Apart from strong defence arguments, Australian prosecutor cited mounting time and cost of litigation

Australian prosecutors have, “in the interests of justice”, decided to drop the criminal negligence charges slapped against India-born United States doctor Jayant Patel, who was jailed in 2010, accused of manslaughter among other charges. Patel, 63, was facing trial on two charges of manslaughter, two of causing bodily harm and criminal negligence, seven counts of fraud and one of attempted fraud. He was formally discharged on Friday in the Supreme and District courts in Brisbane.

Patel, however, did earlier plead guilty to fraud — he had obtained employment as a medical practitioner in Queensland through dishonest means — which were the only charges the Director of Public Prosecutions Tony Moynihan chose to pursue. Mr. Moynihan said his decision was prompted by the amount of time that had passed since the alleged crime, the time Patel had already spent in jail, the strength of the defence arguments and the cost of litigation, which had climbed to over $3 million. In his statement, Moynihan said: “[In the] retrials, the defence has presented credible evidence from medical experts and […] the Crown has not been able to satisfy the requirement of proving the alleged negligence to the criminal standard. In the circumstances [...] I have decided that it is not in the public interest to continue the counts alleging criminal negligence against Jayant Patel.” .

Patel, who will be sentenced in the District Court next week, was hoping to return to America, said his barrister.

In the ten years since Patel began work as director of surgery at Bundaberg Base Hospital in Queensland, he has faced three trials and spent two-and-a-half years in jail over allegations of maiming or killing patients.

Patel, who was dubbed ‘Dr. Death’ by the media here, was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2010 after a jury convicted him of killing three patients and causing the grievous bodily harm to another.

Last year, however, he was, following a successful High Court appeal, released and awarded a separate retrial.

In March, Patel was acquitted of killing patient Mervyn Morris. Last month, a jury was unable to decide whether he was guilty of maiming Ian Vowles.

Patel’s former patients expressed disappointment at his acquittal.

“I just can’t believe that it’s all come to this. Now, the patients are left to pick up the pieces,” former patient and patient advocate Beryl Crosby was quoted as saying.

Sixty-six-year-old Vowles, who believes the surgeon removed his bowel unnecessarily, was disappointed with the decision. “I thought there definitely should have been a decision made one way or the other, guilty or not guilty,” he said.

More In: World | International