EDMONTON — A former chiropractor who pleaded guilty to six counts of sexual assault has been sentenced to two years minus a day in jail and two years of probation.
The sentence was handed down Wednesday by Justice Marta Burns in the Court of Queen's Bench in Edmonton.
In March, Ronald Latch pleaded guilty to the assaults that happened between 1981 and 1990. The 67-year-old admitted to sexually touching six of his female patients, two of them children, with his hands and a vibrating tool.
"The abuse was repeated on some complainants, including the children, and the abuse was on six patients who reposed their trust in Mr. Latch," Burns said Wednesday.
An agreed statement of facts submitted as part of his plea said that in December 2018, a woman reported to police that she had been sexually assaulted by Latch as a child in the 1980s when she attended his clinic.
When he was charged in March 2019, police put out a news release asking other potential victims to come forward. Charges relating to seven other female patients were then laid against Latch.
He became a chiropractor in 1981 and practised in and around Edmonton until he was charged in 2019. Burns noted that Latch has since lost his licence.
"The assaults varied from rubbing and massaging the women's breasts to using a vibrator on their legs and genital area," Burns said.
She also noted that an expert testified that there would be no therapeutic reason for a chiropractor to place their hands or fingers on someone's breasts or genitals.
Crown prosecutors and Latch's lawyer jointly recommended the sentence. Burns, in accepting the submission, said Latch's guilty plea was a significant mitigating factor.
"It meant … that the complainants did not have to testify," Burn said. "It also meant that we would not have to go through a five-week trial through a judge and jury where the complainants would have to reveal this to a room full of strangers."
Earlier in the day, victim impact statements from the six former patients were read in court.
None of them can be named because sexual assault victims are protected by a publication ban.
One woman's statement, which was read by a victim support worker, said the abuse made her afraid to be alone with men and unable to have intimate relationships.
"I found it difficult to trust (men), to become vulnerable with them, so instead I put up a wall and attempted to eliminate as much intimacy as I could," she wrote in the statement.
"Due to this, I often found myself stuck in toxic and manipulative relationships, but it was a way that I could cope from the embarrassment and humiliation that I was still feeling."
Another woman told the court that she and her sister were assaulted separately when they went to Latch's clinic in the 1980s.
"I am angry that this man believed that he had a right to my innocence," she said.
"I am angry that he thought he had a right to my body and I am angry that he felt he had the right to manipulate my family to pursue his desires on a child."
She also said she has been angry at herself for not doing more to stop the abuse and for not coming forward sooner.
"I am angry to know that my inactions led to many more women being harmed by him."
She said she knows intellectually that the abuse wasn't her fault "but regardless of that knowledge, I have uncontrollable feelings that sneak in and cause me to maintain anger at myself.
"This man took away my ability to value myself away from me."
Another former patient said she developed severe anxiety that causes her to have stomach problems.
An emotional Latch apologized for violating his patients' trust.
"But I cannot ask for your forgiveness, because there can’t be forgiveness for what I have done," he said.
"No matter what I am sentenced, my true punishment will be when I go before my maker."
Latch will also have to submit a DNA sample to a national database, be designated as a sexual offender for life and cannot have any contact with his victims while he serves his sentence.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on June 2, 2021.
Daniela Germano, The Canadian Press