CALGARY - A former psychiatrist charged with sexually abusing his court-appointed patients is acting as his own lawyer after firing his defence team Tuesday.
Court of Queen's Bench Justice Donna Shelley told a jury of seven men and five women at Dr. Aubrey Levin's trial that he would be representing himself.
"Dr. Levin has terminated their services," said Shelley.
"It is his right to do so. He will defend himself."
Shelley cautioned the jury not to speculate about the move or to read anything into it.
Levin's former lawyers, Alain Hepner and Maureen McConaghy, had been with him since his arrest in 2010.
The move is unusual, considering a few weeks ago a different jury had to decide if Levin was mentally fit to stand trial.
Psychologists called by Levin's former defence lawyers testified he could not participate in his defence because he has dementia. They also had asked for a delay in proceedings because of what they said were Levin's health challenges, including diabetes, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, reduced renal function and chronic back pain.
It was decided Levin was able to go through a trial, but it was delayed last week when he was in hospital and underwent a medical procedure.
Levin, 73, was charged after one of his patients came forward and provided officers with secret videos he recorded during a court-ordered sessions with the psychiatrist. The videos, played in court two weeks ago, show Levin undoing the man's belt and jeans and appearing to fondle him.
The patient, identified only as R.B. in court, was on probation at the time the videos were taken and had been ordered by a court to see Levin twice a month.
The man said he had told authorities about previous assaults and no one believed him, so he bought a spy camera and brought it to his appointments.
After Levin was arrested, nearly two dozen other former patients came forward with abuse allegations. He is on trial for the alleged sexual assault of 10 male patients.
The jury on Tuesday continued watching a four-hour video interview between Levin and a Calgary police detective.
During that interview, while watching one of the patient's spy videos, Levin acknowledges that what he is doing looks like he is trying to get a sexual response from the man.
He explains it is a reflex test to see if there's a reaction. Levin says in the police video that he often used the test with patients that had erectile dysfunction and was shocked at the sex abuse allegations.
"I had no advance warning, especially from the complainant, and I had no advance warning or even inkling over the years."
In the interview, Levin expresses dismay that he would have his medical licence suspended and that the news would be made public.
"This is disastrous," he says.
He tells the officer he is comfortable defending himself for his actions.
"It's not pleasant but the fact remains that most of the time the truth does eventually come out," Levin says.
"I've always believed in the system, if defended well and properly, will eventually allow the truth. And that is my hope and prayer, that that will be the case."
Levin, who immigrated to Canada from South Africa, was frequently used by the courts to assess people and provide expert opinions at hearings. Most of his alleged victims had been ordered to see him by a judge.
Levin served briefly as regional director for the federal Psychiatric Centre Saskatoon and was licensed in 1998 to practise psychiatry in Alberta.
Also on HuffPost:
MYTH: Therapy Is Like Having A Paid Friend
<strong>FACT: </strong> There is huge difference between a therapist and your best friend. "There's a myth that you pay someone to be nice to you and care for you -- what I tell my clients is that you pay for time and expertise and the caring is free," says Noah Rubinstein, founder and CEO of therapist directory GoodTherapy.org. Rubinstein adds, therapists are trained to avoid dual relationships and can't see their clients outside of the office.
MYTH: Therapy Means You're 'Crazy'
<strong>FACT: </strong> Most people are raised to be independent and solve problems on their own. "Seeking help is not a sign of weakness and the truth is, we all suffer and getting help doesn't mean you're 'crazy,'" Rubinstein says. He also adds that people at some point in time will go through periods of depression, hurt or feeling worried and mainstream media often has misconceptions of what a patient or client looks like. "Most people who go to therapists are ordinary everyday people. They don't have manic episodes or are hospitalized -- and I wouldn't call this 'crazy' either," he says.
MYTH: Therapy Is Endless
<strong>FACT:</strong> No, therapy isn't a never-ending session that will take over your life. "A lot of people are afraid that if they go to therapy it will go on and on," Rubinstein says. Depending on the type of therapist you see, therapists are trained to create a target plan of treatment. "Some people may never heal in this lifetime but for most people, the average therapy course is three or four months," he says.
MYTH: Therapy Will Cost A Fortune
<strong>FACT: </strong>Yes, seeing a therapist often can get expensive. Rubinstein suggests looking at your insurance providers to see if you can get benefits -- relying solely on paying out of your own pocket can get costly. But he also advises a holistic view. "When you think about price, what's the cost of not doing therapy? Your job performance?" he says. Think about how your distress many conflict with your work or relationship and then make a decision about pricing.
MYTH: Therapists Will Blame You And Shame You
<strong>FACT: </strong> "This is something that comes directly out of Dr. Phil. Therapists are portrayed like Dr. Phil and he blames, shames and confronts his clients -- this is not how therapy works," Rubinstein says. Good therapy is about compassion, he adds, and is intended to let the client experience their own emotional breakthroughs at their own pace.
MYTH: Medication Is Just As Effective As Therapy
<strong>FACT: </strong> Rubinstein says that not all problems can be fixed with medication. "The medical model assumes that most psychological problems are caused by biochemistry, rather than viewing biochemical changes as a symptom, and can overlook the experience of losing jobs, divorce, deaths in the family etc.," he says. Emotional stress, he notes, cannot be solved with just medication, and people relying solely on pills should look at their options for one-on-one therapy.
MYTH: Therapy Is Passive
<strong>FACT: </strong> Rubinstein says many people also think therapy is passive. Just think about all the scenes in movies or television shows where a therapist does nothing but nod his or her head. "Therapists are taught active listening skills and are trained to understand the client's struggles," he says.
MYTH: Therapy Is All Happy Thoughts
<strong>FACT: </strong> 'Think happy thoughts...think happy thoughts.' Yes, but not always. "Many new clients expect their therapist to change their perspective and convince them they should be happy. But therapy doesn't work by thinking happy thoughts, In order to become happy, a person needs to face the parts of them that aren't," he says. Working with a client one-on-one, therapists are able to go through a person's painful past and give them hope for a peaceful future.
MYTH: There's Nothing You Can Do About The Past
<strong>FACT: </strong> There's always an assumption that therapy is about moving forward and never looking back. "When we do this, our past still haunts us. Good therapy allows people to go to those places where they have been wounded and burned and resolve these feelings," he says.
MYTH: Therapy Will Make Your Painful Problems Worse
<strong>FACT: </strong> Yes, you will go back into the past and yes, it may bring up some bad memories. But don't be afraid. "Good therapists guide their clients through painful experiences, but in a way that is safe and not overwhelming."