(This column was published in the North Shore News on Mar. 29, 2000)


Local cops heroes in distraught man's crash

By Leo Knight

WHAT happens to a physician who fondles and masturbates two young boys in his care?  


A no-brainer you'd think.  


Charged, convicted, defrocked and locked up would seem to be the inevitable result.  


You would think.  


Last week in Nova Scotia, a judge of the provincial court dismissed charges of sexual interference against Dr. William Michael Christie using some pretty incredible logic. The judge said the doctor had explained that masturbation of the two brothers was actually part of the medical treatment, albeit unconventional, and so, who was he to suggest that wasn't so.  


In his ruling, Judge John MacDougall said, "If Dr. Christie conducted his examination for medical purposes, regardless of whether it conformed in every respect with the procedures and protocols, then it is not an assault."  


Case dismissed.  


Unbelievable? Well, yes, but unfortunately true.  


Think about the ramifications of MacDougall's decision. A doctor, any doctor, who wants to take advantage of his position and sexually abuse a patient need only claim it is part of the medical treatment and he's off scot-free.  


Fortunately, Crown prosecutors chose to ignore the judge's decision in the preliminary hearing and have since refiled the charges by way of direct indictment against the doctor. Christie will get his day in court to try to explain his thinking in defence of the charges.  


In the meantime the College of Physicians and Surgeons is examining the case to try to decide what their reaction should be.  


Let me give them a hint. Suspend him immediately from the rolls. He admitted masturbating the boys (in one case repeatedly) and claimed it was merely unconventional medical treatment. A claim, I might add, absolutely refuted by the head of family medicine at the University of Dalhousie, who testified at the preliminary.  


He said there was absolutely no medical justification to touch the boys' genitals in the manner described.  


One wonders what they have to consider.  


* * *  


"Suicide by cop" is not a new phenomenon, but last week's chase through the streets of West Vancouver brought an apparent new twist.  


At it's most common, a distraught person will force a confrontation with the police and ultimately, his death at the hands of a cop with no other choice.  


An individual who chose to entice the police into a high-speed pursuit to apparently achieve the same aim caused the events of last week.  


In the early hours of the morning, at least three attempts were made by the driver to get the West Van officers to chase him. The red Ford Probe was a familiar vehicle to the officers and the decision was made not to chase the vehicle.  


Unfortunately, his behaviour became more and more dangerous and they had to try to stop him before some innocent bystander was killed. They enlisted the assistance of North Vancouver RCMP and tried to corral the man in the parking lot of Park Royal shopping centre.  


What they didn't anticipate was his determination to kill himself. Just prior to the Mounties arriving on the scene, they were advised the vehicle had crashed into a pole. With both the Mounties and West Van cops on the scene, the man was still alive, but trapped in the twisted metal of what was left of the Probe.  


Then the car erupted in fire. The police officers leapt into action. Some deploying fire extinguishers to try to control the blaze while North Van Sgt. Colin Worth and his crew, ignoring their own safety, worked to extricate the badly injured man from the burning wreck.  


The police report describes the events and the officers' heroism:  


"The driver was pinned underneath the dashboard, with his torso across the dash towards the passenger side. He was not wearing a seat belt and the steering wheel had been crushed in a manner that would indicate his chest took the brunt of the impact. The driver's mouth was open and only one tooth was visible amidst a large amount of blood and tissue."  


"Both doors of the vehicle had been jammed shut on impact and the window on the driver's side was open. Members were able to reach inside and release the seat back of the driver's seat in order to provide room to remove him. The rear window of the hatchback was smashed out and members crawled into the car and were then able to remove the driver through the rear area."  


"The driver was carried to the sidewalk some distance from the still burning car and stabilized for the arrival of the ambulance crew."  


There are a few important things to note about all this. In the first place, contrary to what Premier Ujjal Dosanjh thinks, the police do not head off looking to get into a high-speed pursuit. The officers on duty on March 19 in West Vancouver did everything they could not to get involved in a chase with this man.  


When he was contained in the parkade he drove his vehicle directly into a cement pillar at a high rate of speed. There were no skid marks and no attempt to evade the collision was made.  


The police officers involved risked their very lives to prevent one man's death despite his apparent desire to die. To date he is still alive, thanks in no small part to the efforts of a few brave police officers.  


Maybe, when (and if) he recovers, he'll get the help he needs and make good on the second chance Sgt. Worth and his squad gave him.  


And maybe Premier Dosanjh will finally recognize that it is the people who instigate the chases, putting themselves and others at risk when they decide to run from law enforcement, who deserve to be held accountable for their actions.  


The police are not the bad guys.






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