Saint John doctor faces 8 new sexual assault charges
Dr. Alan Cockeram, a gastroenterologist, already facing one previous charge
A Saint John doctor already charged with sexual assault is now facing eight new allegations by female patients, dating back as far as 1987.
Dr. Alan Cockeram, a gastroenterologist, elected Tuesday to be tried by judge and jury on all nine counts of sexual assault.
A preliminary inquiry will be held on June 17. It is scheduled to take one week.
Meanwhile, Cockeram, 60, who was charged with the first count last summer, remains an active physician with a practice on Main Street and hospital privileges.
"We are looking at the matter and planning to discuss it at a meeting before too long in terms of what action, if anything, we might have to take," said Dr. Ed Schollenberg, registrar of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New Brunswick.
The regulatory body for the province's doctors has the authority to suspend a doctor's licence or impose restrictions on a practice, pending the outcome of criminal proceedings, said Schollenberg.
No action has been taken since the first charge was laid in May because no complaint had been filed with the college, he said.
Asked whether a criminal charge could be enough to spark a review, Schollenberg said: "It could be, but you know, that's always dependent on the circumstances."
Allegations of 'unnecessary,' 'inappropriate' exams
At least six patients have since filed complaints with the college related to "unnecessary or inappropriate examination," with one more complaint expected shortly, he said.
"Which puts us in a position to have the information regarding what the issues were and to then decide whether there’s a need for any action on our part at this time."
It's unclear whether the nature of the charges before the courts are the same as the complaints filed with the college.
Schollenberg could not speculate what, if any, action the college might take in Cockeram's case.
"At this point we have not had all of the facts, we don’t have a response from the physician, we don’t have explanations," he said.
"We have some information on what the allegations are and it’s like anything else, you then have to decide based on what remain unproven allegations whether anything further needs to be done in order to protect the public."
Schollenberg did say, however, that sexual allegations are among the most serious the college deals with.
"If, in fact, a physician has dealt with a patient in a way that’s inappropriate, that’s a significant breach of trust ," he said.
The fact that there are now several allegations could also play a role, Schollenberg said.
"One allegation has a certain sense to it — it’s perfectly serious and has to be dealt with, but in terms of whether one is dealing with a question of whether there’s a need for interim intervention, more allegations of a similar nature obviously … the more necessary for us to look at this sooner rather than later," he said.
Reached at his office on Wednesday, Cockeram declined to comment.
If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison.
One of the sexual assaults is alleged to have occurred sometime between Jan. 1, 1987 and Dec. 31, 1987.
There are two alleged offences on March 19, 2003, one on June 18, 2008, and three charges from 2009 — May 14, Sept. 9 and Dec. 2.
The most recent allegations are from Oct. 6, 2010, and Jan. 12, 2011.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Cockeram has been licensed to practise in New Brunswick since 1984.
He obtained his medical degree from the University of Calgary in 1979.