Doctor cleared of sexual assault still faces investigation
College of Physicians and Surgeons continues case despite withdrawal of criminal charges
The New Brunswick College of Physicians and Surgeons is continuing to look into complaints about improper examinations of female patients by a Saint John doctor even though criminal charges have been withdrawn.
The Crown announced on Thursday that evidence against Dr. Alan Cockeram wasn't strong enough to lead to a conviction on nine sexual assault charges and withdrew the charges as his preliminary hearing was set to begin.
Pierre Castonguay, the executive director for public prosecution services, said in a statement senior staff evaluated the case against the doctor and concluded the charges "no longer met the standard necessary to proceed."
"Crown prosecutors in New Brunswick have an ongoing obligation to evaluate the strength of their files throughout the trial process," said Castonguay.
"Where a charge no longer meets the evidential test or the public interest test, the Crown prosecutor cannot proceed with a prosecution, regardless of the importance or seriousness of the charge.
"In order to ensure fairness and objectivity in prosecutions, we must only proceed with cases that have a reasonable prospect of conviction and that are in the public interest."
Restrictions on practice remain
Dr. Ed Schollenberg, registrar of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, told CBC News the regulatory body for doctors still plans to move ahead with its own investigation.
It will continue to impose a temporary restriction on Cockeram's medical licence that prohibits him from treating any women at his private office in the city's north end.
"Our process is different. The standard of proof is different, the evidence is a bit different, and the charges are a bit different," said Schollenberg.
"It may well be that when we look at the same facts, or similar facts, we would come to a different conclusion as to whether we could or should pursue these."
"We have a number of complaints, about 20, and we will pursue them in some fashion," he said.
"That requires us to go through a number of steps so we have to wait for that to play out."
The Horizon Health Network had previously stripped Cockeram of his privileges to treat female patients at any of its facilities.
The 60-year-old gastroenterologist had been facing nine sexual assault charges dating back to 1987. Patients have alleged "unnecessary or inappropriate examination."
Following the sudden end to the criminal case, Cockeram’s lawyer Brian Munro told reporters he was happy for his client. But he called the treatment of Cockeram "outrageous" and characterized his client's accusers a group of people who got together and were out to get him, resulting in 'bogus" charges.
Cockeram has been working in the Saint John area for more than 25 years.
Calls to his office were not returned.