Dr Myles Bradbury, a child cancer specialist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge has admitted to abusing patients in his care, some as young as eight. Bradbury pleaded guilty to committing 25 counts of sexual assault on the 15 September 2014, and he is believed to have made more than 16,000 indecent images of the abuse. His offences span several years – between 2009 and 2013 – and it is possible that some victims of abuse have not yet come forward.

It goes without saying that it is vital that a thorough investigation takes place into how his course of conduct had gone unnoticed for so long. That said, the doctor/ patient relationship is a sacred and confidential one. Medical professionals wishing to abuse their position and assault their patients, in this case vulnerable children, will have many opportunities to do so undisturbed. Is there a need to re-appraise our relationship with doctors and other health workers, to ensure patients’ safety is safeguarded in the surgery, and insist on an end to private consultations? What a depressing thought, but one which needs ventilating as a result of this shocking case.

Dr Bradbury is clearly a rogue doctor who has taken advantage of his professional position in the worst way possible – a position that enabled him to gain private access to his victims with relative ease. However he is not the first medical professional to have abused the trust that patients, their families and society place in their doctors. The confidentiality of the consulting room – like that of the confessional – can be exploited for wicked ends.

Crime agency failings

So how can more be done? Certainly hospitals, care homes and schools should create a culture that will ensure that all allegations of child abuse are acted upon promptly and robust procedures are followed. There is no evidence in this case that Dr Bradbury’s colleagues knew or suspected him of his crimes. However, when given the chance, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) did not act on intelligence that Bradbury had purchased images depicting the abuse of children online, back in July 2012. The National Crime Agency (NCA) took over the running of CEOP last year and the information provided on Bradbury – apparently by Canadian police – was not passed onto UK detectives for over a year. This revelation will be disturbing for the victims of Bradbury’s crimes and their families.

Criticism of CEOP is mounting, but its supporters point to an organisation which is being overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of its task, operating on a shoe-string budget and with demoralised staff. The Daily Telegraph reported today that 25,000 people in this country can be identified as viewers and sharers of indecent images of children on-line but that the sheer scale of the problem which needs to be tackled is beyond the reach of police. That, quite frankly, is bizarre. Can one make the link between viewers of abusive images (not ‘child porn’ Daily Telegraph, thank you very much) and people who actually facilitate a ‘market’ for abuse, and may indeed abuse themselves? I think one can. Are our crime fighters really telling us that we have 25,000 people identified in this country as child abusers or potential child abusers and they cannot act?

Jim Gamble, the veteran child protection campaigner, suggests that CEOP has changed beyond all recognition from its early successful days. It is now an organisation with too few expert staff directing things, its people “undermined, overworked and now demonised” by this current failing. If the Government is serious in its public pronouncements about supporting victims of abuse, and tackling what appears to be an epidemic of child abuse cases in our midst, then it needs to get a grip, and provide the resources necessary for CEOP and other crime prevention agencies to function at their optimum level.