Hearing aid man wins porn case appeal

A director of a hearing aid company who kept adult pornographic images on a work computer in a file named "Dirty" won a High Court battle against being struck off today.

Hearing aid dispenser Jason Lee Saunders, part-owner of Eastbourne Specsavers Hearcare Ltd, was disciplined after storing images, including one of himself naked, on a computer kept in a room used for hearing aid tests.

They were discovered in April 2007 after a locum hearing aid dispenser used the computer in his absence.

The court heard Saunders, of Compton Street, Eastbourne, East Sussex, thought he had deleted them, but thumbnail versions remained stored on the computer and were revealed when a USB memory stick was inserted by the locum. He later resigned from his business.

Saunders challenged a decision of the Hearing Aid Council's disciplinary committee in February last year to strike him off the register for serious misconduct and to make a £30,000 costs order against him.

Lawyers for the disciplinary body argued that "having pornography or indulging one's sexual interests at the workplace was no part of the role of being a hearing aid dispenser".

But Mrs Justice Nicola Davies, sitting at the High Court in London, allowed his appeal and ruled the disciplinary committee's findings were flawed.

The judge said there was no challenge to the finding that he was in breach of his code of conduct and had behaved unprofessionally and wholly inappropriately.

But the images were "not illegal" and striking off was excessive.

She substituted a period of six months suspension from practice and quashed the costs order, which had already been reduced to £11,270.

The judge said Saunders' conduct was "confined as to time and place" and he had done all he reasonably believed possible to eradicate the pictures from the computer.

The judge said: "The committee made no reference to the fact that the images were not illegal and had been deleted for at least a year prior to their discovery".

There was also no sound evidential basis for a finding that Saunders was guilty "of a sustained course of conduct and repeated downloading and storing".

His uncontradicted evidence was that the downloading had taken place over two to three days.

Mr Saunders started working at the Specsavers store in Terminus Street, Eastbourne, in May 2005 as co-owner of Specsavers Hearcare.

A police investigation followed the discovery of the pornographic images. He resigned from his post but there was no prosecution.

Quashing the costs order made against him, the judge said the court had been told it had been difficult, if not impossible, for Mr Saunders to find work, and the period of suspension "will carry its own financial penalty".

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