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Doctor suspended in U.K. and New Brunswick after online chat with cop

Dr. Hafeez Awan was sanctioned after making ‘sexually motivated’ remarks

A New Brunswick doctor who was found guilty of misconduct in England after an online chat with a cop posing as a teen has been suspended from practising in New Brunswick for nine months.

The suspension, announced Saturday by the New Brunswick College of Physicians and Surgeons, matches a suspension earlier this month by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service in the United Kingdom.

Dr. Hafeez Awan was sanctioned after making “sexually motivated” remarks to someone who identified herself as a 13-year-old girl.

The person he was conversing with in an internet chat room, by text message and on WhatsApp was actually a police detective.

The electronic conversations at issue occurred in January 2016 when Awan was working in Leeds and nearby Wakefield. He moved to Canada in October 2017, and began a practice in Saint John.

The board of the New Brunswick College of Physicians and Surgeons met Friday to consider Awan’s case.

On Saturday, registrar Dr. Ed Schollenberg said they adopted the suspension from the U.K.

“We reached an agreement with Dr. Awan that he would allow us to impose the same penalty they did in Britain. Basically, being found guilty in another jurisdiction of misconduct is, in itself, misconduct for our purpose,” he said in an interview.

In its ruling, the U.K. tribunal said that after being told he was conversing with a 13-year-old, Awan “continued to try to engage with Person A via different social media platforms and made inappropriate and sexually motivated remarks to her.” It says he tried to arrange to speak with her by telephone when an adult would not be present.

Transcripts of the messages entered as evidence show Awan, who was using the name Medic333, asked, “r u at school?” when Person A said she was 13. In a later conversation, when she said she didn’t want him calling when her mother was there, he replied, “i know what u mean.”

He later told her they would not be able to meet until she was 16 because it would be illegal.

The tribunal noted that Dr. Awan told Person A that he was a doctor during the initial conversation on Lycos.

While these conversations did not take place in a clinical setting, the tribunal considered Dr. Awan to have breached his “position of trust,” the ruling stated. “It took the view that Dr. Awan’s conduct was unbefitting with that of a registered medical practitioner.”

In his evidence to the tribunal, Awan said he believed the chat room was for adults only and that Person A was lying when she said she was 13.

A lawyer told the tribunal that prior to the allegation, Awan had an unblemished record, and he only became aware of the allegation after moving to Canada in October 2017. He said Awan has taken positive steps to ensure the misconduct is not repeated.

Dr. Awan could not be reached for comment Saturday.

Dr. Schollenberg said Awan will be able to practise again in New Brunswick when the nine month suspension expires.

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Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press


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