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Gold Coast hogtie doctor found guilty of assaulting 7-year-old boy

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Actual photo taken in the doctor’s surgery by mother of Dr Neville Davis hogtying her child. Davis has since been convicted for performing this act. (Permission granted to reproduce this image by mother.)

In 2013, IA broke the story of a paediatrician hogtying a little boy in his surgery. Yesterday he was found guilty of assault. Unfortunately, evidence suggests this was far from an isolated incident. Fiona Barnett asks how he was allowed to practice on young children for so long.

In 2013, IA broke the story about a Gold Coast paediatrician hogtying a seven-year-old autistic boy. Yesterday, the doctor, Neville Davis, was found guilty of common assault. 

In his summation, the Judge branded the doctor a liar and found he had threatened to flush the child’s head down a toilet. Now, big questions remain as to how the Queensland Medical Board and their administrators AHPRA (Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency) have allowed Dr Neville Davis to continue abusing children for at least ten years.

Late in 2014, I had the privilege of being the sole witness to the young hogtie victim’s testimony and cross examination. It was after 3pm by the time the child was called to the witness stand. Since 9am, he had been confined in a small room with me, his family and a court appointed support worker. 

At 2.30pm, the support person, a retired lawyer, mentally cracked under the pressure we all felt.

He threw up his hands in exasperation and said me:

"I can’t take this anymore. You will have to accompany him into the witness box."

I unquestioningly adopted this responsibility which, I quickly discovered, included explaining the entire court procedure to the child and what was expected of him, determining whether the process was becoming detrimental to the child’s well being, and deciding if and when to terminate the child’s witness testimony.

The odds were stacked against this young child delivering his witness testimony. The least of his obstacles was the terminal disease rapidly devouring his once excellent cognitive ability. On top of this, he was placed through a highly flawed legal procedure that served to exhaust and confuse a child with autism. The child was so disadvantaged the court support worker went on to lodge a formal complaint.

Four times the Court changed their mind regarding the location of the child’s witness testimony — the courtroom, or a video conference room. Each time, I had to brief and prepare the child for what he might expect. Finally, the court settled on the video conference room.

The fluorescent lights in the conference room were far too overwhelming for a child with severe sensory processing disorder, so he turned them off.

There, in the dark, I told him:

"This is your chance to tell everyone what Neville Davis did to you."

The child took full advantage of his opportunity.

The defence continually led the child witness.

"When you were in the consultation room," the lawyer said words to that effect, "you were there with your younger sister and you were being naughty and fighting with your sister."

"No," the child victim asserted, "my sister wasn’t there!"

The defence went on to suggest to the child that Neville Davis never sat on his back but rather straddled him.

‘No!’ The child raised his voice. "He sat on my back and he felt heavy like two, fat elephants!"

After about an hour of testifying, the defence twisted and played with words until they managed to trick the child into making his first mistake. The child tried to correct himself, but the defence wouldn’t allow him.

The defence and the DPP became locked in an argument over the child’s minor error — one which contradicted what the child had repeatedly said prior to it.

As the two men argued, the child grew noticeably anxious. At that point he decided to present the Court his summary statement.

He rose to his feet, leant toward the camera and yelled: 

"WORST…DOCTOR…EVER!!"

It was the finest witness performance I’ve seen — and it paid off.

On Wednesday 18 March, Southport Magistrates Court found Gold Coast paediatrician Neville Davis guilty of assaulting a 7-year-old child.

Davis was fined $1,000 and placed on a 12 month good behaviour bond. His conviction was not recorded — a recurring theme in this doctor’s career.

"I think the thousand dollar fine is absolutely pathetic," the victim’s mother responded to the news. "A thousand dollars to me is like over a month-and-a-half of groceries. To him, it’s nothing!"

Neville Davis’ defence described the 60-year-old doctor’s career as "unblemished". The the judge said it was "impressive".

However, insiders know that Neville Davis’ medical career is far from squeaky clean. 

Since IA broke the hogtie story, I have been contacted by numerous parents with allegations against Neville Davis. Most have been unwilling to approach the police or have their testimonies published.

I was most recently contacted by a mother named Michelle Rigden. Ten years ago, just after they had emigrated to Australia from the UK, Michelle and her husband took their then six-year-old son to see Neville Davis. They were concerned about their child’s unwanted behaviour.

During this consultation, Neville Davis demonstrated to the parents how to deal with their son’s misbehaviour. The paediatrician interrupted the child’s quiet game, picked him up by the hair, and concluded that the child couldn’t possibly misbehave in such a position.

"We just thought they must do things differently here in Australia," Michelle explained. "Back in England, a doctor would get arrested if they did that to a child."

Upon learning of Neville Davis’ lenient sentence, Michelle remarked:

"That’s just disgusting. It just sickens me!"

The Queensland Medical Board and AHPRA have received complaints about Neville Davis for at least a decade. These complaints were typically ignored or covered up.

In 2014, Neville Davis became the subject of an AHPRA investigation into four mothers’ complaints after they were published on IA:

One mother had already lodged her complaint with AHPRA who subsequently ignored it, back in 2010.

The AHPRA staff member assigned to the investigation, Cliff Thompson, confirmed to me that in early 2014, the Queensland Medical Tribunal found Neville Davis guilty of medical negligence for failing to diagnose a baby’s condition (hydrocephalis) approximately 9 years ago.

The father, Ross, tearfully expressed to me his disappointment over AHPRA’s failure to publicly record this finding against Neville Davis.

"What do you have to do to get something on your record?" he complained. "People need to be aware that this happened."

During the hogtie court hearing, police informed me that two more families came forward to them in response to media exposure of the hogtie story. Police said the child victims in those cases were faring as poorly as the hogtie victim and that both families were reluctant to subject their children to the legal process.

Their reluctance is understandable, considering the severe criticism the mother endured for pursuing her son’s hogtie case.

"I’m very cranky that everybody keeps saying how naughty or unruly my child was," she recently commented. "My child was happily playing in the consultation room when Neville Davis interrupted his game, called him over, got him on the ground and hogtied him."

The biggest criticism the mother received was over her innate reaction to Neville Davis’ assault on her son — to take photos with her smart phone. Yet it was those very photos that guaranteed the paediatrician’s conviction.

As the mother said:

"It was obvious Davis was guilty because I had the photographic evidence."

A top Brisbane paediatric neurologist recently informed the mother that her son has only five years left to live. The decline in the child's health following Dr Davis’ hogtie assault, along with the subsequent trauma, is allegedly at least partially to blame for this bleak prognosis.

The mother’s final conclusion regarding Dr Neville Davis echoes that of Michelle Rigden and the other parents I have interviewed:

"I want to see him deregistered. He shouldn’t be working with children. It’s now up to AHPRA to come good and deregister him."

Neville Davis is set to make yet another appearance before the Queensland Medical Tribunal, this time in relation to the guilty verdict.

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