Aodhan O Faolain
A doctor awaiting sentence for possessing and distributing child abuse material has been suspended from practice pending further order of the High Court.
Dr Ronan Keogan (50) of College Square, Terenure, pleaded guilty last month in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court knowingly distributing child pornography at an unknown location within the State on March 26th, 2017.
He also pleaded guilty to possessing three child pornography images on May 15th, 2017. He is due to be sentenced next month.
On Friday, president of the High Court, Mr Justice David Barniville said, following an application from the Medical Council, he had no doubt the inevitable conclusion must be that nothing short of suspension would suffice in this case.
The offences were of the "most heinous" and serious kind for anyone and particularly for a doctor, he said. A suspension was necessary in the public interest and to protect the public, he said.
It remains in force pending further order of the court and pending completion of an inquiry by a Fitness to Practice Committee.
The judge noted that when complaints were first made against him in 2017, as gardaí began to investigate the allegations against him, that he had sworn an affidavit denying the allegations that he pleaded guilty to last month.
The judge said the allegations emerged after a female patient complained about her concerns about contacts with Dr Keoghan, including through social media, when he expressed an interest in having sex with underage girls.
Arising out of that, the Medical Council, in 2017, asked the High Court to suspend him.
That was dealt with by Dr Keoghan giving undertakings to treat only adults and the matter was adjourned on a number of occasions.
When he was first charged in the District Court, an anonymity order was granted but when he appeared before the Circuit Court, that order was lifted following queries from media organisations.
This led to queries from patients and others about him. Last February, the Medical Council re-entered the 2017 suspension application before the High Court.
When the Medical Council’s case came back before the High Court on Friday, Mr Justice Barniville also lifted an order that the matter be heard in private following an application from Mediahuis, publishers of the Irish Independent and independent.ie.
The judge said in making the suspension order he took into account the public interest as well as the interests of Dr Keoghan.
He also took into account that the doctor had written to the Medical Council saying he wished to have his name removed from the Medical Council register.
The judge also ordered him to cooperate with the Medical Council in transferring records from his practice, which closed without notice to his patients earlier this year, to other practitioners.
The records relate to private patients while the HSE is trying to obtain records of medical card patients, the court heard.
The judge said while Dr Keoghan claims to be seriously ill and unable to work, he could see no reason why he is not able to take any of the steps required to transfer those records.