Dr. Albert De Villiers, a former top doctor in Alberta and B.C., has been found guilty of sex crimes involving a child.
Court of King’s Bench Justice Shaina Leonard announced De Villiers’ verdict Tuesday in Grande Prairie, Alta., following a trial that ran from Jan. 10 to 12.
Leonard found De Villiers to be guilty by indictment on one count of sexual assault and one count of sexual interference related to his interactions with the child, whose identity is protected under a publication ban, between 2018 and 2020 while De Villiers was the lead medical health officer for Alberta’s Northern Zone.
De Villiers was serving as B.C. Interior Health’s chief doctor when he was arrested in Kelowna in June 2021.
Due to the age of the victim, the trial was run under several publication bans.
The former doctor was charged in 2021 following a disclosure by the then 10 year-old child to his mother of the abuse after De Villiers had moved away from Grande Prairie.
The child’s family and the De Villiers were former friends over the previous two years before De Villiers moved to the Okanagan to take on his role with Interior Health. After De Villiers moved away, the child told his mother that the doctor, and the man the child called “uncle,” had shown him video of naked people and had touched him inappropriately on several sleepovers.
According to Leonard’s decision, based on consistent testimony heard during the trial from the parents that they had not conducted any sexual education with their child, and the description of events that were described, she had no choice but to believe that he had seen the video as claimed.
Following the allegations, the family of the child cut the De Villiers family off from all forms of communication, including WhatsApp and Facebook.
That did not stop De Villiers from calling the child’s father from an unknown number. According to the statement of facts, the father immediately hung up, but the doctor called back and left a voicemail, apologizing for what had happened.
The intent of the apology was questioned by Leonard.
In her reasons for the verdict, Leonard noted that the parents took the voicemail as admission of guilt of a specific act while the defence characterized the message as a blanket apology for whatever might have happened, including the close relationship De Villiers had developed with the child.
Leonard discounted the defence’s argument. “The voice mail referenced to a specific event,” said Leonard.
When reviewing the evidence, Leonard disputed the defence’s claim that the child had viewed the pornography while he was alone at De Villiers’ home as, based on testimony from the child’s parents, the child “lacked the language to explain the pornographic videos that he saw … I do not believe that … the (child) would have had sufficient knowledge to search for pornographic videos on the internet without the assistance of the accused.”
In her verdict, Leonard concluded that the prosecution had proven beyond reasonable doubt the events that had occurred, and that sexual touching had occurred between De Villiers and the child anywhere from five-to-eight times over the two-year period.
De Villiers and Leonard both attended the hearing virtually, while prosecutor Amber Pickrell and defence attorney Chris Millsap appeared in person.
Millsap declined to comment after the verdict, except to say, “The case isn’t over until sentencing is done.”
The prosecution’s office had not responded to email by press time.
Interior Health released a statement later in the day regarding De Villiers.
“Given the leadership and public-facing role of the chief medical officer, and the critical importance for the incumbent to comply with all respects of professional standards, it is Interior Health’s position that a person convicted of criminal charges of this nature is unable to fulfill the duties of the position,”noted Interior Health on their official Twitter Account.
“Due to privacy laws, and the fact that the matter involving Dr. De Villiers continues to be before the courts, we are not able to provide further comment.”
De Villiers still faces three other charges of voyeurism, making explicit material available to a child and invitation to sexual touching related to unrelated alleged incidents that police say occurred between January 2017 and December 2019.
The trial for those charges is scheduled for Aug. 22.