Double killer Colin Howell was yesterday sentenced to five-and-a -half years’ imprisonment for indecently assaulting five of his female dental patients while they were under sedation.
All of the women were terrified of dentists and had opted to be sedated during treatment.
But Antrim Crown Court heard that Howell fondled the women as he helped them to the recovery room at his dental practice in Ballymoney.
He also placed two of his victims’ hands on his groin as they lay unconscious in the dental chair.
The 52-year-old murderer, who is already serving a minimum of 21 years in jail for the killing of his wife and ex-lover’s husband, admitted 12 charges of indecent assault on the women over a four-year period.
Defence barrister Richard Weir told Antrim Crown Court that the indecent assaults had only come to light through Howell's admissions to police.
The once-renowned cosmetic dentist told police about the sex attacks in 2009 after he confessed to the 1991 murders of his wife Lesley and his ex-lover’s husband Trevor Buchanan. For almost two decades police believed the pair had died in a suicide pact.
Mr Weir reminded the court that Howell had apologised to his victims when he pleaded guilty to the sex attacks last week.
But Crown barrister Neil Connor described the attacks as a “gross breach of trust by the accused who was working in a professional capacity”.
He said the vulnerability of the women, the number of victims and length of time over which the crimes were carried out should also be considered.
“These were vulnerable people
who placed their trust in the accused and that trust was systematically abused by the accused,” Mr Connor added.
Judge Corinne Philpott said it was accepted the assaults were at the lower end of the scale.
However, she added that Howell had abused his position of trust.
“You are an intelligent man and you had the means to stop yourself from doing this.
“You knew you had a propensity to do this after you did it for the first time,” she said.
“You could have removed all temptation by simply ensuring that your dental nurse stayed in throughout, you didn't do that.”
Howell was placed on the Sex Offenders Register for the rest of his life.
Having been struck off as a dentist, the judge said she did not think it necessary to issue a disqualification from working with children order as well.