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Last Updated: Friday, 16 January, 2004, 19:33 GMT
Surgeon sex attack claims dismissed
Rodney Ledward
Rodney Ledward had been struck off for bungling operations
A judge has dismissed damages claims brought by women who said they were sexually assaulted by a gynaecologist.

A total of 59 women all claimed they were assaulted by Rodney Ledward in NHS hospitals in east Kent.

The allegations only came to light after 62-year-old Mr Ledward died in October 2000.

Legal aid had already been withdrawn in the cases and on Friday a High Court judge dismissed the eight main claims.

This case has cost the public far too much money already.
Mrs Justice Hallett

Mrs Justice Hallett advised the remainder of the claims should also be dismissed on 30 January, if there was no indication of intention to proceed with the action.

She spoke of her "grave concerns" at the handling of the case by the legal firm representing the women.

Mr Ledward, a consultant gynaecologist had been struck off by the General Medical Council after being found guilty of bungling 13 operations.

Legal aid withdrawn

But the allegations he sexually assaulted patients only emerged in July 2001, seven months after his death.

The women said they were assaulted, and in some cases raped, by Mr Ledward while in his care from the early 1980s.

They were suing the Kent and Medway Health Authority and East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust which employed the surgeon.

The hearing at London's High Court was to deal with the eight lead cases, which involve claims of between 100,000 and 600,000.

Reports suggested solicitors had hoped for approximately 750,000 in legal aid to support the case.

But the Legal Services Commission decided to withdraw its support for the case, saying it no longer met "assessment criteria".

'Wholly incredible'

On Friday Mrs Justice Hallett said: "This case has cost the public far too much money already. It's been dragging on for far too long.

"Very considerable sums of public money have been spent on both sides and I want to see how or why it was spent and how a case of this nature reached the state it did before everything fell apart."

John Grace, QC for the health authorities, said that in none of the cases had the women complained until many years later and they had all returned to Ledward for more treatment.

He described the allegations as "wholly incredible".

Ronal Walker, QC for the women, dismissed the idea that all 59 women involved were "deluded, mistaken or inventing it all".

Jane Loveday, the solicitor representing the women, whose handling of the case was criticised by Mrs Justice Hallett, was not in court.




SEE ALSO:
Surgeon sex assault case halted
08 Jan 04  |  Health
Widower settles in Ledward case
12 Feb 02  |  England
The Rodney Ledward interview
08 Jun 00  |  Health


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