Judge wants more reasons why Vernon physio guilty of sexual assault shouldn't do jail time | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Judge wants more reasons why Vernon physio guilty of sexual assault shouldn't do jail time

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The sentencing of Vernon physiotherapist Stephen Witvoet, who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting nine of his patients, was adjourned in court again today after the judge asked lawyers for more justification to support their argument the physiotherapist should not spend time behind bars.

At the Vernon courthouse today, Dec. 9, Judge Jeremy Guild asked the Crown and defence counsels to provide more information that "underpinned" the reasoning in an earlier joint submission that requested Witvoet not do jail time and instead be to sentenced to 18-months served in the community with a curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Witvoet was originally charged with two counts of sexual assault in December 2017. Following media reporting of the charges in May 2019, more victims came forward and by August, Witvoet was facing 16 charges. The physiotherapist pleaded guilty to nine of the 16 charges Oct. 28. The charges all stemmed from incidents involving female patients while the physiotherapist was treating them.

In a joint submission to the court, Oct. 28, Crown lawyer Juan O'Quinn and defence lawyer Glenn Verdurmen requested no jail time for Witvoet, and after some discussion changed their original submission to include three months house arrest, Judge Guild then requested more case law to substantiate their arguments.

However, the judge again adjourned the sentencing and requested a more comprehensive argument from the lawyers. Guild told the court he wasn't rejecting the joint submission but needed a better understanding of what the principals of sentencing put forward by the lawyers were.

The court heard how the "rarety of this type of offending" made finding similar cases to reference as justification for the sentence difficult.

Judge Guild told the court the Crown had a responsibility to make sure the justice was done and the sentence imposed had to be "meaningful."

The judge also asked for clarity of the length of time requested by the lawyers that Witvoet should spend under housing arrest.

The judge apologized for the stress delaying the sentencing would cause the victims, the community and Witvoet, before adjourning the case.

The sentencing hearing will return to court at a later date.

For more stories on Stephen Witvoet go here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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