CALGARY — A psychiatrist convicted of sexual assault was taken into custody Thursday after a judge sentenced him to five years for exploiting his court-appointed patients in a “predatory and repetitive manner.”
Dr. Aubrey Levin, 74, stood quietly while the decision was read in front of a packed courtroom.
“It was a horrible violation of the trust of these three patients,” said Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Donna Shelley.
“They came to you for help for their problems. Instead you added to their problems.”
The Calgary psychiatrist’s actions were an “extreme breach of a particularly vulnerable victim,” Shelley said.
She noted that Levin deserved an eight-year sentence, but said she reduced it because of his health problems and age.
Levin was convicted on three counts of sexual assault by a jury earlier this week.
The Crown had asked for six to eight years. The defence, arguing that Levin was a frail senior who would suffer in prison, had suggested a sentence of 60 to 90 days to be served on weekends.
The patients had been assigned to Levin between 1999 and 2010 by the justice system.
“Dr. Levin, knowing of the many vulnerabilities of these victims, employed a strategy which would give him the opportunity to sexually assault his patients,” said Shelley.
“Dr. Levin’s profession and his training would make him more informed than the average sexual assaulter to the serious psychological and emotional harm that can result from a sexual assault,” she added.
“These three men were already emotionally and psychologically fragile.”
One of the victims offered his reaction outside the courtroom.
“This isn’t just for me, but for the victims that have been silenced,” he said. “This is much bigger than me.”
Levin initially faced charges involving nine different men, but was found guilty on three counts and acquitted on two others. The jury could not reach a verdict on four of the charges.
“The Crown is satisfied with the outcome. We feel it’s a fair and just sentence given all the circumstances in the case. It’s been a long and arduous process,” prosecutor Dallas Sopko said outside court.
“At the end of the day, we’re glad we’ve come to some finality.”
Levin’s legal team talked to him briefly after the sentencing.
“He understands. This has been a long time coming and we’ll take the next steps that need to be taken from here,” said Karen Molle.
“We’re in the process of reviewing the various judgments and we’ll be taking the next steps.”
Chief defence counsel Chris Archer said he hopes he will be able to get his client released on bail again once an appeal is filed. He said he worries about Levin’s health.
“With a 74-year-old man you’re looking at the end of your life and whether or not this is going to be a significant part of it or whether or not you’re going to die in jail,” Archer said.
The allegations against Levin came to light in 2010 after one of his patients came forward with secret videos he had recorded during court-ordered sessions with the psychiatrist.
The videos, played in court last fall, show Levin undoing the man’s belt and jeans and appearing to fondle him.
The patient, identified only as R.B. in court, was on probation at the time the videos were taken and had been ordered to see Levin twice a month.
The man said he had told authorities about previous assaults and no one believed him, so he bought a spy camera and brought it to his appointments.
“It seemed hopeless,” R.B. said in one of three victim impact statements presented to the court Wednesday.
“I had nowhere to turn.”
Levin, who immigrated to Canada from South Africa, was frequently used by the courts to assess people and provide expert opinions at hearings.
He served briefly as regional director for the Regional Psychiatric Centre in Saskatoon and was licensed in 1998 to practise psychiatry in Alberta.
Levin is no stranger to controversy over his work as a psychiatrist. He faced heated accusations about his time as a military psychiatrist during apartheid in South Africa, where he earned his degree in 1963.
In the 1970s he was a psychiatrist at a military hospital where aversion therapy through electric shocks was allegedly used in an attempt to change the sexuality of gay soldiers. Levin is mentioned in a report entitled the aVersion Project that aimed to shed light on abuses of gays and lesbians in the military by health workers.
Media coverage of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission said Levin was named in a human rights submission as a key figure in the abuse of gay men in the military. It acknowledged the submission was based on anecdotal reports.
Levin has denied abusing any patients under his care and has argued that the submission was based on a distortion of facts, according to an article in the South African Medical Journal.