Former Regina doctor cleared of multiple sexual assault charges
WARNING: Coverage of this trial contains details of sexual assault allegations.
A former doctor accused of multiple sexual assaults has been found not guilty by a Regina judge, following a lengthy trial.
Sylvester Ukabam, a gastroenterologist who practiced in Regina before giving up his medical license in 2018, pleaded not guilty to seven sexual assault charges filed against him by five former patients.
Justice Brian Scherman said it was a difficult decision, but ultimately he found Ukabam not guilty on each of the charges.
“I have concluded the Crown has not discharged the burden of proof to prove each charge beyond a reasonable doubt,” Scherman wrote.
The five complainants took the stand throughout the trial. Four said Ukabam inserted his finger into their vaginas during medical procedures and one said he touched her breasts during an exam.
Scherman said it came down to reliability, not credibility.
In the decision, Scherman said he does not conclude that the complainants are not credible witnesses in the sense that they honestly believe what they have testified to, with one potential exception.
“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.”
Some reasonings he gave for questioning their reliability include sedation at the time of alleged assaults, inconsistencies in testimonies at trial and potentially having memories altered after seeing initial complaints in the media.
After reviewing all of the evidence, Scherman said he was unable to justify not believing Ukabam.
“While his general denials of any wrongdoing standing in isolation may have less weight, his medical justifications, or explanations as to what would have happened and why, were, in the context of the Crown’s own expert witness Dr. Lumb, reasonable,” the decision said. “This is not a positive finding to the effect that I necessarily believe Dr. Ukabam.”
Following the decision at Court of Queen’s Bench, Ukabam said he feels vindicated by the decision.
“The past five years have been devastating, but I thank God that it is all over,” Ukabam. “The future is good.”
His defence lawyer, Aaron Fox, said Ukabam does not intend to return to practicing medicine.
Fox said he agrees with Justice Scherman’s comments about the case turning on reliability instead of credibility.
“It was a difficult case for everybody involved, whether you were the complainant or the accused and their families and supporters,” Fox said. “It just is an extremely difficult situation.”
Fox said the crown’s expert witness, Dr. Barry Lumb, was an important factor.
“His evidence was very significant in really identifying how there was a reliability issue here,” Fox said. “The defence experts simply confirmed what Dr. Lumb was already saying.”
Crown prosecutor Jackie Lane said their team would be reviewing the decision and would then determine any further steps.
“As justice system participants, what we want is a fair trial. A fair trial is a trial that is fair for both the accused and the complainants,” Lane said.
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