A DISGRACED anaesthetist who downloaded more than 14,000 child abuse images from the dark web has been jailed after he was caught watching adult pornography during a hospital operation.

Dr Alexander Grice, was using his iPhone to watch a video of a topless woman undergoing surgery while he was supervising a real operation at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.

A nurse reported him to the authorities and the police later found child rape videos on the phone. 

He had downloaded so many images and movies that he had filled up its memory and transferred thousands to the hard drive of a computer.

The movies included some which showed very young children being abused while apparently in hospital but an exhaustive police inquiry showed he had downloaded rather than created them.

He 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.

Grice was sacked by the hospital after an investigation and has since changed his surname to Knight and retrained to become an electrician. His wife has divorced him and he has been shunned by his family.

He was allowed to carry on working at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital despite being convicted of taking secret images at a shower block at a French camp site in 2017.

He was cleared by the General Medical Council after persuading them that he was suffering from a mental illness at the time which led to his actions and agreeing to receive treatment.

Former consultant Grice, aged 54, of East Street, Chulmleigh, admitted three counts of making, by downloading, indecent images of children, and possession of prohibited and extreme images. 

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

The judge told him: ‘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.’

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.’