A DENTIST accused of spanking the bare bottom of a 19-year-old trainee dental assistant wept yesterday after the professional conduct committee of the General Dental Council cleared him of the allegations.
The asistant, identified only as Miss A, alleged that James Aukett, 49, of Seaford, East Sussex, pulled down her knickers and put her across his knee while testing her knowledge of dentistry. She claimed that Mr Aukett had told her she would have to take off one item of clothing for every three questions she got wrong, and slapped her bottom for each mistake.
Miss A, who is now 26 and expecting her second child, added that she did not make a complaint against him at the time of the alleged incident, in April 1991, for fear of losing her job.
She said: "He was a person in authority. I thought everyone was going to believe him and not me."
But the committee heard that after the alleged incident she continued regularly to attend the fitness classes run by Mr Aukett, a former Olympic athlete, standing as close to him as possible. Miss A also dressed in stockings and high heels as a birthday surprise for him, kissing him on the cheek before presenting him with a cake, the committee heard.
Mr Aukett, a former director of dental services for the South Downs Health NHS Trust, was also cleared of making inappropriate comments filled with sexual innuendo to two other female members of staff. But the dentist, who works for a practice in Lewes, West Sussex, was found to have made an "inappropriate" comment to one other dental assistant
He admitted that he had threatened that she would have to remove an item of clothing if she could not correctly answer revision questions. He also made a lewd sexual comment in relation to her boyfriend. But her told the committee that these were jokes and "that was the tone and the atmosphere of the department at the time."
Mr Aukett was also found to have made a false declaration on his wife's application form for the National Examining Board for Dental Surgery Assistants. He wrongly certified that she had worked full time as a dental assistant for more than two years. But the committee ruled that neither of these two offences constituted serious professional misconduct. Mr Aukett buried his head in his hands and wept with relief at the verdict.
He refused to make any comment afterwards. But during the four-day hearing he had spoken of his "sheer horror" when he learned of the allegations.