Doctor who hired a hit man to kill teen patient takes prison complaint to top court
Supreme Court to decide whether to hear murderer's request to have sexual history erased from prison record
Canada's top court will decide Thursday if it will hear a complaint from a medical doctor who hired a hit man to kill a young patient who had accused him of sexual abuse.
Josephakis Charalambous is appealing to the Supreme Court of Canada to have all sexual references removed from his prison record, arguing his first-degree murder conviction did not have a sexual component.
He claims he has been wrongly labelled a "sex offender," a status that has affected his prison conditions, security classification and treatment programs. Correctional Service Canada relied on allegations rather than proven facts, he claims.
Charalambous, who is serving a life sentence in B.C., was a family physician when he contracted the killing of two young patients, according to court documents.
In 1991, 19-year-old Sian Simmonds and her sister, Katie Simmonds, lodged complaints to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia, accusing Charalambous of inappropriate sexual behaviour. Charalambous had been their family doctor for 10 years.
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The college scheduled a disciplinary hearing for March 1993, but just weeks before, on Jan. 27, Sian Simmonds was shot and killed by David Schlender, a hired hit man who made his way into her home by saying he had scratched her car.
Her sister was not home at the time.
In November 1994, Charalambous was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without chance of parole for 25 years. The trial judge ruled it was a contract killing he had arranged through an acquaintance, Brian West, to prevent the Simmonds sisters from testifying before the college.
Sensational case turned into book
The trial judge also found Charalambous was motivated by a hatred for the college and his "obsessive concern about his reputation and financial well-being," according to court documents.
The sensational case became the subject of a book by former Vancouver Province reporter John Griffiths, called Fatal Prescription: A Doctor Without Remorse.
Since Charalambous's incarceration in 1995, the correctional service has made a number of administrative decisions based on past allegations of sexual misconduct involving other patients. In 1989, he was found guilty by the college of "infamous conduct" (the term used for dishonourable or disgraceful conduct) for his relationship with a former patient.
That patient had been under his care from the age of 12 to 14. When she was 15, they began to cohabit and became sexually involved, and she later became his wife. Between 1985 and 1998, Charalambous was also charged with eight counts of sexual assault, seven related to complaints from former patients, according to court documents.
All of the charges were eventually stayed, including six that were stayed after he had exhausted all appeals related to his murder conviction.
Federal Court rules against inmate
Charalambous has challenged the inclusion of sexual references in his record through grievances to the correctional service, as well as through a judicial review process at the Federal Court. All have been unsuccessful.
He had argued there was no sexual component in his crime, making his case "distinguishable from cases where death is caused to the victim by a person while committing or attempting to commit sexual assault."
The Federal Court ruling from Justice Luc Martineau said while the correctional service is required to take all reasonable steps to ensure that any information about an offender that it uses is as accurate, up to date and complete as possible, "that does not mean that CSC must reinvestigate information obtained from reliable sources such as provincial ministries, police forces and the courts," the ruling reads.
John Muise, director of public safety for victim advocacy organization Abuse Hurts and a former Toronto police officer and National Parole Board member, believes it is critical for the correctional service and the parole board to have the information on file, even if it has not been proven in court. Authorities can determine how much weight it carries in each case.
"It's really relevant to risk, it's really relevant to board decision-making, it's relevant to correctional service's security classification," he said.
Assessment for security level
CSC spokeswoman Sara Parkes said because the matter is currently before the courts, it would be "inappropriate to comment about the specific details of the case."
She added CSC does not determine guilt or innocence or set sentences, but assesses federal offenders entering an institution.
"The results of these assessments, as well as case-specific information (such as documents from the police, courts, victims family, etc.), are examined and analyzed to determine the appropriate security level required for each offender," she said.
After that assessment, a correctional plan is produced for each offender to manage their sentence and measure progress, including a risk-management strategy outlining treatment, objectives and expected gains for rehabilitation, she said.
Eric Purtzki, the lawyer representing Charalambous in the case, declined to comment.
The Supreme Court will render its decision on whether to hear the case at 9:45 a.m. ET Thursday.