THEY came to his Watt Street practice complaining of allergies, rashes, sinusitis, hayfever, migraines, hormones, skin irritations, eczema and a myriad of other conditions.
In total there were 46 women, many at their “wit’s end”, who had tried the usual remedies and medicines, but had found no resolution.
But during their consultations, Dr Jeremy Coleman – a 64-year-old Newcastle general physician who specialises in allergy, immunology and hormone therapy – would shift the conversation to sex, Newcastle District Court has heard.
Were they sexually active? Were they using contraception? Did they have a low libido? Was their vagina dry?
“His interest was intentionally drawn to their fertility and genitalia or their sexual function as a guise, as a means, as a ruse to examine them internally,” Crown prosecutor Paul Marr told the jury during his opening address.
“The Crown says that he didn’t have a proper medical purpose for that.”
Proper medical purpose; Dr Coleman’s estimated six-month sexual and indecent assault trial will turn on those three words.
The well-known Newcastle GP, who has seen more than 40,000 patients and conducted more than 150,000 consultations during his career, has pleaded not guilty to more than 60 counts of sexual and indecent assault against 46 female patients between 1989 and 2013.
Mr Marr said the majority of the alleged victims were aged in their 20s, 30s and 40s and, typically, don’t know each other.
Mr Marr said many of the charges relate to internal examinations that the prosecution say had no proper medical purpose, while other allegations relate to inappropriate touching.
Dr Coleman, and his defence barrister, Pauline David, dispute that any examination was done without a proper medical purpose and claim that every time he touched a patient it was in order to examine and diagnose long standing physical complaints.
“Dr Jeremy Coleman's only purpose in examining and touching every patient was a medical one,” Ms David told the jury during her opening address.
“He is a highly trained and highly capable medical doctor. “It was his job to examine them, it was his job to touch them.
“The defence position is that everything he did was proper and everything he did was for a proper medical purpose.”
Mr Marr said during consultations, once Dr Coleman’s line of questioning swung around to sex, he would then typically ask to perform an internal examination.
“I expect the evidence in the trial will be that very few patients resisted that request,” Mr Marr said.
“They took it as this gentleman is the specialist... maybe there is some reason for this.”
Patients complained that there wasn’t a screen for them to get undressed behind, that Dr Coleman remained in the room while they got undressed or that he would watch them get undressed, Mr Marr said.
Some said they weren’t provided any linen to cover themselves with, that he didn’t use a glove or lubrication during the internal examination and that he didn’t reveal the findings of his examination.
"Two of the patients describe Dr Coleman having an erection during those examinations,” Mr Marr said. Of those patients who declined the internal examination, Mr Marr said some reported a change in Dr Coleman’s demeanour.
There were other patients, Mr Marr said, who complained not of an internal examination, but inappropriate touching.
“Some of the ladies were subject to touching of their breasts in a way that they say had nothing to do with the medical examinations,” Mr Marr said.
“Some described a sensual touching of their breasts, some described their nipples being touched.”
According to Mr Marr, a few women claim Dr Coleman told them the best way to administer nasal spray was on “all fours, with their nose to the ground and their bottoms up”.
“He also suggested it would be a benefit to their husbands if they were in that position,” Mr Marr said of Dr Coleman.
But Mr Marr told the jury that as well as proving that “sexual intercourse”, under the legal definition, occurred, he must also prove Dr Coleman’s “subjective intention”.
“The Crown has to prove what was in the mind of Dr Coleman at the time he did it,” Mr Marr said.
“And importantly the Crown has to prove that at the time he placed his finger in the vagina of the patient in his own mind it was not for a proper medical purpose.”
Mr Marr said any “apparent consent” that patients had given was “not proper consent at all” because they were misled as to the reason of the examination.
“Alternatively, the terms of the consent were exceeded by the way he conducted the examinations,” Mr Marr said.
Ms David used much of her opening address to outline for the jury the defence position. “There are some counts that are denied by the accused, that is he just doesn’t agree that he did certain examinations,” Ms David said. “Or he doesn’t agree that he conducted the examination in the way that is alleged. “There are some cases where it did not happen at all.
“Some where it did happen, but it was for a proper medical purpose.
“We say everything that he did do is for a proper medical purpose.”
Ms David said it was not in dispute that Dr Coleman suggested his patients got down on all fours to take their nasal spray.
“We say that is not some sexual ritual,” Ms David said.
“It is a proper medical purpose. “There is no other connotation than that.”
Ms David said it was not in dispute that Dr Coleman did not always leave the room when the patient undressed, but disputed other allegations including that Dr Coleman had an erection or that he had any sexual attraction to his patients.
“The suggestion that he had a non-medical purpose or sexual purpose in treating his patients is absolutely in dispute,” Ms David said.
The prosecution case is expected to wrap-up in late January, 2018, but much of the evidence is expected to be heard in a closed court.