A trusted family doctor was jailed today for sexually abusing young girls while their mothers waited behind a curtain at his surgery.
Antony Collis, 59, was given eight years and six months for indecently assaulting five schoolgirls, and a further four months for possessing child pornography.
Collis, of Stonegate, near Wadhurst, East Sussex, was found guilty at the Old Bailey on Tuesday of eight counts of indecent assault of girls aged under 14.
He was told to leave the Belmont surgery in East Sussex following complaints in 2003, and was struck off as a doctor in 2007.
Collis pleaded guilty to two sample charges of having an indecent image. Thousands of pictures of child abuse had been wiped off his computer, the court heard.
Judge Peter Rook told him: "You took advantage of the trust mother and child placed in their doctor."
The victims now speak of the lasting emotional damage done to them.
One would never see a doctor alone and another had lost her faith in her mother, said the judge.
He said Collis had breached trust placed in doctors and undermined public confidence.
Judge Rook added: "You will never work as a doctor again."
Brendan Finucane QC, mitigating for Collis, said: "His life has disintegrated. His marriage has ended, he has lost his home, his life has fallen to pieces."
Collis had paid £50,000 in damages to six girls who complained to the General Medical Council.
The court heard that girls were assaulted over a decade until 2003 after their mothers took them to the surgery for ailments such as sore throats.
Lyn Griffin, prosecuting, said Collis worked at the Belmont Surgery, serving Wadhurst, Ticehurst and Frant, for 25 years.
Miss Griffin said: "Dr Collis conducted a number of indecently-motivated examinations of female patients.
"More often than not, their mothers were present during the examination."
Police investigated but decided there was insufficient evidence to prosecute in 2004.
Collis was struck off the medical register after the GMC found 43 instances of misconduct in relation to girls involving "indecent, unnecessary and inappropriate" examinations.
In 2008, police reopened the investigation and charged him.
Following sentencing, Sussex Police apologised to Collis's victims and their families for not exploring avenues of investigation sooner.
Detective Inspector Emma Heater said: "Collis was a doctor at the time these offences were committed and was therefore in a position of trust, as well as being highly regarded within the community.
"Our sympathies and admiration are with the victims who have bravely come forward and supported this prosecution after so many years, reliving what must have been a frightening and traumatic experience.
"We are pleased to secure this conviction for the victims and unfortunately recognise that this could not have been done sooner.
"We reopened the investigation in 2008 and subsequently realised that avenues of investigation had not been pursued.
"That investigation was not of the professional standard that we see today and lessons have been learned. We apologise to the victims and their families for this."