Doctor, 37, is fined £2,000 after posting his builder’s contact details online advertising sexual services
A doctor who placed a fake gay escort advert giving the details of a builder he had fallen out with has been fined more than £2,000.
Dr Suthan Ulakanathan, 37, of Croydon, posted two ads with Stephen Hay’s name, phone number and address on the Vivastreet website as a ‘childish prank’ after the pair fell out over a fence installation.
The postings invited men to come to the house of a ’30-year-old white male’, adding that ‘all types’ were welcome, Croydon magistrates’ court heard.
Mr Hay grew increasingly paranoid and anxious as he was bombarded with calls and even had total strangers turning up for sex at the home he shared with his mother, who suffers from emphysema.
Accounting for his actions at court, Dr Ulakanathan cited his mental health issues after losing his father and uncle to Covid and being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after battling on the front lines of the pandemic.
The ‘highly regarded’ GP denied harassment but was convicted and ordered to pay a £2,200 fine and almost £1,000 in other costs.
He will soon face a misconduct hearing at the General Medical Council to decide whether or not he will be struck off.
Prosecutor Melanie Hardwick said: ‘The defendant employed Mr Hay who is a sole trader, a roofer, self-employed back in August last year, to do work on a fence.
‘There was a dispute in relation to that.
‘The parties went their separate ways and then Mr Hay received a phone call from someone said they got that number from a site providing various services including escorts and ask if he wanted to meet up.’
When Mr Hay looked at the website, he was horrified to discover his name, address and phone number were featured.
It stated: ‘If free come to mine. Free and confidential. Young 30yr old white male. All types welcome. Will be in all day most days.’
At Mr Hay’s request the ad was taken down by the website, but he was horrified to see a similar ad go up on November 14, the court heard.
Dr Suthan Ulakanthan (pictured), who twice shared posts about his builder on a website called Viva Street selling sexual favours, has been found guilty of harassment at Croydon Magistrates’ Court
‘Mr Hay as the result of this became quite paranoid and anxious and didn’t know who was calling him.
‘He had to answer the phone as he was a sole trader for his roof work,’ said Ms Hardwick.
‘There was also at one point a person who turned to his house asking for sexual services and that caused a lot of stress to him.’
When Dr Ulakanathan was arrested in February, he admitted putting the ads up.
‘He explained he had been having a very hard time over this period both due to his father and uncle having died unexpectedly after having Covid and working as a doctor during the pandemic,’ said Ms Hardwick.
Giving evidence, Mr Hay told the court the dispute began when Dr Ulakanathan refused to pay him the full amount for the job.
He said he was at the pub with a friend when he received a message saying ‘hey you’ with a heart emoji from an unknown number.
‘I thought maybe this was one of my ex-girlfriends,’ said Mr Hay.
‘I texted back to ask who this is. It was a man with an Indian accent speaking to me.
‘He said: “I got your number on Vivastreet.”‘
Mr Hay initially thought the man contacted him for building work until the man asked him to meet up ‘for a good time’.
‘From then it continued, quite a lot of people messaging me, all different times at night,’ he said.
‘Every day, and also quite late times as well, in the early hours of the morning.’
Mr Hay, who was a soldier for five years, said the constant barrage of messages triggered his PSTD.
He received over 60 different calls and messages in response to the ad and also a number of scam calls from fraudsters who had access to his phone.
The last straw for Mr Hay was a man turning to his house in person for sex.
He said: ‘My mum was there alone when he came. She called me up. I was down the road and I spoke to him.
‘I said: “Look, someone is impersonating me”, and the bloke was very embarrassed, that is when I decided to ring the police.
‘Not only was it putting my mum at risk as she has emphysema but it is also putting these people at risk.
The 37-year-old claimed ex-soldier Steven Hay (pictured), 30, was a ‘cowboy’ who ripped him off over a fence job and he was forced to pay another worker to complete it
‘What if someone is a homophobic person?’
Earlier Ms Hardwick explained that even now googling Mr Hay’s number leads to the escort ad.
