A Hong Kong doctor who groped a patient’s breasts after she had complained of back pain was jailed for nine months on Wednesday.

Dr John Lee Young-king, 49, was found guilty of indecent assault earlier in December after a 24-year-old woman accused him of slipping his hands into her bra eight times while checking for scoliosis – a condition that causes the spine to curve from side to side.

The patient also testified Lee put his hand down her jeans, touching her lower abdomen, during the same consultation at his clinic on March 13 this year.

Mitigation letters from confused family members and surprised patients depicted Lee as a good husband and father, dedicated to his practice and his patients.

But magistrate Raymond Wong Kwok-fai noted the case involved a serious breach of trust that had been placed in the doctor since the woman first became his patient at the age of 11.

He also pointed out that Lee had planned to cover up the assault by intentionally placing his hands in a way that made the woman mistakenly believe he was performing standard procedure.

“The court finds the case very serious,” Wong added.

Lee trained his gaze on the floor upon hearing sentence, while his wife wailed in the public gallery.

He immediately filed an appeal and applied for bail. But the magistrate rejected the application.

The Kowloon City Court previously heard the woman visited Lee for a referral letter to continue her treatment of scoliosis and complained of back and menstrual pain to the doctor.

She recalled Lee observed a protrusion on the right side of her back and placed one hand on her stomach and the other on her back, pressing onto her bare skin about six or seven times as he moved his hands upwards.

When he reached her chest, the woman said Lee slipped his hand into her bra and pressed her breasts.

The woman reminded Lee she was suffering from back pain but the doctor continued to press each side of her breasts three times, each time lasting for about five seconds.

“In previous checks, doctors would not touch my breasts,” the woman said. “I don’t know what the correct medical procedures were but I felt suspicious and uncomfortable.”

Lee wrote in mitigation he was worried about his parents, who were both ill, and his patients awaiting follow-up treatment.

His counsel Bruce Tse Chee-ho also presented letters from his family, friends, nurses and 10 of his patients, who volunteered to write after reading about his conviction in the news.

Lee shook tearfully when he heard his twin sons had drawn him Christmas cards reporting their latest test scores and asking him for a new box of Lego.

Indecent assault is punishable by 10 years’ imprisonment.

The magistrate eventually adopted a starting point of sentence at 11 months and reduced it by two months after considering Lee’s good background, years of practice, and the impact of the case on his family and career.

Lee is expected to face disciplinary proceedings at the Medical Council.