A Vernon physiotherapist who pleaded guilty to nine sexual assault charges in October 2019 won’t be going to jail, but instead will serve an 18-month conditional sentence at home followed by two years probation.
Stephen Witvoet — who previously owned Thrive Physiotherapy and Sports Injury Clinic in Vernon — was sentenced July 8 to six months house arrest after pleading guilty to massaging patients’ breasts and vaginal areas. A curfew between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. will remain in place for 12 months following the conclusion of Witvoet’s house arrest.
The former physiotherapist was charged with two counts of sexual assault Dec. 27, 2017, when two female patients came forward to police in 2015 and 2016 with allegations that Witvoet had massaged their breasts without consent during treatments.
His trial began May 21-23, 2019, but was adjourned to pick up at a later date for an additional day and a half of trial time.
Two more complaints were brought to Vernon police resulting in new charges on June 7, 2019, related to a 2015 and 2016 incident involving two women. Media reporting resulted in more victims stepping forward with allegations.
By August 2019, Witvoet was facing a total of 16 charges from victims between the ages of 18 and 53.
“Media coverage of the charges and trial increased substantially,” Judge Jeremy Guild’s decision reads.
The 18-month conditional sentence, to be served at home, was found appropriate as the judge recognized Witvoet was a first-time offender and is “at a low risk to re-offend,” the decision reads. Witvoet is prohibited from treating women, which protects the public, but is also unlikely as he lost his practice as a result of the notoriety of his offences.
If Witvoet’s conditions are breached, he could face the maximum jail sentence for each offence, according to the decision.
Witvoet was to face his sentencing March 20, but the hearing was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.