A TRUSTED nurse who sexually assaulted patients as they recovered from surgery has been jailed for eight years.
Today, the victims of perverted Gavin Nicholson spoke about how the sickening assaults had left them traumatised.
Nicholson groped the women when they were conscious but still unable to move as they were coming round from anaesthetic at the private Spire Washington Hospital.
The 58-year-old ex-RAF policeman, who was described as “creepy” by one patient, denied five charges of sexual assault and was tried by a jury at Newcastle Crown Court.
He said the women’s experiences in the recovery room were simply sexual hallucinations brought on by the effects of the anaesthetic and denied any wrongdoing.
After a three-week trial, jurors found Nicholson, who had tried to commit suicide the night before the case was due to start, guilty of sexual assaults in relation to three women.
He was cleared of two charges.
Judge John Milford told him: “These offences were a gross breach of trust, each victim was at her most vulnerable, powerless to protect herself against you.
“They should have been at their safest as they recovered from their anaesthetics but they were not.”
Prosecutor Nicholas Campbell QC, told the court the victims had undergone procedures at the hospital in 2008.
One of the victims had gone in for breast augmentation surgery, one for a procedure on her ear and the other was having an operation on her shoulder.
After the verdict, one woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said her ordeal had had an impact on almost every aspect of her life.
She said: “I suffer flashbacks of Nicholson assaulting me. This tends to happen to me when I am trying to get to sleep.”
A second patient told jurors Nicholson touched her repeatedly, whenever he was left alone with her during her stay in the recovery room.
She said in her victim impact statement read out after the verdict: “Being sexually assaulted has had a massive effect on my life; work, relationships with my friends, social life, home life, having a boyfriend, day-to-day life.”
A third woman said in her impact statement she has been diagnosed with post traumatic stress after her ordeal.
Nicholson had been tried by a jury early last year but it had failed to reach any verdicts.
Judge Milford said, after seeing the women give evidence at the latest trial, it was obvious they were still suffering because of what happened to them.
Prosecutors accepted throughout the trial some anaesthetic can cause dreams and hallucinations, but Mr Campbell told the court these are usually pleasurable and quickly forgotten as the effects of the anaesthetic wears off.
Nicholson, of West Avenue, Harraton, Washington, who has never been in trouble before, shook his head as the judge passed sentence. He must register as a sex offender for life.
Alistair MacDonald QC, defending, said Nicholson, who helped set up a charity for victims of the Asian tsunami, has been left bankrupt after being suspended without pay when the accusations first came to light.
Mr MacDonald said Nicholson, who is in poor health, will never work as a nurse or in any other capacity again.
Mr MacDonald added: “He is, we submit, a broken man.”