September 2004

‘Predator’ GP jailed for abusing patients

A GP was branded a “healer turned predator” by a judge today as he was jailed for six years for indecently assaulting women patients.

Dr Roy Murray, 62, was convicted at an earlier hearing of 23 counts of indecent assault against women at his surgery in St Helens, Merseyside, where he worked from 1981 until his retirement in 2002.

Judge Brian Lewis sentenced Murray, of Bromborough, Wirral, to six years when he appeared at Liverpool crown court.

He was also placed on the sex offenders register.

During his nine-week trial the court heard that Murray’s assaults spanned 17 years, ending in 1998. But police only learned of them two years ago after one woman confided in a counsellor. He was described by his victims as “cold, arrogant and acting like God”.

The jury heard that the GP’s intimate examinations sometimes lasted as long as 40 minutes. Some patients complaining only of earache or coughs were told to undress and have an internal examination, which many of the victims described as painful and embarrassing. Others claimed he patted them on the bottom and made remarks about their figures.

Murray originally from Banff in Scotland insisted the examinations were necessary because the women were using the contraceptive pill or coil, but this explanation was not always recorded in their medical notes.

Jailing him, Judge Brian Lewis said: “It is difficult in my experience to imagine a case involving a breach of trust more serious than this.

“Anyone who has been in the court would have been struck by the number of times witnesses used expressions such as `you trust your doctor, I was brought up to respect the doctor’.

“You cynically preyed upon that trust for your own sexual gratification.

“Over a period of 14 years in an appalling inversion of your role you were healer turned predator.

“You have shown no remorse.”

The jury cleared the doctor of two indecent assault counts and failed to reach verdicts on five others during the trial earlier this year. He was found not guilty of seven indecent assault charges on the judge’s directions.

But police believe there may be more victims and more than 40 women came forward after Murray was arrested.

Many of his victims were in court to see him sentenced. Outside court, one 38-year-old victim said: “He is so arrogant, I honestly believe he still thinks he’s done nothing wrong. It’s been so traumatic for all of us to come to court but we wanted to see him jailed.”

May 2009

SENIOR health bosses failed to prevent a GP sexually abusing patients over a 22-year period despite knowing about allegations against him, according to a long awaited report.

Roy Murray was sentenced to six years in jail in September 2004 after he was found guilty of 23 counts of assault upon female patients at his one-man surgery on Liverpool Road, Greenbank in St Helens dating back to 1980.

An external review commissioned by Cheshire and Merseyside Strategic Health Authority – and finally published today – says senior NHS bosses in St Helens could have stopped the disgraced doctor’s offending earlier but they failed to gather complaints together and believed it was beyond their responsibility.

And alarmingly the report states it “does not feel able to give assurances that systems and processes for safeguarding patient safety are robust” in the modern day NHS St Helens, adding: “It is clear that NHS organisations are slow to learn lessons from what has gone before and even slower to implement whole system change.”

One of Murray’s victims who has read the report told the Star this week it details “massive failings” in the town’s health authorities during the 80s and 90s. Many of the victims are still pursuing legal action against St Helens Primary Care Trust.

Murray, now in his mid 60s, from Bromborough, worked in Wirral from 1970 to 1979 before he moved to St Helens in 1980.

Many of his victims were young women seeking contraceptive advice for the first time or advice on their first pregnancy and they did not know what to expect. The report states how they have given examples of “long and painful examinations, which were frequently repeated, both at his surgery or occasionally when Murray made a home visit”.

Nineteen women were interviewed for the report, with many saying they were abused for several years.

Their traumatic experiences included being asked to strip to their underwear after suffering a bump to the head, undergoing prolonged intimate examinations no matter what symptoms they reported that were ‘more sexual than medical’ and having to endure sexual touching and stroking and inappropriate conversations.

However, despite numerous formal complaints between 1980 and 1982 health bodies did not take action – not even after the Local Medical Committee visited the doctor in 1987 and advised him to use chaperones.

The review team found that many records of complaints regarding Murray and interviews between 1982 and the mid 1990s were missing, while some patients declined to press criminal charges or give evidence against the doctor.

Yet senior officers in all the health bodies predating St Helens Primary Care Trust in 2002 were aware of problems with Murray’s practice, including a falling patients list and his abrupt manner and lateness, but, “explained them away” as he was “a dour Scot who did not suffer fools gladly.”

Criticising two unnamed senior executives of the former Family Practitioner Committee and Family Health Services Authority the report concludes: “Despite senior executives knowing of allegations of sexualised behaviour against Murray, these were not acted on,” and “…they did not have the wider issues of his patients’ healthcare at the forefront of their thinking”.

Murray was finally arrested in 2004 after an inquiry was launched two years earlier following a chance conversation between a practice manager and counsellor.

He has since been released on licence from prison, however, he was placed on the the sex offenders’ register when convicted and is now unable to practice.