Final arguments delivered in B.C. doctor's child sexual abuse trial

Dr. Albert de Villiers is the chief medical health officer for Interior Health in B.C. He has been charged with sexual assault and sexual interference in Alberta. (CBC News - image credit)
Dr. Albert de Villiers is the chief medical health officer for Interior Health in B.C. He has been charged with sexual assault and sexual interference in Alberta. (CBC News - image credit)

Arguments over the credibility of the complainant and accused dominated the closing day of a child sexual abuse trial for the former top doctor of British Columbia's Interior region.

Dr. Albert de Villiers is being tried in Grande Prairie, Alta. on one count each of sexual assault and sexual interference for alleged abuse of a young boy between June 15, 2018, and July 31, 2020. He has pleaded not guilty.

The judge-alone, Court of King's Bench trial began on Tuesday when the now 11-year-old boy gave evidence he had been sexually assaulted and shown pornography by de Villiers during sleepovers at the doctor's home.

The doctor testified in his own defence on Wednesday, denying the allegations and saying that while he and the boy became close, the abuse never happened.

De Villiers worked as a medical officer of health for Alberta Health Services in North zone for 16 years. He moved to Kelowna in 2020 to work as the chief medical officer of health for Interior Health.

Evidence from both the Crown and defence showed that the boy's family became close with de Villiers and his wife in 2018, and that the boy would go for sleepovers at the doctor's house.

The boy alleges he was abused during the sleepovers. The doctor denies that happened, but said he believes he overstepped boundaries with the family by becoming too involved and by acting more like a parent than a friend.

Apologetic voicemail

During closing arguments, defence lawyer Chris Millsap said his client's evidence and explanation for why he left an apologetic voicemail on the boy's father's phone after realizing the parents had blocked him on their phones and on social media in June 2021 makes sense.

The call came several days after the young boy made the allegations to his mother.

"He knows that he has become too close, that he has become overbearing, that he has developed into a parental figure," Millsap said. "It is an apology, it is not an admission of guilt."

Millsap also argued that there are inconsistencies in the child's evidence and that parts of the allegations are vague.

He said that though the boy was polite and likeable in his testimony, it's still possible he is capable of misremembering what happened.

He argued that what likely happened is that the boy watched pornography on a tablet while at de Villiers's home.

Court heard that the child's internet access at home was extremely restricted, but that he used tablets at times while unsupervised at the doctor's house.

"It's clear he felt guilty and ashamed by what he'd seen, and that's what sparked the conversation with his mother," Milsapp said.

But Crown prosecutor Amber Pickrell said that while there were some inconsistencies in the boy's evidence, he was consistent about key details of the abuse.

"These are not details he just made up. He had no way of knowing these things"

Pickrell called de Villiers evidence as "very weak" and said as he testified he started adding in new details not mentioned previously.

"He was realizing there were gaps in his evidence that need to be filled in," she said.

Pickrell argued that the voicemail was "clearly an apology for specific wrongdoing."

She added that his explanation that he believed the parents were angry he'd become too involved in their child's life doesn't make sense in the context of what he said in the voicemail, such as "It's just things lead to another, and I did a wrong thing."

"It's absurd to jump to this conclusion, and it's not what he did," Pickrell said. "It was because he had sexually abused their child and that had been discovered."

Justice Shaina Leonard has reserved her decision and is expected to deliver it on Feb. 7.