Judge G. Gordon Sedgwick cast a shadow over the justice system.
Dr. [redacted] just wants to get on with his life. Despite being convicted of a violent sexual assault -- his second such conviction in a year -- the [redacted] blood specialist has been allowed to do just that.
There will be no jail time for the doctor who was sentenced Monday to forcibly confining and sexually assaulting an intern at the Ottawa Civic Hospital in 1986. Instead, Dr. [redacted] was given an unusual 18-month sentence which he can serve at home while continuing his medical practice.
The intern, now a doctor, who Dr. [redacted] sexually assaulted and threatened with a pair of scissors, did not get off as easily. In a victim impact statement filed with the court, she vividly describes the effects of the "calculated and brutal attack" inside a closed office. "I have had nightmares for years ... I wake in terror, feeling Dr. [redacted]'s arm around my neck, choking me." There continues to be a long shadow cast by his attack, she says.
Indeed the sentencing, which left some spectators in the Ottawa courtroom understandably outraged, has cast a shadow over the justice system and raises legitimate questions about whether a doctor is being afforded special treatment because of his profession.
In 1997, Dr. [redacted] pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting three staff members between 1988 and 1996. He was granted a conditional discharge. Now Dr. [redacted] has been given a sentence which allows him to continue with his life and his practice, with some restrictions, including that he report regularly to a probation officer and receive treatment for what his lawyer described as a sexual disorder. In addition, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario has ordered that he no longer treat female patients.
Dr. [redacted] could have been sentenced to 10 years in jail under the guidelines for sentencing in such cases but Superior Court Justice Gordon Sedgwick concluded that the doctor did not pose a threat to society. Dr. [redacted]'s lawyer said the sentence makes sense. "We're not paying $50,000 a year to lock him up and he's going to be able to carry on his obligations to his family and his patients," he said.
What about his obligations to society?
Imagine if the same acts were committed by a 22-year-old with a spotty record of unemployment, shabbily dressed and of little social standing: Would there be concern that he be able to carry on his obligations? Would there be consideration that he is receiving treatment and should pose no further threat? Probably not.
The decision of when to show mercy is subjective and that means professionals with whom judges can more easily identify possibly receive more consideration. Professionals may be judged to have sexual disorders, while those lower on the social scale are more likely to be seen as simply having a dangerous tendency to criminal behaviour. And this brings the justice system into disrepute. It is not surprising that Dr. [redacted]'s sentence has raised eyebrows.
There were two aggravating factors that could have placed Dr. [redacted]'s case among the more serious: The assault was against an intern and involved a breach of trust and he had a previous conviction for similar offences.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons has yet to penalize Dr. [redacted]. That he has been allowed to practise at all after two convictions for sexual assault should cause concern. The college must move quickly to send a strong statement and revoke his certificate of registration. A doctor who has sexually assaulted four women isn't worthy of a patient's trust.