A Sydney dentist Bassem Fouad has been accused of sexually assaulting multiple patients at his dental clinics in mascot.
The 55-year-old has been charged with nine counts of aggravated sexual touching, indecent assault under authority, and intentionally sexually touching a child and pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Five women have come forward about the alleged behaviour of Bassem Fouad including a 15-year-old teenager and another young girl who wore her school uniform to the appointment.
The five women cannot be named for legal reasons.
The prosecution alleged that Fouad would allegedly press himself against his patients as well as place dentistry tools on their breasts during their appointments.
“It’s not pain you can feel, it’s just pressure,” the accused allegedly said to one patient who felt his crotch area against her head.
The 15-year-old teenager described an encounter with Fouad saying that she had to slide down the dental chair to avoid him from allegedly thrusting himself against her head.
There had been previous reports to police in 2016 and 2021 of inappropriate sexual behaviour.
This footage also captured him removing his gloves and taking his penis out of his pants.
Fouad denied all accusations and told police he did that because he was suffering a groin medical condition.
The defence told the court that in the dentistry environment, there is always some touching.
“When you go to the dentist, people are close together,” said the dentist’s Lawyer Jeffrey Clarke.
Mr Clarke urged the jury to consider that the touching was not done for sexual pleasure and instead just doing his job as a dentist.
“That is a factual matter that you will decide … whether he’s touching himself as part of the cheap thrill of doing what he’s doing,’ Mr Clarke said.
The Trial continues.
What is indecent assault?
Indecent assault in this case involves unauthorised sexual touching that goes against the moral and ethical standards of the community and individuals.
This offence is a serious crime that attracts severe penalties.
Under New South Wales Legislation, indecent assault falls under sexual touching laws.
Under Section 61KC of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), Any person who without the consent of another person and knowing that the complainant does not consent intentionally;
- sexually touches the complainant, or
- incites the complainant to sexually touch the accused person, or
- incites a third person to sexually touch the complainant, or
- incites the complainant to sexually touch a third person,
Would be guilty of sexual touching and would face a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment.
If the sexual touching is aggravated, the maximum penalty increases to 7 years imprisonment under section 61KD.
Circumstances of aggravation include;
- the accused person is in the company of another person or persons, or
- the complainant is (whether generally or at the time of the commission of the offence) under the authority of the accused person, or
- the complainant has a serious physical disability, or
- the complainant has a cognitive impairment.
Penalties for this offence against children
The penalties for this crime relating to children are much more severe.
If you sexually touch a child under the age of 10 you will be liable to a maximum penalty of 16 years imprisonment under section 66DA of the Crimes Act.
If the young person is between 10 and 16 the maximum penalty if 10 years imprisonment under section 66DB of the Act.
What about if this offence occurred by someone under authority?
As seen in the case of Bassem Fouad, the alleged sexual acts against minors is very severe due to his position of power as a health professional.
Under section 73A of the Crimes Act, Any person who intentionally;
- sexually touches a young person under the person’s special care, or
- incites a young person under the person’s special care to sexually touch the person, or
- incites a young person under the person’s special care to sexually touch another person, or
- incites another person to sexually touch a young person under the first person’s special care,
Is guilty of sexually touching a young person between 16 and 18 under special care and liable to imprisonment for 4 years if the individual was 16 and 2 years if the young person was 17 years old.
Examples of individuals who could be in a position of special care;
- Parent or guardian
- Spouse or de-facto partner
- Teacher, principal or anyone who performs work or has students in the school at which the student attends
- Individuals who have ana established personal relationship such as a priest, sporting coach, musical teacher
- Custodial officer
- health professional and the complainant is a patient of the health professional
Four corners Investigation “Do no harm”
Four corners recently revealed that Australia’s health regulation has allowed health professionals who are sexual predators and/or have been sexually inappropriate to continue practising.
A six-month investigation exposed that almost 500 health practitioners have been sanctioned by tribunals for sexual misconduct involving patients since 2010.
Other statistics show that four convicted paedophiles are still registered as doctors despite their highly inappropriate conduct.
The Investigation also discovered that almost 200 health workers have been disciplined for related matters outside their direct practice such as sexual harassment of colleagues.
There has been an encouragement for greater law reform and protections to prevent this from occurring.
“If that framework is falling short of protecting patient safety, then Australians rightly expect governments at all levels to work to strengthen it” said Federal Health Minister Mark Butler.
By Alyssa Maschmedt.