Outside Charles Duncan's medical practice, in Fonthill, September 2019. VOICE PHOTO

Former Pelham family physician Charles Duncan was back in court at the Robert S.K. Welch Courthouse in downtown St. Catharines last Friday before Justice Deborah Calderwood. He appeared via Zoom, as did his defense counsel.

Her Honour reiterated for the courtroom that a publication ban prohibited the publication of any information that could identify the named complainants in the case.

Duncan was found guilty on January 21 by Justice Calderwood on all six counts of sexual assault under Section 271 of the Criminal Code, in relation to five different complainants.

The charges stemmed from alleged acts committed by Duncan in his medical practice and elsewhere between 1999 and 2018.

Oral sentencing submissions were previously presented by defense counsel Seth Weinstein, and Crown prosecutor Todd Morris, which were on completed on April 19.

During the trial, Weinstein referenced 52 letters of support for Duncan, from former patients, staff, and medical colleagues. Duncan had no prior criminal history, and previously had an unblemished record with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.

Once Duncan was declared guilty by Calderwood, Weinstein had argued that a Conditional Sentence Order (CSO) was appropriate in Duncan’s case, and recommended 18 months of non-custodial house arrest. He suggested that Duncan’s crimes were on “the lower end of the spectrum” with regard to sexual assault, and insisted that Duncan’s age (he will be 79 in July) and poor health (he has been diagnosed with leukemia and prostate cancer, and is receiving treatment for both) deserve consideration.

This position was contested by Morris for the Crown, who insisted that a period of incarceration of two to four years was a more fitting sentence. Morris noted that the crimes represented a significant breach of trust, involved multiple victims over a lengthy period spanning two decades. He sought a sentence “proportional to the gravity of the offense.”

During last Friday’s proceeding, Justice Calderwood told Duncan that he could address the court before sentence is imposed.

“It is a right, not an obligation. You are not required to say anything. It is entirely up to you. But if you would like to say something, I’m here to listen,” said Her Honour.

Duncan declined to make a statement.

Duncan resigned from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario in October 2019, and also gave up his license to practice medicine, after the College commenced an investigation into allegations against him of professional misconduct and incompetence.

After one of the alleged sexual assault victims told her story to the Voice that autumn, several other women came forward with similar allegations. Duncan was formally charged with seven counts of sexual assault and one of sexual exploitation, and was arrested by Niagara Regional Police in November 2019. The women involved were aged 16 to 64 at the time of the incidents.

Justice Calderwood announced that she was not in a position to deliver her sentence on last Friday, and adjourned the proceedings until June 3 at 10 AM in courtroom six in St. Catharines, at which time she will render her sentencing decision.