Sunday, July 20, 2008

Bligh praises police for Patel case work

US surgeon Jayant Patel remains in the Brisbane watch-house awaiting his court appearance later this afternoon on manslaughter charges.

Patel arrived on a commercial flight from Los Angeles this morning in the custody of two Queensland Police officers.

He is facing 14 charges, including three of manslaughter, and is expected to face Brisbane Magistrates Court later today.

The charges relate to Patel's time as the director of surgery at the Bundaberg Base Hospital between 2003 and 2005.

Shortly before midday AEST, police prosecutor Sergeant Tina Green told Magistrate Bryan Hine that watch-house staff were still processing Patel and it was unlikely he would be ready to face court before 2pm AEST.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh says she is confident a properly instructed jury is capable of assessing the evidence set before it.

"I think they've demonstrated in very high-profile cases their capacity to hear the matter fairly," she said.

Ms Bligh praised the police and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for their legal work.

Queensland Attorney-General Kerry Shine says he is relieved Patel is back in Queensland and he has defended the length of time it has taken to get him before an Australian court.

"I really can't alter the past whatsoever and I think it's important the Government proceed in the way it has done in the past in terms of negotiations that did take place," he said.

One of Patel's former colleague, Vijay Mehta, says the surgeon's wife is arranging to come to Australia.

"She got a chance to talk to Dr Patel before he left on the phone and Dr Patel was in good spirits," he said.

"I think she might be arriving with one or two friends or families or some supporters."

Former patients

Meanwhile, three former patients of Patel were outnumbered by journalists as they waited outside the Brisbane Magistrates Court early this morning for his arrival at the watch-house.

The Bundaberg Hospital Patients Support Group president, Beryl Crosby, says they are slightly nervous, apprehensive and keen to see Patel in court.

Ms Crosby says they did not feel it was appropriate to watch him get off the plane at the Brisbane airport.

"We just needed to be here to go through this process of hearing the charges - I think it's important because it's part of the process," she said.

In Bundaberg, former patients and colleagues of Patel have welcomed his return to Queensland to face charges.

Bundaberg nurse Toni Hoffman, who made concerns about Patel public in 2005, has praised Queensland police and says his extradition has been handled well.

"I'd like to thank the detectives that did all that hard work because it's very hard to bring a case like this, even to get this far, with it especially when the person that you want is overseas - so I would really like to thank them," she said.

A spokesman for about 50 of Patel's former patients, Ian Fleming, says he expects the case to take a long time.

"We've got to be patient and let justice take its course," he said.

Mr Fleming has asked the State Government to fund travel costs for two members of his group to attend court in Brisbane.


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