Reasons behind cardiologist's child exploitation offending unveiled: court

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Cardiac surgeon Andrew Douglas McGavigan fronted the Adelaide District Court on Monday over child exploitation charges. Picture: SuppledSource:Supplied

Mental health issues and “escapism” from personal and work stressors were the reasons a South Australian cardiologist was found with child exploitation material on his mobile phone, a court has heard.

Andrew Douglas McGavigan, 49, pleaded guilty to one count each of using a carriage service to access the abusive material and possessing or controlling the material in the form of data on a computer or storage device.

The defendant, who worked at Flinders Medical Centre, was arrested in December 2020 after SA Joint Anti Child Exploitation Team (JACET) officers raided his Hawthorn home and found the abusive material on his mobile.

They also discovered records of communication between himself and another person discussing engaging in sexual activity with children in Thailand via Skype and other apps between May 31 and December 6, 2020.

Appearing in the Adelaide District Court on Monday, the Scottish-born cardiologist also pleaded guilty to the charge of using a carriage service in a way that reasonable persons regarded as being offence.

The court heard McGavigan requested the other chat recipients role play as a young girl for the purpose of sexual activity and to ask the recipients to source the young girl for the purposes of sexual activity.

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Cardiologist Andrew McGavigan pleaded guilty to two counts relating to child exploitation offences in the Adelaide Magistrates Court in March. Picture: Brenton Edwards / NCA NewsWireSource:News Corp Australia

His defence lawyer, Heath Barklay SC, argued his client committed the offending while he suffered from undiagnosed depression, sleep deprivation, over work and personal and work stressors.

The lawyer said McGavigan had no idea about the quantity of files he uploaded to a cloud-based storage device, had only clicked on some of the material and thought he deleted the files after clicking on them.

Mr Barklay asked Judge Julie McIntyre to consider imposing a suspended sentence or home detention because exceptional circumstances existed.

He said the combination of McGavigan’s early guilty pleas, contrition and remorse, contribution to medicine and the community, active engagement in treatment since his arrest and loss he suffered – like being deregistered as a doctor and resigning from national and international medical boards – were some of the reasons to justify the lesser sentence.

“He has an acute fear of being sent to prison and the charges themselves, and all that has flown from it, has achieved personal deterrence, taking into account the personal price he has paid for the pain and anguish he has caused his wife and (two) children,” Mr Barklay told the judge.

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He asked the judge to consider his client’s poor mental state at the time of his offending as well as after the charges were laid because McGavigan had thoughts of suicide.

Mr Barklay also cited psychiatrist and psychologist reports that suggested his client was at a low risk of reoffending and had “excellent prospects” for rehabilitation.

He said “escapism” was the driver was for McGavigan’s offending rather than sexual arousal.

“Accessing the child abuse material was a result of the defendant initially engaging in adult pornography which led to him engaging in more and more taboo topics.”

“Eventually he had been clicking on and uploading child abuse material at the suggestion of other people that he was communicating with.

“It was the taboo nature of the discussions that the defendant was attracted to (and) was emotionally aroused (by) … he has no sexual interest in children.”

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The defendant on Monday also pleaded guilty to using a carriage service in a way that reasonable persons regarded as being offensive. Picture: Naomi Jellicoe / NCA NewsWireSource:News Corp Australia

However, prosecutor Jeff Powell said immediate jail time was the only appropriate sentence, because the charges were too serious and child abuse offences were not victimless crimes.

He said McGavigan was aware his deliberate offending was “wrong and illegal” and was not due to a misunderstanding or lapse in judgment.

The court heard police found the defendant in possession of 9235 images or videos, but only 4061 were able to be examined by officers, where the ”predominant” amount depicted abusive material.

Mr Powell told Judge McIntyre the file examination had “limitations” as officers were only able to determine when the files were first opened and could not say if or when they were reopened.

The prosecutor, however, said the cardiologist opened the files on five different occasions on four different days between September 22 and October 9 last year, so his claims he thought he deleted the files after clicking on them were false.

He also referred to chat messages involving the accused that were not read aloud in the courtroom but were provided to the judge.

Mr Powell argued McGavigan was sexually aroused by children because the content of those messages contradicted the defendant’s claim the chats were part of his “taboo fantasy”.

“He still accessed and possessed the material and engaged in the chat conversation,” the prosecutor said.

“He’d caused the damage, whatever the motivation was.”

McGavigan is due to reappear later this month to be sentenced.

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