SEVERAL Australian women who visited a medical centre for a pap smear have unknowingly been violated by a doctor who secretly captured the procedures on camera and kept the images on his computer, police allege.
The general practitioner, who worked at the Ely Street practice in Wangaratta about 250km northeast of Melbourne - has today been charged with sexual assault and capture intimate image.
An undisclosed number of women, aged between 17-60, who do not yet know they were victims of the alleged crimes will be contacted by police over four days starting from today. Up to 20 victims have been identified but that tally could grow with police urging anyone who believes they may also be a victim to come forward.
An investigation was launched in October 2017 after a woman who attended the clinic for a vaginal examination reported that the accused doctor conducted the procedure without surgical gloves and that she noticed what appeared to be camera equipment in the room.
Victoria Police later executed a warrant on the 68-year-old doctor's workplace and home and seized cameras and computers where "a number of inappropriate images of female patients".
According to police, further victims were identified after date and time stamps on the images were cross-checked with the GP's appointment records at the clinic.
All of the victims are female and reside in the Wangaratta area. Local detectives said in a police statement that they, with assistance from investigators from the Sexual Crimes Squad, were this week contacting the women to inform them they were victims.
News.com.au contacted Victoria Police to inquire about the number of women who had been violated but had not received a response at the time of publication.
Victoria Police Acting Superintendent Joy Arbuthnot this afternoon told reporters there could be even more victims than they're aware of and urged anyone concerned to contact police.
"It's not every day that the police contact you and advise you that as a result of an attendance at a general practitioner that you are potentially the victim of a sexual assault," she said.
"I understand this will be incredibly difficult for our victims to hear."
She described the accused doctor as having more than 40 years of medical experience, and revealed he was married "with a family".
"I'm not sure how far back this matter will go...it's quite complex and will take a long time."
The accused doctor was suspended from practising after being interviewed by police in January. He was yesterday granted bail with conditions and will appear at Wangaratta Magistrates' Court on September 10.
The investigation by the Wangaratta Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team (SOCIT) into the alleged series of sexual assaults is ongoing.
There is no evidence to suggest any other doctor or staff member at the clinic was involved in the matters, according to police.
Police don't believe the images allegedly taken by the doctor were shared further.
Authorities notified a number of other agencies, including the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, about the allegations in November 2017.
"Advice was also then obtained in relation to the non-use of surgical gloves and it was determined that an offence had occurred in relation to that aspect," a police statement read.
Acting Superintendent Joy Arbuthnot said she understood the allegations were likely to be very distressing for the victims.
"I don't think anyone wants to be in a position where they receive a notification from police that they have been a victim of a sexual assault," she said.
"I understand this will be incredibly difficult for our victims to hear and we are working with a range of other agencies to ensure the right support services are in place and they are given as much information as possible about the process from here.
"Wangaratta is a small community and we have someone who has been working in a position of trust for many years, involved in this matter.
"It is likely that there are other victims who, again, may be unaware the offence has occurred.
"I'd encourage anyone who attended this clinic and believes there was anything unusual about their interaction with their GP, to come forward.
"I also want to reassure the local community that a thorough investigation is being conducted into this matter and that all reports of sexual assault are taken seriously.
"We understand how concerning this will be for the broader community of Wangaratta and we ask that people don't share misinformation and instead look at what we are publishing on our official channels in terms of the investigation but also the options that are available to them in regarding to health matters."