Nova Scotia

Former paramedic James Keats's sexual assault trial goes to jury

A 12-person jury has started its deliberations in the case of former paramedic James Duncan Keats, who faces charges of sexually assaulting four different women between January and May 2013.

Warning: This story contains graphic details

James Duncan Keats worked as a paramedic for almost 20 years. (CBC)

A 12-person jury has started its deliberations in the case of former paramedic James Duncan Keats, who faces charges of sexually assaulting four different women between January and May 2013.

Keats, 50, was a paramedic for nearly 20 years before six women accused him of six separate incidents of sexual assault.

One case has already been dealt with by the courts. In June, Keats was found guilty of sexually assaulting a 71-year-old Annapolis Valley woman in her home. A sixth case of sexual assault will go to court at a later date.

Keats has been in custody since he was sentenced in the first case in October.

He has faced trial this month related to complaints by four women. On Monday, Crown and defence lawyers delivered their final arguments in the case.

Keats took the stand in his own defence last week and denied all the allegations. Three of the four incidents are alleged to have happened in the back of an ambulance where Keats was attending to the patient.

All charges involve alleged fondling or inappropriate groping of a patient's breasts or vaginal area.

In each of the four cases, Keats put forward a medical reason for his actions, explanations that Crown prosecutor Sean McCarroll said Monday "fly in the face of common sense and proper procedure."

Fondling and inappropriate groping

Brad Sarson, the lawyer for the accused, admits Keats may be guilty of behaving in "an unprofessional manner," but says he did not commit a crime.

"I am not saying any of the four complainants are lying, but I am saying they are wrong. Their recollections are inaccurate," Sarson said in court.

McCarroll pointed to the testimony of Rob Johnstone, an expert in paramedic practices, who previously told the court there was no professional reason why a paramedic would ask a woman to slip off her pants so he could examine her pelvic area.

Keats admitted he did so following a distress call from a young woman who had suicidal thoughts, and another who believed she was having a heart attack.

During both of these alleged incidents, the women testified Keats was not wearing gloves when he touched their vaginal areas and said "sorry" after doing so.

Keats maintains his innocence

Keats maintains he always wore gloves and never touched any patient inappropriately. In the case of the suspected heart attack patient, he says he was trying to understand a bruising pattern on the skin and needed to reassure himself the patient was not bleeding.

The victim reported the encounter to police a few days later in February 2013. The other three women came forward to police months later.

McCarroll drew the jury's attention to a number of similarities in the testimony of the four women, none of whom knew each other, but all of whom told someone else within hours of behaviour they described as "inappropriate" or "humiliating."

"You know a good paramedic when he can sexually assault you AND get your phone number," said a message tweeted out by a 26-year-old bipolar patient hours after being transported to the hospital by Keats.

The patient and the paramedic texted each other after the alleged fondling, with Keats providing the woman with the name of someone he said he believed could help her.

Two of the four patients Keats is alleged to have assaulted had a history of mental illness, including a woman Keats says flashed him to show a large scar from a mastectomy operation.

Keats denies he ever touched her breast as described in the charge. The offence allegedly occurred in a waiting room at the Cobequid Community Health Centre in Lower Sackville.