Guelph traditional Chinese medicine practitioner sentenced to 60 days house arrest for sexual assault


A traditional Chinese medicine practitioner operating in Guelph has avoided jail, but has two more lawsuits left.

In a May 25 sentencing hearing, Superior Court Judge Gisele Miller sentenced Shu-Seng (Sherman) Lai to 60 days of house arrest and three years probation for sexually assaulting a patient. in his former Guelph office in 1992.

The allegations involved vaginal touching which the Crown said was sexual assault, and the defense argued that it was a legitimate practice of TCM. However, although Justice Miller said the touching took place, she did not find it to be a sexual assault beyond a reasonable doubt.

Instead, his guilty verdict was based on a different aspect of the plaintiff’s testimony: that Lai had removed a towel without the woman’s consent during a visit to his Guelph clinic in 1992.

Miller announced the guilty verdict in January 2021, after a five-day trial in December 2020.

As part of his sentence, Lai will be explicitly banned from practicing traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) during his 60 days of house arrest, but Miller has not imposed the restriction during or after his probation.

Not that she needed it.

The College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of Ontario (CTCMPAO) governs the practice of TCM in Ontario. Its website notes that Lai’s license is suspended until the end of his trials.

Lai was defended by Danielle Robitaille and co-counsel Sydney Hopkins of Henein Hutchison LLP. During the hearing on the submissions, Robitaille argued that the jail term for the now senior citizen was inappropriate given the charge. Likewise, Hopkins argued that the coronavirus pandemic should weigh in on the jail judge’s decision.

Miller wrote in his sentencing decision that COVID-19 should be considered, but should not be the determining factor of the prison sentence versus no prison sentence.

Prior to sentencing, the defense and Deputy Crown Attorney Judith MacDonald were asked to provide updates on the COVID-19 situation in prisons. MacDonald said there was no longer an outbreak at the Maplehurst Correctional Complex, while Robitaille said there was reports of low vaccination rates among inmates.

Some mitigating factors Miller noted in his decision include positive character references from Lai’s family and associates.

“One of Mr. Lai’s martial arts students – for 29 years – said that Mr. Lai gave him personal support and taught him fairness, responsibility for his actions and how to behave. compassion and forgiving others, ”Miller wrote.

In addition to the trauma suffered by Lai’s former patient, the main aggravating factor noted by the courts was that Lai had violated his position of trust as a health care provider.

“(The victim) presented a deeply personal problem that she trusted Mr. Lai to solve in a professional manner. Instead, he violated that trust and made him feel humiliated and scared,” he said. writes justice.

In addition to house arrest and probation, Lai will also need to provide his DNA and be on the sex offender list for 20 years.

But only if his call does not come true.

According to one opinion, Lai intends to challenge the guilty verdict on the grounds that removing the towel was a “fundamentally different offense from what the Crown sought to prove”, and this compromised the fairness of the trial. .

“In particular, the defense was aggrieved by the inability to cross-examine the complainant with a notice of this alternative theory of liability,” said the notice of appeal.

This is Lai’s third trial involving allegations of sexual assault by patients, and the first time he’s been convicted.

It has two more trials scheduled for 2021.

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