SYDNEY - Australian prosecutors on Friday dropped criminal negligence charges against an Indian-born surgeon who had been accused of the manslaughter of several patients, bringing an end to a long-running legal saga.
The Queensland state director of public prosecutions said he had decided against proceeding with further charges against Jayant Patel, including manslaughter, grievous bodily harm and medical negligence, which the 63-year-old had indicated he would fight.
Patel had already faced three trials, with the jury in the last ultimately discharged after failing to reach a verdict on whether he had caused grievous bodily harm to a man he had operated on.
"I have had to decide whether Jayant Patel should face a fourth trial for allegedly causing death or grievous bodily harm through criminal negligence," Tony Moynihan, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said in a statement.
He said in making the decision he had taken into account the public interest, the views of the victims and families and the time that has passed since the offences as well as the two-and-a-half years Patel had already spend in custody.
Moynihan also highlighted the fact that after all the trials the Crown had still not provided the evidence required to meet the criminal standard.
"In all the circumstances, including those above, I have decided that it is not in the public interest to continue the counts alleging criminal negligence against Jayant Patel," he said.
The protracted case stems from Patel's time as a surgeon at Queensland's Bundaberg Base Hospital between 2003 and 2004.
He was jailed for seven years in July 2010 after a jury found him guilty of criminal negligence resulting in the deaths of three patients -- Gerry Kemps, 77, Mervyn Morris, 75, and James Phillips, 46 -- and of causing harm to another, Ian Vowles.
The High Court quashed the convictions in 2012 and ordered retrials, which had begun as separate cases.
At the first of the retrials in March, Patel was acquitted of one of the manslaughter of Morris. And last month, a jury failed to reach a verdict on a charge of causing grievous bodily harm to Vowles. Friday's decision means the charges over Kemps and Phillips have also been dropped.
Patel was also charged with eight counts of fraud and Moynihan said four of these would be dropped. The surgeon has pleaded guilty to the other four, which relate to his registration as a medical practitioner and employment at Bundaberg Base Hospital. He is expected to be sentenced on these next week.