time and the abuse, but it means Susan has stood up and been counted and said ‘you can’t keep doing this’.” Dr Kent on Friday declined to comment when contacted through his lawyers, Gilchrist Connell.
“I gave myself up to a doctor’s care hoping that he would do his very best for me. And in my desperate hour of need, he promised to do that. Little did I know that I was a sitting duck.”
“I’ve lost my confidence, which led me to resign from my job. I’ve lost my income, my professional standing … of which I was proud. I’ve lost my self-respect, all my former friends and colleagues. My family are distant and ashamed. I am totally isolated.”
“His relentless sexual abuse of me over 10 years means that any possibility of recovery is incredibly remote.”
Patient 1 Dr Kent sexually abused the patient from 2000-2005. He was her treating psychiatrist from August 1994 to January 2006. The woman was being treated for Dissociative Identity Disorder. This meant she experienced multiple different personality states known as “alters”. Her DID was a response to severe trauma from ongoing sexual, psychological and physical abuse endured as a child.
Patient 2 Dr Kent sexually abused her over an 18-month period to December 2011. This took place while he was treating her for DID from November 2008 to December 2011.
Patient 3 Dr Kent sexually abused her between 2007 and January 2012. He was her treating psychiatrist from 1991 to December 2011. The woman was being treated for anxiety, depression and related conditions including anorexia nervosa.
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