A traumatised patient of a doctor jailed for sex crimes on hypnotised women has branded a decision to hand him £5,000 damages a “slap in the face”.
Hypnotherapist Imad Al-Khawaja was called a “remorseless” abuser by a judge. When he was banned from medicine, he asked: “Am I bothered?”
Now the European Court of Human Rights has ordered the Government to pay the 52-year-old doctor compensation.
It said his rights were breached because he did not have the chance to cross-examine one of his victims – she committed suicide before the case reached court.
While judges did not overturn his conviction, they said he deserved compensation for “distress and anxiety” caused by the breach.
One 40-year-old woman, who gave evidence at Al-Khawaja’s trial that he abused her while she was one of his private patients, said: “Why should the perpetrator of these crimes receive compensation when I was awarded nothing? Where are my human rights?
“I don’t know how he can have the audacity to claim for compensation in the first place.
“The decision is quite frankly a slap in the face for anyone whose trust was breached by this sick, vile individual.”
Dr Des Turner, MP for the Brighton Kemptown constituency which includes Brighton General Hospital where Al-Khawaja worked, condemned the court’s decision.
He said: “I really think this is an appalling judgment. I can’t understand it. The English courts convicted him with no shortage of evidence.
“It defies rational explanation whichever way you look at it. It is an absurd ruling.”
Al-Khawaja was a high-flying doctor at Brighton General when he put two patients into trances and indecently assaulted them five years ago.
He was sentenced to 27 months at a Hove Crown Court trial in 2004.
Judge Richard Hayward said: “This was an appalling breach of trust. You abused two vulnerable woman in your charge and under your control. You have not expressed any remorse for the distress you caused.”
When a disciplinary panel met in December to decide if he should be banned from medicine, Al-Khawaja sent them a letter quoting television comedian Catherine Tate: “Look at my face, am I bothered?”
As well as saying the evidence of his dead victim should not have been used, a claim thrown out by the UK Court of Appeal, Al-Khawaja said he was victimised because of his race.
He said: “If I had a European name with blue eyes and blond hair, there would not even have been a case against me.”
Al-Khawaja, a father of four who trained in Iraq, was employed by South Downs Health NHS Trust as a consultant in rehabilitation when he committed his crimes.
As well as Brighton, he worked at hospitals in Eastbourne and Worthing, Hurstwood Park Neurological Centre in Haywards Heath and saw patients at a private clinic in Hove.
He was convicted in 2004 of indecently assaulting two women, then aged 20 and 47, while they were hypnotised.
The 47-year-old, who had multiple sclerosis, committed suicide before the case reached court but the statement she gave to police was admitted as evidence.
She said Al-Khawaja asked her intimate questions about her sexual desires before indecently assaulting her. She said she was not fully hypnotised and could remember what happened.
The 20-year-old told the court: “None of it felt right but at the back of my head I kept thinking he was a doctor and it must be normal. But I felt sick and violated.”
Before it considered its verdict, the jury was warned about the case of the 47-year-old because her statement had not been tested in court.
It was told: “You must bear in mind when considering her evidence that you have not seen her evidence, you have not heard her give evidence and you have not heard her evidence tested in cross-examination.”
Al-Khawaja was handed consecutive 12-month and 15-month jail sentences after the jury returned unanimous guilty verdicts.
In 2005 he appealed against the decision to allow the dead woman’s statement to go before the jury but was dismissed by the Court of Appeal. It said: “The evidence against the appellant was very strong.”
The House of Lords turned down a later appeal and Al-Khawaja appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
This court said the trial judge’s comments were not enough to balance the impact of jurors not seeing the witness cross-examined.
It said the trial contravened Al-Khajawa’s rights under Article Six of the 1950 European Convention On Human Rights, which entitles people to a fair trial and the right to crossexamine witnesses against them. It said he had “inevitably suffered a degree of distress and anxiety as a result”.
Al-Khawaja claimed £20,000 compensation but the court said this was speculative and awarded him 6,000 euros – £5,248.57 at current exchange rates – and £3,050 legal costs.
He is understood to have left the country.