By Nicole Chettle
A former high-profile Sydney oncologist who admitted to drugging and indecently assaulting a female registrar has been sentenced to a minimum of two years and three months in jail.
John Kearsley, 63, was the director of radiation oncology at St George Hospital.
His registration was suspended by the Medical Council of New South Wales after he pleaded guilty to spiking the woman’s wine with the drug benzodiazepine in 2013 and then indecently assaulted her.
At the time, the woman was a medical trainee in the same field and had gone to dinner at Kearsely’s home to discuss her studies and career development.
Kearsley appeared composed during the sentencing.
He sat with his hands clasped as the judge said she was not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt the assault was pre-meditated and did not believe the victim was lured to Kearsley’s home.
Judge Penelope Hock noted the devastating impact the incident had on the woman involved, who said in a victim impact statement that it had robbed her of her confidence and self-worth.
However, Judge Hock said she was satisfied Kearsley was remorseful and unlikely to reoffend and acknowledged he was a gifted teacher and mentor.
Colleagues had described the offence as “totally out of character”.
“He is, as described in the submissions, a man who has devoted his whole life to others,” Judge Hock said.
She accepted medical evidence suggesting Kearsley had been under so much pressure at work that he was regularly drinking to the point of intoxication afterwards and had prescribed himself the sedative benzodiazepine, to help manage increasing anxiety.
“The offender’s intoxication and psychological condition at the time of the offence explain context … while not of course excusing his conduct,” she said.