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Controversial Alberta physician charged with sex crime Add to ...

An Alberta psychiatrist who has been the subject of controversy over his role during the South African apartheid was arrested this week and charged with sexually assaulting a patient, sparking a wide review of Provincial Court cases for which he was called for expert testimony.

Aubrey Levin, 71, was arrested Tuesday after a complaint was filed on March 19 by the unidentified patient, a 36-year-old man who had been treated by Dr. Levin for six years, Calgary police allege.

"His allegation was there were a number of sexual assaults that occurred during that period of time. Based on information we received, and some follow-up information that was completed over the weekend, we charged Dr. Levin," Calgary police spokesman Kevin Brookwell said.

Alberta's College of Physicians and Surgeons has suspended him, "to ensure public safety while it conducts an investigation," a statement said.

Dr. Levin has been a subject of controversy since he served in the apartheid government's South African Defence Force, working at a military hospital for five years.

The hospital was the subject of reports of "aversion" shock therapy being used as a so-called treatment for homosexuality, and wide-reaching but unproven allegations of sexual reassignment surgery carried out on soldiers.

"There was evidence, for example, that gay conscripts were 'treated' for homosexuality using aversion therapy, and allegations that this 'treatment' was undertaken without their full consent," said one 1999 report, The aVersion Project, based on interviews with gay or transsexual soldiers. "In these [hospital]wards, some gay conscripts were given aversion therapy by electric shock."

In an interview with a South African newspaper 10 years ago, Dr. Levin said he used aversion therapy that caused "slight - very slight - discomfort in the arm," and he has said he only did so for consenting patients.

He insisted "nobody was given electric shock treatment by me."

He has characterized the procedure as accepted within the psychiatric profession at the time.

"Of course the whole argument around aversion treatments revolves around whether it was accepted at that time or not," South African historian Laura Pollecutt said.

When allegations of practices in the hospital surfaced, Dr. Levin threatened lawsuits to many news media outlets that were forced to run retractions or apologies. In a letter sent to the news agencies, his lawyer said 10 years ago that Dr. Levin was never "in charge of any program, nor did he participate in any program involving gays or lesbians for the South African Defence Force.

"Dr. Levin's treatments of his patients was at all times humane and in accordance with accepted psychiatric practice."

Dr. Levin came to Canada in the 1990s. He served as regional director of the federal Psychiatric Centre in Saskatoon - as an employee of Correctional Service Canada.

"He did work for CSC as a psychologist," spokeswoman April Morris confirmed.

He was in the job briefly, licensed in the province from July 8, 1997, to Sept. 16, 1998, according to Saskatchewan's College of Physicians and Surgeons.

He then went to Alberta, where he's been registered since 1998 with a spotless record.

He once taught at the University of Calgary, and worked for the province at Calgary's Peter Lougheed Hospital.

He was also frequently called as a forensic psychiatrist in provincial trials. Alberta Justice spokesman David Dear said it was too early to say how many trials he worked in. There are public decisions in 12 cases that cite his testimony.

Calgary police contacted a number of provincial agencies that are now combing through their own records, Mr. Brookwell said, "given the role he played in the judicial system."

Alberta Justice is now reviewing every case the doctor worked on. Those that are still ongoing will have Dr. Levin's work thrown out and redone by another psychiatrist, Mr. Dear said.

"The priority is doing a thorough review," he said.

Mr. Brookwell said Dr. Levin was often called to advise on sentencing or parole, not while determining a verdict.

"Hopefully there isn't any significant compromise to the judicial process, but of course everyone's doing their due diligence to find out," he said.

Police are appealing for other patients to speak to them, but have stayed tight-lipped on whether any have.

Alberta's College would not say whether there had been other complaints against the doctor - only that he has had no judgments against him since his 1998 arrival.

"Complaints are completely confidential, because they're just complaints," spokeswoman Kelly Eby said.

Dr. Levin has posted $50,000 bail and is due back in Calgary court April 8, Calgary police say. The lone charge, of sexual assault, represents the entire allegation of the patient. It has not been proven.

A call to his defence lawyer, Alain Hepner, was not returned before press time.

Follow on Twitter: @josh_wingrove

 

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