THE Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital has ordered an external review after a senior anaesthetist was jailed for downloading 14,000 child abuse images.

Dr Alexander Grice was sentenced at Exeter Crown Court last week after police found an enormous cache of illegal child images on his iPhone and a computer hard drive.

They were called in by the hospital after 54-year-old Grice was seen by a colleague watching adult pornography on his mobile telephone while he was supervising an operation in May 2022.

The video clip which he was watching showed a partially naked woman on an operating table.

Some of the child images recovered by police were also in hospital settings but they had been downloaded from the internet rather than created by Grice.

The Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.  AQ 7676
(Alan Quick, Crediton Courier)

Grice had been allowed to carry on working despite being prosecuted in France for voyeurism in 2017, when he was caught filming secretly in a shower block at a camp site.

The General Medical Council and the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital concluded he had been experiencing poor mental health at the time and agreed to let him continue working after treatment.

Now the hospital has ordered an external review and asked any patients who may be concerned about the doctor to contact a helpline.

The hospital is the main centre for the treatment of patients from a wide area of East and South Devon including Exmouth, Honiton, Sidmouth and the Teign Valley.

A spokesperson said: “We are shocked and saddened by the nature of these crimes and our thoughts are with those affected.

“Of the crimes Alexander Knight was charged with, there is no suggestion any were committed on Trust premises or involved any of the Trust’s patients.

“Following his arrest in June 2022 all appropriate processes were followed and we continue to work closely with Devon and Cornwall Police and the GMC (General Medical Council).

“In line with our commitment to a just and learning culture, we have also commissioned an external review to consider whether there is anything we can learn from this.

“We understand that this news may be very distressing to read and if the public would like to talk and share any concerns they can contact our helpline on 01271 322334. The helpline is open Monday to Friday from 9.30am – 4pm.”

Grice, of East Street, Chulmleigh, and formerly of Crediton, admitted three counts of making, by downloading, indecent images of children, and possession of prohibited and extreme images.

He has changed his surname to Knight since being charged with these offences and appeared at Exeter Crown Court under his new name on Friday, March 8.

He was jailed for a year and eight months by Judge David Evans, who also put on the sex offenders register and made him subject of an order which enables the police to monitor his use of the internet, both for 10 years.

During the hearing, the court was told Grice used a Virtual Private Network to conceal his identity and used an Onion router to access chat rooms on the dark web where he accessed the material.

He was sacked by the hospital after an investigation, his wife has divorced him and he has been shunned by his family.

Miss Mary McCarthy, prosecuting, said a police investigation began on May 20, 2022 when a fellow health care professional looked over his shoulder during an operation in which he was the consultant anaesthetist and saw him watching a clip on his phone of a topless woman on an operating table.

Police found more than 14,000 images or movies on his phone or hard drive, of which 3,423, were in the worst category, effectively showing child rape.

Another 2,822 showed non-penetrative abuse, and 8,890 showed naked or partially naked children.

Mr Nick Wragg, defending, said Grice was suffering from serious mental health issues when he committed the offences, which have led to his wife divorcing him and his children distancing themselves from him.

He said: “It has been a catastrophic fall from grace. He had been a very successful man and the impact on him has been very great. He attempted suicide after his arrest but has since privately funded 42 sessions with a psychotherapist.”

He said his client now understands the harm done to the children who were abused to create the material.

In passing sentence, Judge Evans told Grice: “There was deliberate searching for such imagery and evidence that you were an avid user of chat rooms.

“Some of the victims were unconscious or drugged. Many of the children depicted being raped were very young and vulnerable and some showed discernible pain or distress.

“You are undoubtedly a person with personal qualities and achievements. You have lost your job, your career, your family and your good name.”