11 Jan 2024
A doctor convicted and jailed for accessing and possessing child exploitation materials has had his registration cancelled by a tribunal and been disqualified from applying for registration for 10 years.
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On 16 August 2021, Dr Andrew McGavigan was convicted and sentenced in the District Court of South Australia to three years and four months’ imprisonment, with a non-parole period of 12 months, after pleading guilty to three charges, including accessing and possessing child abuse materials.
The offences occurred between 30 April 2021 and 2 August 2021 when Dr McGavigan was working as a cardiologist in both public and private practice.
From more than 9,000 files in cloud storage accessed via Dr McGavigan’s phone, police were able to extract 4,061 files that comprised predominantly child abuse material. In addition to accessing and possessing child abuse material, Dr McGavigan also engaged in chat conversations of a sexually explicit nature, which included requests to other chat participants located in Thailand to role play as a young girl for the purpose of sexual activity.
The Medical Board of Australia (the Board) took immediate action to suspend Dr McGavigan’s registration on 4 January 2021 after it became aware of the criminal charges. The Board subsequently referred Dr McGavigan to the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) for:
In August 2023, the tribunal adopted the findings and sentencing remarks made in the criminal proceeding. It had no hesitation in finding that Dr McGavigan’s conduct fell well within the definition of professional misconduct and ordered:
Dr McGavigan admitted the matters alleged by the Board except for any suggestion that because of his conduct, he will remain lacking in good character and integrity (towards children and other vulnerable people) and unfit and improper (to practice medicine) indefinitely.
The tribunal noted that it had not heard from Dr McGavigan at the hearing and that made it difficult to assess to what extent he had genuinely reflected on his behaviour and whether he had developed any real insight regarding the impact of his conduct.
The tribunal had regard to the findings and sentencing remarks of the District Court of South Australia, including the sentencing judge’s scepticism about the reason given for Dr McGavigan’s behaviour, namely, that he was seeking sexual arousal through the taboo nature of the activity rather than by specific sexual attraction to children.
The tribunal concluded that it was also sceptical about the degree of Dr McGavigan’s insight into his conduct and whether he was really prepared to take responsibility for that conduct and reflect upon the steps he ought to take to ensure it is not repeated.
It considered the 10-year period of disqualification was necessary to bring home the seriousness of the departure from professional standards, to protect the public and to maintain the standards of the medical profession.
The tribunal found that the conduct warranted a long disqualification period because it was not isolated, the conduct extended to more than accessing and possessing a substantial quality of child exploitation material, and Dr McGavigan was sentenced to an immediate term of imprisonment, which reflected the serious nature of the offending.
The tribunal commented: ‘By his criminal conduct, he has clearly acted in a way which brings into disrepute the medical profession and gives rise to serious questions about his fitness and propriety to practice medicine as well as the jeopardy of public safety and protection.’
It strongly condemned the nature and extent of Dr McGavigan’s misconduct and commented that, unless prohibited, there was a danger of him practising in a health area that does not require him to be registered.
Read the tribunal’s full decision on AustLII.