‘He has to answer the phone because he is a roofer and has had to endure numerous people calling him for sexual services,’ she added.
Giving evidence, Dr Ulakanathan told the court how he lost his father Ulaganathan Subramaniam, 65, uncle Sivananthan, 56, to the Covid pandemic.
Asked about his state of mind in September last year he said: ‘I was still grieving at the time.
‘[My father] hadn’t had a funeral, we hadn’t been able to give my mum a hug…’
He described the ‘uncomfortable and ‘challenging’ nature of working in healthcare during the pandemic.
‘It was day to day stress and being reminded of Covid every day.
‘The difficulty for me was people being in denial over the virus and not taking adequate measures and trying to deal with that in a professional manner,’ said Dr Ulakanathan.
The court heard that the GP had been diagnosed with PTSD after his experience on the frontline during the pandemic and was on medication.
The doctor said he had hired Mr Hays to fix his fence in order to make the garden nice for his mum who often babysat for him and as a memorial to his father.
Dr Ulakanathan said the two had a disagreement about payment with Mr Hay demanding a large chunk of the money before the work was complete – with the GP earlier telling the court the roofer was a ‘cowboy’ who had ripped him off.
‘At that point he said if I don’t pay he was going to tear down the fence and he knows where I live and where my wife and daughter live.
‘At that point I told him “let us end the work and leave it at that,”‘ he said.
He said that he posted the first ad as a ‘childish prank’ and he just wanted to ‘wind up’ Mr Hay.
‘At the time I was dealing with grief. I was low with and the grief had left me acting in a childish and silly way,’ he said.
‘It was never my intention that he have anyone come to his house or that he is threatened him or caused any distress or be scared.’
After posting the first ad, Dr Ulakanathan claimed he wasn’t sure it had actually gone up which was why he posted the second one.
He told the court the first time he heard anything about either ad going up was when police turned up at his house an arrested him in front of his family.
Speaking of being in a police station, he said: ‘It was a very surreal experience, I had never been interviewed before or been inside a police station before.
‘At the time I just wanted to apologise to get home to my wife and daughter…’
Dr Ulakanathan claimed he didn’t know the ads were illegal as they weren’t abusive and Mr Hays’ address and number were already online.
The ‘highly regarded’ GP denied harassment but was convicted and ordered to pay a £2,200 fine and almost £1,000 in other costs at Croydon Magistrates’ Court (pictured)
‘I didn’t hide my details, I used my own number, I didn’t hid my IP address,’ he said.
Ms Stevens asked him: ‘If you had understood it was a crime or could be viewed to be a crime would you act in this way?’
‘Absolutely not, it would be the end of my career,’ said the doctor.
The prosecutor told him: ‘You must have known that by putting his number on a website that other people wanting the services of a gay escort were going to phone him.’
‘I wasn’t expecting anybody to call.
‘I never thought people would just call a number online because I had never been exposed to something like this before,’ said Dr Ulakanathan.
But Ms Hardwick pointed out to him that both ads invited punters to just turn up at Mr Hay’s address.
Ms Hardwick told him: ‘Did you not think it was incredibly dangerous given you were giving out someone’s home address and inviting people who were after sexual services to turn up any time?’
Dr Ulakanathan sadly shook his head in response.
The GP denied but was convicted of harassment and fined £2,200.
He was also ordered to pay £720 in costs and a £190 victim surcharge.
Deputy district judge Adrian Turner QC said Dr Ulakanathan had an ‘exemplary record’ and was ‘highly regarded’ by his colleagues.
‘This is a highly unusual case because the conduct is admitted,’ he added.
‘There were matters operating on Dr Ulakanathan’s mind at the time.
‘He was still grieving, under a great deal of work because of Covid, concerned about his family, I understand all of that.
‘But the law says you ought to have known your conduct was sufficient to cause the consequences described in that section (of the law).’
Dr Ulakanathan, who practices in the Caterham area and lives in South Croydon, attended court in a navy suit, white shirt and navy polka dot tie and wore a surgical face mask.
He now faces a General Medical Council misconduct hearing in the light of his conviction.