A senior doctor fondled a hospital midwife’s knee and told her: “We have to look after your legs” just weeks after he ran his hand up-and-down her inner thigh during a works Christmas party, a tribunal heard today.
Dr Michael Ross, 44, “slid his hand” under the woman’s dress as they sat a table with unsuspecting female colleagues after he had bought them all Prosecco, it was claimed.
The distressed woman fled the event after calling her husband to collect her - but despite the medic apologising for his behaviour he allegedly fondled her left leg up to her knee three months later as they were moving her desk in their shared office.
The unnamed midwife known as Miss A later complained to a professor at the University of Edinburgh Hospital where father of two Ross works as a senior clinical lecturer in the Centre for Medical Education. She claimed she was “felt up by a disgusting guy” adding he twice stroked her back on other occasions “in a way that was uninvited, unnecessary and sexualised.”
The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service was told the incidents took place between December 16 2016 and March 2017 just four months after Miss A who has a PhD began helping with staff academic training at the hospital.
Lawyer for the General Medical Council Charles Garside QC told the Manchester hearing: “Dr Ross was a senior lecturer and she was in the same department but a more junior position to that held by him.
“They both went to a Christmas function for the university department with a number of colleagues and after the meal they both went to a public house and the event was full of happy people.
“But while they were in the public house sitting on a bench next to each other, Dr Ross put his hand on Miss A’s inner thigh and felt up and down in a sexualised way. This was unacceptable, unwelcome and unasked for by Miss A.
“She felt humiliated and ashamed by what happened. She did not react immediately as she feels she should have done by doing something about it. Instead she rang her husband and asked him to come and get her, and when he did it was around 11pm and he case with their three daughters. His wife told him what happened and that she was extremely upset and distressed.
“Dr Ross says any contact was accidental but this is not a case where what Miss A says can be described as accidental. This was deliberate touching and rubbing of the thigh. In March 2017 there was some reorganisation of furniture going on in the office shared by Miss A and Dr Ross.
“Miss A was sitting at her desk when Dr Ross, under pretence of moving the pedestal got under the desk and stroked her leg saying words to the effect of “we have to look after your legs”, making reference to her legs.
This was sexualised behaviour, not just friendly remarks. The incidents in themselves were obviously not particularly serious but were part of a period of behaviour.
Giving evidence via video-link Miss A said: “I am fully aware the effect it could have on his job and career but I don’t want Dr Ross to do this to anybody else. Nobody has ever done that to me before at a Christmas party.
“I had a discussion with my colleague about the fact that people are normally happy and relaxed at a Christmas party and sometimes people drink too much - but I do not expect that to happen.
“I asked my husband to come and get me and I was wandering about and wondering when he was going to get there. I was so muddled by the fact I was shocked by what happened and I wanted to go home. I was waiting for a text message when my husband arrived. It was an upsetting evening. I kept going back from one table to another to check my phone.
“I can’t remember what sequence of events or at what points I was speaking to a group of ladies. All I know is I contacted my husband after the incident since I wanted to remove myself from the situation. I rushed away from the incident at the time, I probably did say goodbye to the ladies. I had lots of conversations with different people but I just wanted to go home.
“It was a really stressful evening and I wanted to go home. It was horrific and a bit of a blur. I can remember thinking “great, I’ve just been touched by this disgusting guy”.
“The reality is I didn’t talk to anyone there about what happened that evening. I didn’t tell anyone I was upset or concerned. I was drinking wine with my meal and I had two glasses of sparkling wine. I was having a nice time, but I didn’t want to drink too much on the night out as I was going to be picked up by my husband.
“I was absolutely not flirtatious. I’m a chatty person. I certainly did not ask for what happened to me. There is no reason or excuse for somebody to do that. I did sit next to him at one point but I did not organise the situation.
“I do believe I said something in the car about being upset. I didn’t want to talk about the whole situation in the car as the children were there so I preferred to wait until we got home. I was concerned it was distressing for them to hear. I think my husband asked if I was OK in the car, but I didn’t give him the whole story.
“This whole situation is highly stressful and difficult. Dr Ross came and spoke to me after and said he was sorry for touching my knee. That was an apology but that not what he did. I just wanted to get away from him as quickly as possible.
“I was completely and utterly humiliated and I felt violated. He was senior to me and I felt completely humiliated and that I couldn’t say anything. That has never happened to me before. That’s not normal for somebody to do that.
“Earlier on in the evening he bought Prosecco for the table. Later Dr Ross put his hand on my knee and rubbed up my thigh, that’s not because I was drinking or squeezing in next to him, I did nothing to ask for that, it was completely non consensual.
“Why would he apologise to me if he hadn’t have done it? I would not put myself through this for a lie. I was scared it would escalate if I didn’t tell anybody. The touching of my back would have been considered as innocent if he hadn’t have touched my leg at the Christmas party.
“From my recollection I was the only person in the office when he touched my leg. He stroked my leg and it was awful. As soon as he touched my leg in the office, I got up and left the room. I felt violated.
“There was also no innocent reason for why he touched my back, he is not a friend of mine - he wasn’t guiding me.”
Ross who is also a part-time GP at the Primrose Lane Medical Centre in Rosyth, Fife, and who plays cittern with a five-piece ceilidh band denies sexually motivated misconduct. The hearing continues.
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