Nova Scotia

James Duncan Keats, former paramedic, won't serve more time for sexual assault

A former Nova Scotia paramedic who groped two female patients in the back of an ambulance in 2013 will not serve any extra prison time beyond his current four-year sentence for raping another patient.

Keats already serving 4-year sentence for sexually assaulting 71-year-old patient

James Duncan Keats has been in custody awaiting sentence for sexually assaulting two women in 2013. (CBC)

A former Nova Scotia paramedic who groped two female patients in the back of an ambulance in 2013 will not serve any extra prison time beyond his current sentence for raping another patient.

Justice Felix Cacchione handed down his sentencing decision for James Duncan Keats in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax on Thursday.

While the judge gave Keats a 30-month sentence for sexually assaulting the two women, he ruled it should run concurrently with a four-year term Keats is already serving for raping a 71-year-old woman in the Annapolis Valley.

Keats was found guilty of the rape last October and was sentenced. In December, a jury found Keats guilty of two more sexual assaults involving patients, but his sentencing was delayed for various reasons until this week.

Concurrent sentences

Cacchione said Thursday that since the two groping incidents occurred before the rape, he had to sentence Keats as if for a first-time offence. Cacchione chose not to make the sentences consecutive, but ruled Keats could serve them concurrently. 

"I think it was a well-thought out decision. I think the sentence was appropriate," said Crown attorney Sean McCarroll. 

McCarroll had asked for three years on top of the four-year sentence, but outside court he said he was happy with the judge's decision. 

"It takes into account the emotional effect his actions had on the victims, and the aggravating factors that were present, which is the breach of trust and the vulnerability of his victims," McCarroll said.  

"We're never happy with someone going to jail. That's not something that we celebrate. At the end of the day, Mr. Keats is never going to act in his role again as a paramedic, and I think that's what's important here." 

Keats has denied he sexually assaulted the women.

'Planned and deliberate'

In his sentencing decision, Cacchione said one of the aggravating factors is that Keats deliberately sought out one of the victims when she called an ambulance for mental health reasons. He said the acts were "planned and deliberate," and Keats has shown no remorse.

Cacchione said the psychiatrist who examined Keats found his risk to reoffend is low, however his motivation for sexually assaulting the patients is "unknown."

Mitigating factors, the judge said, include that Keats is in a committed relationship and has support of family and community. The judge also noted the case has received extensive media attention, which amounted to a "denunciation" in the community. 

Defence lawyer Adam North had asked the judge to hand Keats another 10 months beyond his current prison term.

Victim impact statements

In a victim impact statement read in court, one of Keats's victims wrote: "I will never be able to see or hear an ambulance without remembering."

"I am no longer the same person I was."

The other victim wrote that she has had to take ambulances since the assault, and fears the same thing will happen again. She wrote of her fears that Keats will harm her after his prison sentence is over, and of feeling guilt and anxiety following the assault. 

"I thought I was the worst person in the world for letting that happen and not telling anyone," she wrote.

Several cases

Six women have said they were sexually assaulted by Keats in separate incidents.

Keats was found not guilty in two cases and guilty in three others.

The sixth case did not go to trial.

Keats' first sentence of four years expires on Oct. 25, 2019; under that sentence he could be eligible for full parole in February 2017.

He has appealed the conviction, but the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal has not yet ruled on it.

The CBC's Shaina Luck live blogged from court.

With files from Blair Rhodes