Sexual assault trial begins for physiotherapist

Crown counsel called its first of an expected 31 witnesses on Wednesday as the sexual assault trial of physiotherapist Campbell Crichton got under way in Duncan.

Crichton, 54, is facing 22 sexual assault charges dating over his 19-year career as a physiotherapist in the Cowichan Valley, from 1992 to 2011. His trial before Judge Keith Bracken is scheduled to last until at least July 10.

He was initially charged on March 25, 2011 with five counts of sexual assault between 1996 and 2009. Those numbers grew as more alleged victims came forward.

Crown prosecutor Leah Fontaine was pleased to finally begin the trial more than three years after the first charges were laid.

"We’re happy we’re proceeding now and giving these women a chance to tell their stories," she said outside the courtroom on Wednesday morning.

The 31 witnesses are expected to include Crichton’s 22 alleged victims. Charges had been laid in a 23rd case, but the complainant died in a car accident last year, and the Crown has opted not to pursue the charges.

The first witness called on Wednesday, whose name is protected by a publication ban, was among those who came forward to police after reading about the initial charges.

She was asked why she hadn’t said anything at the time the alleged assaults took place.

"I had never been to a physiotherapist before," she said. "Going to a professional physiotherapist, you think they will treat you how they are supposed to treat you. At that age, you don’t know."

The witness testified she had been in a car accident in late 1994 when she was 17 years old, and began physical therapy in 1995. She stated that Crichton touched her inappropriately over three visits to his Gibbins Road practice, after which she stopped going.

Crichton’s defence lawyer, Michelle Daneliuk, however, produced documents, including a signed affidavit from 1999, showing she had attended 25 appointments with Crichton. The witness said she couldn’t recall if that was accurate or not.

The trial was expected to resume Thursday and Friday with further witness testimony.