Vernon physiotherapist convicted of sexual assault will have to wait to see if he will avoid jail | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Vernon physiotherapist convicted of sexual assault will have to wait to see if he will avoid jail

Stephen Witvoet
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A Vernon physiotherapist convicted of sexual assault will have to wait longer to see whether he will avoid jail time.

Crown and defence lawyers made lengthy submissions today, Jan. 27, at the Vernon courthouse in an effort to convince Judge Jeremy Guild that six months house arrest, followed by a time-night curfew, was an appropriate sentence.

Physiotherapist Stephen Witvoet pled guilty October 2019, to nine of 16 charges of sexually assaulting female patients at his Vernon practice. The incidents took place from 2009 to 2018.

Following Witvoet's guilty plea, Crown counsel Juan O'Quinn and defence lawyer Glenn Verdurmen made a joint submission to the court and requested Witvoet receive no jail time and instead spend six months under house arrest - with conditions allowing him to go to work - followed by 12-months under a curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. plus probation.

In October 2019, Judge Guild asked the lawyers for more case law to back up their submissions. The sentencing commenced again in December 2019 and again the judge requested more case law to substantiate their submissions.

Throughout the lengthy submissions, the court heard how Witvoet's guilty plea meant 16 separate victims would not have to testify in court.

Crown counsel told the court this was not to be underestimated.

"Not to call these women (to trial), not to have their credibility tested, not to have their evidence weighted, not to have their reliability assessed, and to allow them to hear Mr. Witvoet say, 'I did it,'" O'Quinn told the court. "Not every victim was happy with my decision, some reported in the media they were unhappy with Crown's decision and that's a burden Crown must carry."

O'Quinn said if the case had gone to trial the case would have been challenging for the Crown. Some of the victims returned to see Witvoet even after he had sexually assaulted them.

"(Witvoet's) guilt gives some comfort to victims that they do not have to have their reliability or credibility questioned," he said.

Eight women sat in the public gallery listening to the lawyer's submissions. One woman left the court holding back tears during the proceedings.

O'Quinn reiterated the seriousness of the offences.

"Victims went home were so embarrassed they didn't want to tell their husbands, one in particular, said she felt like she was being 'felt up in the back of a car in high school,'" he said.

O'Quinn said what made the case exceptional was that the victims were going to see Witvoet to be treated for pain.

The court heard how Witvoet had lost his physiotherapy practice, separated from his wife and would likely never work as a physiotherapist again.

The defence lawyer told the court how Witvoet had taken responsibility, was receiving counselling, and was not a threat to the community.

"Everything he has built up in his life has gone," he said. "His life in the future will have challenges."

The court was adjourned and Judge Guild will make a decision as to whether to accept the sentence at a later date.

For more stories about 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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