An anaesthetist accused of molesting five pregnant patients over the past five years sought to have his trial halted yesterday on the grounds that the time lapse deprived him of a fair hearing. Cheung Kai-shuen, 44, was alleged to have indecently assaulted the patients, all Japanese women then living in Hong Kong, in the maternity wards of the Adventist and Matilda hospitals on seven occasions between May 1995 and May 1999. Cheung pleaded not guilty to seven counts of indecent assault. But the fifth charge was dismissed yesterday because the woman involved was not available to give evidence. The court heard that the incidents came to light when one of the women wrote a letter of complaint to the Japanese Consulate which then led to further allegations. Defence counsel Cheng Huan SC sought to have the trial stopped, citing the 'substantial time lapse' over the allegations. 'There was a delay [in reporting the case] because the complainants did not make immediate complaints. [The case] was allegedly based on conversations between the defendant and the patients. Can any doctor possibly remember what precise conversations took place seven months or five years ago?' Mr Cheng said. He added the crux of the matter was whether what Cheung did to the patients constituted molestation. Western Court magistrate Katherine Lo Kit-yee adjourned the case to today, when prosecutor Nigel Bedford is to reply to Mr Cheung's application for a stay of proceedings.