A WEST Somerset dentist awaiting trial on a charge of sexual assault on a teenage girl has had his temporary suspension from practice extended by a dental profession committee.
The interim orders committee of the Dental Professionals Hearings Service reviewed a suspension first imposed in August of last year on Ajith George Behanan, aged 50.
The committee, which previously reviewed Mr Behanan’s suspension in January of this year, was told criminal proceedings against him began last month.
Committee members heard the criminal case was expected to be concluded by mid-July but this did not happen and the trial had been re-listed for June, 2024, with a court review due in September.
Mr Behanan, who runs Holloway House Dental Surgery, in Minehead, has been charged under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 with ‘intentionally touching a woman aged 16 or over and that touching was sexual when she did not consent and you did not reasonably believe that she was consenting’.
The offence was alleged to have happened on December 11, 2020.
Kennedys Solicitors, representing Mr Behanan, told the committee he was pleading not guilty and denied the allegations made against him.
A General Dental Council (GDC) representative said there had been no material change of circumstances since the previous review which would necessitate changing Mr Behanan’s current interim suspension.
The spokesperson said the GDC’s own investigation would remain on hold pending the outcome of Mr Behanan’s criminal proceedings.
The committee ruled that the interim suspension remained necessary for the protection of the public while Mr Behanan continued to face a serious allegation of sexual assault and criminal proceedings against him were ongoing.
Committee members were mindful that their task was not to find facts, but to conduct an assessment of risk based on the information before them, balancing the public interest with Mr Behanan’s own interests.
They said said no information had been received to suggest the previously identified risk to the public had been alleviated and on the basis of all the material before them, there was still a risk of repetition.
The committee concluded that there would be a real risk of harm to the health, safety, and well-being of the public if Mr Behanan was permitted to return to unrestricted practice while the matters against him were outstanding.
It considered an informed member of the public would be ‘shocked and troubled, given the seriousness and context of the allegation, if an interim order was not maintained’.
The Committee took the view that the suspension was required ‘to maintain public confidence in the dental profession’.
The potential consequences for Mr Behanan in continuing the interim suspension were considered but the committee was satisfied the need to protect the public interest outweighed his own interests.
Committee members agreed the suspension would be reviewed again within six months unless there was a material change of circumstances.