NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell says the release from jail of former gynaecologist Graeme Reeves, dubbed the “Butcher of Bega”, part-way through his sentence was a “kick in the guts” for his victims.
News that Reeves has been released from Long Bay jail coincided with the revelation that 60 charges against him - including allegations of sexual assault - had been dropped by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
“These women aren't angry - they are furious and devastated,” patient advocate Lorraine Long said on Saturday. “What has gone on is horrific.”
Mr O'Farrell said: “This will be a kick in the guts to those affected.”
Reeves is on parole after he successfully appealed to the High Court against an 18-month increase to his sentence for mutilating a woman's genitals.
The south coast doctor was found guilty by a District Court jury in 2011 for maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent on patient Carolyn DeWaegeneire, of Wolumla, after he surgically removed her clitoris and labia without her consent during an operation at Pambula hospital to take out a pre-cancerous lesion.
He was given a 2½-year sentence with a one-year non-parole period that expired in May this year.
On December 18, the High Court overturned a decision by the Court of Criminal Appeal to add 18 months to his sentence because it did not take into “account evidence of Reeves' deteriorating health and the imminent expiry of his non-parole period”.
He was released from jail on December 20.
A spokesman for Corrective Services NSW said Reeves had strict parole conditions, including that he must not contact his victims.
The DPP in November dropped outstanding charges against the gynaecologist, who has been the subject of investigations dating back more than 20 years.
A spokesman for NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith said “a significant number” of charges were withdrawn because there “was insufficient evidence to ensure a reasonable prospect of conviction”.
Ms Long said there was “no valid evidential reason” for the decision by the DPP to abandon more than 60 charges relating to indecent and sexual assault and malicious wounding of female patients.
“There have been a colossal number of victims,” said Ms Long, founder of the Medical Error Action Group.
She said a total of 69 charges were laid against Reeves but 61 had been left “dormant” in the court system for years.
During the past 20 years, Ms Long has received 832 complaints about the doctor.
“I challenge the DPP to publicly explain why they have made this outrageous decision,” she said. “Nothing has changed in the evidence since brave women … came forward to help police investigate one of the most appalling criminals in the state's medical history."
The NSW Court of Criminal Appeal will reconsider Reeves' sentence after the High Court decision, with the possibility he will serve additional jail time.
Member for Bega, Andrew Constance said that he would be writing to the DPP seeking a review into 60 charges brought against former doctor Graeme Reeves, and where possible, an explanation as to the reasons for not pursuing them in court.
Mr Constance stressed that the privacy of victims and their sensitivity to what has occurred must be respected at all times.
“What faith can any Reeves victim expect to have in the health and legal systems following this debacle?” Mr Constance said.
“This criminal incident has been one of the blackest marks in Australia's medical history and I am appalled for victims, many of whom just want the whole thing to go away.
“Many victims have life-long pain and suffering and will never recover from the actions of Reeves.
“Women from Pambula to Batemans Bay to the mountains were affected.
“The victims of Reeves were failed by the health system and the people who hired him at the time, and now they have been failed by the legal system.
“The whole system of supports has been an abject failure for victims.
“The only people who have been of enormous assistance has been the police attached to the strike force.
“I want to see an appropriate care and counselling support system initiated by the health district should any victim want to access it.
“I have spoken with the Attorney General to express my disappointment,” Mr Constance said.