Doctor jailed for ‘extreme’ child porn worked at Dunedin Hospital

Photo: ODT files
The Dunedin Hospital, where Walsh worked for 12 months between 1996 and 1998. Photo: ODT files.
A senior children’s doctor jailed in England for making and sharing "extreme" child pornography worked as a paediatrician in three  New Zealand hospitals, including  Dunedin Hospital and Southland Hospital.

Jonathan James Walsh (47) was sentenced to three years’  prison in March after police found 27 movies showing the most serious abuse of children, including a 12-month-old baby.

The married father-of-two erased his illegal download history with a hard drive-cleaning software called "CyberScrub", but a computer forensic expert found the files by searching his router.

When confronted by detectives, Walsh said: "I am a consultant paediatrician. Why would I need to download these images," the Daily Mail reported.  He later pleaded guilty to seven charges of making indecent photographs of a child and 10 counts of distribution.

None of the images were related to patients at the North Devon District Hospital from where he was sacked. 

The Medical Council of New Zealand confirmed it was approached by  Devon and Cornwall Police in July last year, after  Walsh was charged.

A  medical council spokesman said  Walsh worked as a paediatric registrar at Southland Hospital, then Dunedin Hospital, for 12 months each between 1996 and 1998.

He returned to the United Kingdom to complete his training in paediatrics, before returning  to New Zealand as a specialist in August 2011.

On his return, Walsh worked at Palmerston North Hospital for 12 months before  returning to England.

The  medical council spokesman said Walsh’s registration remained current, but he had not held a practising certificate since September 2012.

He urged  any patient, or their parents or guardians, who had concerns about treatment by  Walsh to contact their local police station, or the  Southern District or MidCentral Health Boards.

"The council will also work with and help  New Zealand police in the event they undertake their own  inquiries."

  SDHB chief executive Chris Fleming said  Walsh worked at the hospitals 20 years ago, but there were no records to suggest any concerning behaviour. If any patients had concerns, they should contact the SDHB or  police, Mr Fleming said.

"No audit of his care or internet use has been undertaken. However, if the New Zealand police were to open an  inquiry into Dr Walsh’s time in New Zealand, we would of course provide any assistance that may be required.

"These findings against a former colleague are very disturbing, and our thoughts are with his victims and all those impacted by his actions," Mr Fleming said.

MidCentral DHB chief medical officer Dr Kenneth Clark said there was no evidence

Walsh used his work computer inappropriately while  employed there.

"No complaints were received regarding the care he provided, and no concerns were raised by patients or staff either during or following his employment."

In sentencing  Walsh in March to three years’  imprisonment, Judge Geoffrey Mercer said that Walsh had gone to "considerable lengths" to disguise what he was doing.

"To state that your sexual interest in children, which underlines these offences, causes concern with regard to the position you held is a massive understatement," the BBC reported him as saying. 

"Your career is of course at an end and to quote from one of the letters you have written to me ‘through my own actions, I have lost my job, my career, my reputation and caused great harm to those around me that I love’," the judge said.

Walsh was last week struck off as a registered doctor by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service, at a hearing where his  conduct was described as  "deplorable".

"He was dealing with vulnerable children and was in a position of considerable trust. The tribunal has noted the extreme nature of the abuse of the children depicted in the images."

The children in the films were between 12 months and 14 years old.

● Anyone with concerns about  Walsh can contact their nearest police station  or contact patient services at SDHB on (03) 474-0999 or MidCentral DHB on (06) 350-8770. 

- Jared Savage

 

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