Patel retrial date set
THE legal team for former Bundaberg surgeon Jayant Patel will consider seeking a judge-only trial amid fears the Dr Death tag has tainted potential jurors.
Lawyer Arun Raniga said, outside Brisbane Supreme Court, he did not think his client could have a fair trial in Queensland with the Dr Death label and the extensive media coverage of the first trial.
"All that stays fresh in people's minds," he said.
Patel had three manslaughter and a grievous bodily harm conviction quashed in the High Court.
Public prosecutions director Tony Moynihan announced on Thursday he would prosecute Patel again but in four separate trials.
Mr Raniga said Patel was not surprised.
Justice Glenn Martin on Friday set the first trial down tentatively November 12 for 10 days.
He directed the Crown to provide a list of witnesses to Patel's defence team by September 14 ahead of another court mention on September 21.
Mr Raniga said he had asked for a retrial when appealing Patel's convictions and he was pleased there were separate trials.
"From day one two years ago we did apply for separate trials and they vigorously opposed it," he said.
"That's what it should have been from the beginning because the charges were not related.
"He intends to defend all the charges.
"There's the option of judge-only trial but we need to discuss with counsel."
Mr Raniga said Patel spoke to media this week because he wanted to quash "floating rumours" that Patel was intending to vary his bail so he could go back to America and confirm he was not publishing a book.
He said Patel's family would not visit him in Australia in the near future.
"Once the dates are set for trial perhaps his wife might come and join him again like previously," he said.
Mr Raniga said 10 days would be enough to run the trial and he would work towards the November 21 date.
"I was involved previously so I know what the trial was about so we should be ready," he said.
Four separate trials
FORMER Bundaberg surgeon Jayant Patel will face four separate trials related to the deaths of three patients and alleged injuries to another.
Public Prosecutions Director Tony Moynihan has made the decision after "carefully" considering the reasons the High Court quashed Patel's convictions for the manslaughter of Mervyn Morris, Gerardus Kemps and James Phillips and causing grievous bodily harm to Ian Vowles.
"I am satisfied that, on the admissible evidence, there are reasonable prospects of a conviction and it is in the public interest to proceed with a new trial," he said.
"The charges have to be tried separately."
The High Court judgment found a miscarriage of justice occurred because the Crown "radically" changed its case on the 43rd day of a 58-day trial from one of gross negligence to whether the decision to operate was flawed.
They found this change meant much of the evidence admitted was irrelevant but potentially prejudicial for the jury assessing the case.
Holding four separate trials means each jury must assess one decision to operate on a patient, not whether there was a pattern of bad decisions.
While some patients and family members have already told the NewsMail they would find it difficult to endure another trial, Ian Vowles said he had no such trouble.
Mr Vowles, who lives with a botched bowel operation, said he had not found Dr Patel's first trial particularly traumatic and he was "quite happy" to go back to court.
"I was prepared for what I had to do, and I went in and told the truth," he said.
"The second one is going to be a lot easier because I know what to expect."
Nurse Toni Hoffman, who originally blew the whistle on Dr Patel, said she was pleased he would be tried again.
"I'm quite relieved," she said.
Ms Hoffman said she did not know if she would have to give evidence at every trial Dr Patel faced, if several trials were to go ahead due to the charges being heard separately.
"I'm just going to put my trust in the DPP and hope it works out," she said.
Queensland criminal lawyer Bill Potts said separate charges could only be heard together under criminal law if they were similar, arose from a course of conduct and occurred at a similar time and place.
He said the first trial found Patel's surgeries were carried out competently so the Crown must focus on whether his decision-making lead to the deaths and could amount to manslaughter.
"Here the decision to operate would have to be dealt with separately and apart from each other because the evidence in one matter may have an adverse effect on a jury across a series of separate offences, taint each separate matter," he said.
Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said the decision to proceed with prosecution again was not about cost, but about the evidence.
"I have a very strong view that if the evidence stacks up then justice needs to be done," he said.
"There are a lot of people in Queensland that are asking for closure on this sad event in the history of Queensland.
"Many of those people are the alleged victims of this gentlemen and they're calling out for justice."
Senior counsel Peter Davis, who prosecuted the matter in the High Court, will continue to appear for the Crown.