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Claims of ill-health protect Doyle

03 May 2018

Claims of ill-health protect Doyle Image

By Shane Scanlan

By claiming ill-health, Robert Doyle looks like walking away from allegations of sexual assault and misconduct with a damaged reputation, but with no formal legal finding against him.

The specific condition of the former lord mayor’s health has not been publicly revealed, but in April a Melbourne Health investigation by Charles Scerri QC was called off because Mr Doyle’s health prevented him from responding.

After allegations surfaced in December, Robert Doyle resigned his position as lord mayor. He also resigned as chairman of Melbourne Health around the same time.

In a statement about Mr Scerri’s “final report”, Melbourne Health said:

“Mr Scerri has no reason to doubt, and at present does not doubt, the veracity of the complainant;

However, because of ill health, Mr Doyle has been unable to respond to the allegations; and

In the absence of any response from Mr Doyle, Mr Scerri is not able to reach, and has not reached, any conclusions about the allegations.”

But Mr Doyle’s lawyer, Nick Ruskin, says his client was not sent details of the allegations.

“The investigation did not progress due to our client’s ill health. It did not progress to a stage where he was forwarded any material by the investigator,” Mr Ruskin said.

Mr Ruskin did not reply to Docklands News’s further questions about what is actually wrong with Mr Doyle.

“Is he terminally ill?  If not, why wouldn’t the investigators just wait until he was well again?” Docklands News asked.

Docklands News asked Mr Scerri: “Did you decide alone to discontinue the investigation?  Or were you instructed by Melbourne Health (or someone in government) to terminate the inquiry?”

He replied: “It would not be appropriate for me to comment.”

A spokesperson for Health Minister Jill Hennessy would not make any on the record comments.

Mr Doyle’s claims of ill-health have also prevented a City of Melbourne inquiry by Dr Ian Freckelton QC from being concluded.

In March, council CEO Ben Rimmer released a summary of a report from Dr Freckleton in which he made four adverse findings against Mr Doyle.

Mr Rimmer appears to have little appetite to further pursue Mr Doyle to answer outstanding allegations from a so-called “third victim”.

The “third victim” is the woman Mr Doyle allegedly assaulted at a Melbourne Health awards presentation evening. Messrs Scerri and Freckelton were seeking Mr Doyle’s response over the same incident.

The woman Tweeted on April 26: “We can all thank MCC and Melbourne Health for setting a new precedent and a way of avoidance for perpetrators. Malka Leifer and Doyle shielded by mental illness. Where is the justice?”

She also wrote: “Acting CEO Ruth Vine and CEO Christine Kilpatrick of Melbourne Health heard of Robert Doyle’s inappropriate behaviour in Dec 2017 and did nothing other than suggest it is in best interests to remain silent. Charles Scerri finds Melb Health of no wrongdoing. How is this fair?”

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services said:

“We received advice from his legal advisors that Mr Doyle should not participate in the investigation nor read related materials.”

“Mr Doyle was written to five times and in each instance his lawyer stated that Mr Doyle was unable to participate.”

“Mr Doyle’s lawyers never sought an extension of time to allow Mr Doyle to participate in the investigation.”

“We would be pleased to offer Mr Doyle the further opportunity to attend an interview with Mr Scerri QC and respond to the allegations (a copy of which Mr Doyle has previously received).”

“If Mr Doyle becomes available for an interview, Mr Scerri QC will recommence the investigation.”

The spokesperson on April 27 amended this final paragraphy to read “When Mr Doyle ...”

In a letter to the secretary of the Department of Human Services, Mr Scerri said others had complaints against Mr Doyle but did not come forward.

He said: “The complainant was very concerned to maintain her anonymity, except to the extent necessary to permit Mr Doyle to respond to the allegations.”

“There were two aspects to this. First, the complainant and her husband were concerned that if she made a complaint against the chair, her husband’s career at Melbourne Health would be adversely affected.”

“Secondly, the complainant was concerned that if she made a complaint, her identity would be made known in the press, in the same way that the complainants in the Melbourne City Council investigation were identified and made the subject of much publicity.”

“In my investigation, I was told about two other women who had made allegations against Mr Doyle. Both declined to make a complaint, either to Melbourne Health or me. I have not spoken to either person directly, but it seems that a concern about confidentiality was a factor that deterred them from making a complaint.”

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