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Sask. court rejects bid to take doctor back to trial on sexual assault charges

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Warning: Some readers may find details in this story disturbing

A Regina doctor who faced accusations of misconduct will not be heading back to trial, after Saskatchewan's highest court rejected an appeal from the Crown.

Gastroenterologist Sylvester Ukabam went to trial in 2022 over seven counts of sexual assault stemming from incidents with five separate patients. The women said he vaginally penetrated them or performed breast exams without consent and with no explanation of the medical reasons for the procedures.

None of the accusers can be named due to a publication ban.

At trial, a medical expert testified there would be no reason for a gastroenterologist to examine a woman’s breasts or vagina in the course of their duties.

Ukabam testified he had no memory of the encounters and relied only on his notes from the examinations.

He was acquitted by Court of King’s Bench Justice Brian Scherman, which prompted a complaint against him by one of Ukabam’s accusers.

In his written decision, Scherman said the women were mistaken about what they felt — because they were under sedation or had memories altered after seeing initial complaints in the media.

“The overarching issue in respect of the complainant’s evidence is the reliability of their respective evidence,” he said. “There is, at minimum, a reasonable possibility that each of the complainants misinterpreted and/or do not reliably remember what occurred.”

In her June 2022 complaint against Scherman to the Canadian Judicial Council, one of the accusers said the judge’s decision reflected an underlying attitude of ignorance, misogyny and gender bias that was deeply unsettling. 

The council's review of her complaint has been on hold pending the decision of the appeal court.

In the Saskatchewan appeal court decision released Friday, Justice Lian Schwann concluded that judge Scherman made some errors by omitting some Crown evidence, but she was not convinced it would have made a difference in the acquittal.

The Crown’s appeal was dismissed. 

Ukabam gave up his medical licence in 2018 and opted not to try to return to the profession after the trial.

A civil case against Ukabam was put on hold in 2023 for medical reasons.

-With files from Canadian Press and Stefanie Davis

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