THERE was never any doubt that Richard Neale would be found guilty of being an incompetent surgeon whose arrogance, deceit and sheer ineptitude left a trail of misery and pain.

He has been exposed as a highly dangerous liar who performed operations without consent and with inadequate care.

The question now is this: why did it take so long to stop him?

When The Northern Echo first raised questions about Mr Neale in 1993, the medical authorities showed a distinct lack of urgency.

It didn't matter to them that he'd been struck off in Canada after the death of a patient. After all, the National Health Service and the General Medical Council, which license doctors, were not bound by the conventions of a foreign country.

He was allowed to go on practising as a surgeon when he accepted an official caution for lewd behaviour in a public toilet in Richmond.

And when a handful of women claimed they had suffered agonies at his hands, still no one in authority listened.

Campaigners have stated that it was only the barrage of publicity in The Northern Echo which led to Neale being brought to justice.

But it is the victims themselves who deserve the credit for having the courage to make their voices heard to seemingly deaf ears. It must have been extremely traumatic for them to share their pain in the glare of publicity - but they were inspired by the desire to see a reckless and ignorant surgeon in the dock.

Given the weight of evidence against him, there can surely be no doubt that the General Medical Council will confirm today that Neale is guilty of serious professional misconduct.

Neale's reputation will be in tatters but it will not cost him a penny because the tab will be picked up by the Medical Protection Society. His reputation was in tatters in Canada but he still managed to build a lucrative career in England.

That must never happen again. Procedures must be put in place to ensure that bungling surgeons are stopped from hopping around the world to spread despair. The GMC bears that responsibility and so does the Government.

In addition, we hope Richard Neale finds himself before a criminal court very soon.